Friday, January 10, 2014

Glazing over...

Greetings from Diary of an Internet Nobody, I hope you all had a good new year and that any excesses that may have resulted in temporary incapacitation are now a fading memory.

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I had a nasty cold on new year's eve so I couldn't go out and over-indulge in alcoholic shenanigans, and anyway, as I pointed out in my final post of last year, I appear to have reached the age that prohibits excessive consumption.
At least not without the risk of suffering severe consequences that is.

In that same post I alluded to a time a few years ago when I wasn't so honest with myself about how much I could consume, not having been quite willing to relinquish whatever tenuous hold I still maintained on my youth.

Well this is the story of that day.

Some background;
About ten years ago I worked as a rep for a double glazing company, driving around a large area of the badly signposted Devon countryside, visiting people at home who had apparently shown some interest in one or more of the various services we had to offer and trying my damndest to sell them as much of it as possible. As we worked solely on commission, the pressure to get a sale every time was high and the company really pushed us to sell the "finance option" as hard as possible.
This lead to the sort of backstabbing competition between rival reps on the same patch that would make Machiavelli blush.

Lucky for me, I was the only rep for miles.
Unlucky for me, I had to go on every single, time wasting, pointless penny-ante call that the phone canvassers gave me, often resulting in me driving up to 400 miles a week for no result (because they only got paid if I went on the call) and it was a constant bone of contention that I was never going to get the best deal out of.

I'd been working for the company for a few months when they had their annual national sales conference and prize-giving ceremony, held for some reason in the giant conference centre at Aston Villa football stadium in Birmingham.
I was to travel up by coach, which my branch manager and I met at a motorway junction early one midweek morning after it had already been traveling for an hour, picking up it's first passengers in Cornwall at about 5 a.m.

The first thing that struck us as the coach door opened was the noise. Our Cornish colleagues had started early and were clearly well in the party mood.
The second thing was the smell.
An almost palpable wall of alcohol fumes and weed smoke hit us as we climbed aboard, along with the thump of loud dance music and drunken laughter.

The following three hour journey was a pretty rowdy affair and I managed to cram myself into a seat next to a half-pissed Australian who periodically nodded off, drooling, on my shoulder until we arrived at our destination.

The disheveled mass of be-suited, bleary-eyed wannabe executives stumbled squinting off the coach and made for the dimly lit sanctuary of the gigantic hall which was to house the event, to be greeted by the sight of circular dining tables, seating twelve each, stretching off in all directions.
And on each table there were six bottles of wine, three red and three white.

It was 9.30 in the morning.

My Australian friend, refreshed by his dribbling nap, was now wide awake and it wasn't long before we opened the first bottle of wine, since it appeared that we would have to sit through the tedious business of a corporate back-slapping ceremony before we got the promised "gourmet meal" at the end.
Essentially they had themselves a captive audience of drones who would clap for their dinner to make the bosses feel good about themselves, while they handed out tasteless perspex trophies to shiny-faced, nervously grinning chavs in bad rented suits.
Meanwhile, the increasingly sociable little circle on our table had polished off all the wine, at which point some extremely efficient waitresses arrived and replaced the whole lot.

Now bearing in mind that it was not yet midday, we had been drinking for nearly six hours and we still hadn't had anything to eat, you can imagine what sort of state we were in. I was already aware of a certain wooziness beginning to creep over me and I weaved my way off to the toilet to splash some water on my face and try to sober myself up a bit.
When I returned to the table, lunch was finally being served. Whether or not it could have been described as "gourmet" I can't recall, but it may have involved chicken.
What I do know is that it inspired a wholly ill-advised second bout of drinking, culminating in us smuggling as many bottles of wine back to the coach as we could, which turned out to be at least a couple each.

We piled back into our seats and, considerably worse for wear but nevertheless still determined to get full value out of the trip, we began the long journey home.
By this stage I can honestly say I was completely hammered, and on cheap white wine too, not the best thing to have spent most of the day drinking on an empty stomach.
And when I get drunk, as anyone who knows me will attest, I get a bit loud.
Not aggressive, I'm a peaceful sort of bloke, just loud.
And a bit cheeky.

