Married to the job: a new gaffe

Social gatherings outside the workplace are not only great ways to get to know more about your colleagues, but, for me at least, present a whole new occasion for making significant gaffes.

My friend La Chance was leaving to Mali. He was seeking new horizons and I couldn’t blame him – the view from his desk was of his boss’ head, behind which were the toilets. A popular character around the workplace, his going away do – at the trashy regular bar opposite work – drew a large crowd. This was in contrast to the going away functions of less popular people such as Paul…

Me: Where’s Paul?
Colleague: He’s gone. Yesterday was his last day.
Me: Oh. Shame, I liked that guy – he was nice.

La Chance had a good turnout, which has been unusual of late. It seems so long ago those Friday nights when the boss would turn up at 9.30 and pay everyone’s tab. Still, that was the plan for tonight.

Though I had anticipated an alcohol-free evening, when I heard “free drinks,” I crumbled. The mood was buoyant; the new people were mingling, and I was getting a few French jokes in – even if not many laughs out.

But lo, there in the corner two colleagues were ruining the mood. They sat close together, and, through the filter of my French language skills, I caught snippets of their conversation.

They were discussing a big project they had been working on. Listening in, I gathered that it had been “emotionally draining,” “took up a lot of time,” and made it “hard to think about anything else.”

Frankly, when I’m at the bar, I don’t necessarily want to drink to forget, but if I can at least not think about work, that’s a bonus. I was trying to enjoy myself, and these two spoilsports were only interested in talking office politics.

I decided an interjection was necessary: “Girls, girls, we’re not here to talk about WORK!”

My butt-in was loud enough for other people to hear that I was making a social stand that would improve the general conversation.

A little startled, the two girls stopped talking, and turned to me – and everyone else now listening by this stage.

“We’re not talking about work,” one said. “We’re talking about our recent divorces.”

I held up a white flag and put my face to my beer. There’s not many ways to respond to that.

But I was wrong again! The girl I was sitting next too decided to salvage the ambience with another interjection:  “But, if you like, divorces can also be fun!”

I groaned, and the rest of the people at the table with me. She got up and went and sat next to them. As she started to explain the joys of divorce –she seemed an authority on the subject despite never having been married – not even I could bear to listen in.


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