I'm having some cold pizza, and it's just past nine o'clock in the evening. Tomorrow is not a school day around here, so the staff at my school determined this the perfect evening to head out for a little Happy Hour. I spent the first part of the year feeling squeamish about heading out to a bar with my co-workers and having to go through all the "What can I get you, Dave? What do you mean you don't drink?" jazz. In the intervening months I have softened my opinions and made it to a few of the gatherings. As it turns out, we all get along famously, and the chance to decompress after a week of working in an urban elementary school is a welcome relief.
But you knew that already. The thing that occurred fast on the heels of the sighs of letting another week go was the memory of work gatherings from my past. I remember exactly how fierce the partying was with the Arby's crowd. It wasn't a strictly keg crowd. There was a lot of shots and a lot of pot being passed around. That's where I saw some of my first cocaine. I was still a few years away from trying any, but I started to understand its allure. It was also during this time that I became convinced of just how terrifying workplace romances could be. Like my observation of cocaine, I witnessed the devastating effects of this highly volatile substance. Babs and Rat were an item, but I don't think that Rat really loved Babs the way that she loved him. I know that the idea of spending "quality time" with your significant other can hardly be done in the confines of a fast-food restaurant, but these two seemed willing to try and make it work. And on the weekends, they would let it all hang out in late-night festivals of intoxication, and we were all invited along to watch. It was very seldom that it ended pretty.
When I worked at Target, I would periodically have the night crew from the dock over to the house after we had finished unloading and sorting the contents of a forty-eight foot trailer. I was never that close with any of them except for my roommate, but it always felt good to have someplace to go and have a few cold ones after work. It seemed quintessentially American.
When I worked at the video store, I often closed the place myself, so it never had the same quality. The communal feeling of getting hammered with one's co-workers paled next to the feeling of getting hammered with - well - just about anybody. By the time I had retired from substance and moved to California, I found it difficult to be in room full of people I had to see every day in various states of inebriation. The real test were the parties held in Berkeley by the employee-owners of the book warehouse I used to manage. A lot of these folks had been partying since the Grateful Dead started playing "Dark Star." They put a solid fear in me and I didn't look back.
Until tonight. What was I afraid of? Watching other people have a good time? Having a good time myself? Being tempted to drop off the wagon? Most of these don't seem to hold much water (or beer or tequila) these days. I'm pretty settled in my ways, and very comfortable with the way things have worked out. I do want to belong. I want to have that Friday afternoon feeling once again. Now I can do it without the Saturday morning reminder or the prayer to the porcelain god. Welcome to the weekend.