In retrospect, it was probably not a good idea to be taking the piss out of "those bloody useless cold-caller dickheads in the office" at the top of my (slurred) voice, especially since the aforementioned useless dickheads (including the fearsome, slightly frightening girl, Kirsty, who worked in my branch) were sitting directly behind us at the time.
I received a good deal of abuse for my trouble, along with muttered threats of sales leads that would involve long pointless drives to jobs at isolated farmhouses for the foreseeable future.

Taking the hint, I kept my head down until we stopped at some motorway services an hour or so from home and, hoping to get something to eat with which to soak up the ever increasing lake of slowly curdling wine slopping around inside me, I disembarked with a number of fellow seekers after food or toilet facilities, barely registering the location of the coach as I staggered towards the lights of the glass-fronted concourse.

I have very little memory of what I did in the service station, just that I emerged from the glass doors after no more than ten minutes into a totally empty car park.

The coach had gone without me.


The bastards, they can't have gone without me, how could they?

I raced across the car park - as much as anyone that drunk can race anywhere - making for the slip road that led back to the motorway, thinking I could maybe cut them off before they got back to the road.
It was at this point that I ran into a hedge in the dark and went face first down a muddy bank, miraculously keeping hold of the unbroken, half full wine bottle that I realised I'd been clutching the whole time.
Climbing, swearing, out of the hedge, my suit torn and covered in mud, I detected a certain amount of laughter heading my way, accompanied by a lot of uncharitable comments concerning my sense of direction.
And there was the coach, slowly pulling up to me with the door opening, as if nothing had happened.

It seems as if I may have become momentarily disoriented whilst stumbling around inside, exiting the building at the opposite end into a completely different car park, drunkenly crashing around in the undergrowth until the coach driver had taken pity on my plight and come to find me.
I thankfully remounted the coach, to much jeering and piss-taking, and resumed the final leg of the trip home.

The rest of the journey is a fuzzy blur, the only thing I'm sure of is that I woke up on the living room sofa at home some hours later with the most unbelievable, skull-splitting headache I have ever had the misfortune to experience before or since and dragged myself miserably upstairs, to crawl fully-clothed into bed.

I think the walk of shame into the office the following morning might be one of those memories that will never really go away, just purely because of how utterly dreadful I felt.
Cold sweat, clammy skin, dry mouth, nauseous feeling in the stomach, and that was just the hangover.
I also had to deal with the fearsome Kirsty, terrifying boss of the phone canvassers who I'd upset the night before.
Despite my attempts at a groveling apology, she was not at all happy and did indeed send me on several shitty jobs soon afterwards, but whether or not this was a coincidence I never did find out.

The worse thing was that I had a full day of appointments that day and I had to keep asking for glasses of water at customer's houses, trying to keep the pounding in my head and roiling in my guts at bay.
It was a very long day.

I left the double glazing business a couple of months later, without any regret whatsoever, and that's the last time I got drunk on wine too.

We all reach that age when we have to acknowledge our youthful illusion of indestructibility is just that, an illusion, and I think that was the day I finally realised I'd reached it.

And you know what?
I'm happy with that.



  1. Welcome Back Dale! Great to have you writing for us again :)

  2. Cheers Matt, I'll try not to leave it so long next time.

  3. Dale, I felt drunk and hungover just reading this post! OMG...six bottles of wine? You'll laugh when I tell you that all I can drink is ONE glass of wine and I'm done. I have such a low resistance to alcohol. I can only drink red because white seems to get me buzzed faster and flips me out - HA!

    Yeah, I'm such a light-weight, I know.

    Great post, buddy!

  4. Cheers Ron. I can't drink red at all, really gives me a headache. Same with champagne. I'm a bit more careful with white now too. Hahaha

  5. Dale, great post and quite entertaining. The half-pissed Australian nodding off and drooling on your shoulder had me laughing out loud, along with the bleary-eyed wannabe executives. Amazing about all that wine and stuff going on at 9:30 in the morning! Don’t doubt you’d be woozy since you hadn’t eaten. You had one hell of an adventure and one hell of a long day when you went back to work. Yes, we all reach that age when “our youthful illusion of indestructibility is just that, an illusion.” Been there. Cheers, enjoyed your post!


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