Happy Hour: Dos, Don’ts, and What-Have-I-Dones

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While the three-martini lunch may be a thing of the past, there are still a number of publishing functions that include and even seem to be centered on alcohol. We’ve all heard the horror stories, but we never think it could happen to us. Unfortunately, it does, especially to those who are young to publishing, so here is some advice that I’ve culled from sources that have been there, done that, and lived to regret it in the morning.

  1. 1.   The cardinal rule: Know your limits. There are actually some companies out there (none of them book publishers, mind you) that set limits on their employees’ consumption. I know, it’s extraordinary.  Essentially, it’s a two-drink maximum, which isn’t a bad rule of thumb but, more importantly you should never drink to the point that it will affect your judgment. If you’re tired, stressed, or already tipsy because of lappy hour* know it and drink accordingly. If you ever find yourself saying, “Hey, It’s no big deal. I’ve only had a couple of drinks,” but the only time you’ve moved from your barstool was when you fell off of it, then you should probably call it a night.
  2. When in Rome: Whenever there’s a question as to whether or not having a drink is an acceptable option, follow your boss’s lead but remember there’s no need to go shot for shot. It’s not a competition, and even if it were, it’s probably not one you want to win, unless you plan on spending the next day recovering at home and working on your resume.
  3. Don’t experiment: Happy hour is not the time to don your lab coat. Stick with what you know, and there won’t be any unwanted surprises. In other words, don’t order anything that ends with the word “bomb.” When you do, you not only run the risk of drinking past your tolerance, but you’ve already assured everyone that you’re the least sophisticated person at the company.
  4. The big boss man is people, too: Let the higher ups know that you can hold a drink and a conversation at the same time. It’ll go a long way. But don’t monopolize their time. Hit them up early, then step aside because no matter how smart your mom thinks you are, you’re probably not going to say anything they haven’t heard before. Special Note: If you happen to be the nervous type, don’t down a couple of shots of courage before talking to the boss. The difference between a little confidence and an incoherent monologue on how you single handedly saved the company is a very fine line that you don’t even want to flirt with.
  5. Work is for suckers: Don’t talk business. No major decisions, especially ones regarding your cost of living raise, will be made over drinks, and your thinly veiled attempts will be seen as pathetic and borderline insulting. When you’re socializing with coworkers, you’re supposed to keep the conversation light. Think vanilla. Think angel food. If one of your co-workers came into work with a tennis racket, then ask them about that. If you’re hurting for material, skim the newspaper or the publishing blogs. That’s pretty much what they’re there for anyways.
  6. The buddy system: It got you through that fieldtrip to the zoo, and it’ll get you through the infinitely more hazardous night out with the company. You’ve got your buddy’s back, and she’s got yours. If you say something dumb, she can provide a segue and dump you in a cab. Special Note #2: A good buddy knows that no matter how much of a fool you make of yourself, she’s not allowed to mention it ever again…unless she’s blackmailing you. Then all rules are off, and you’re on you’re own. So pick your buddy wisely.
  7. If it happened back in the day, then it didn’t happen: Meeting up with someone in the industry is not the same as hanging out with your friends. Telling the story about how you came home one night and duct taped everything your roommate owned to the ceiling is not only a good way to convince people that you’re a little dim, but it’s boring, and nobody cares. Besides when you work in publishing, telling a boring story is roughly equivalent to being a little dim. We’re supposed to be better than that.
  8. Keep your dog on a leash: When you’re allowed to bring your significant other out for drinks, make sure he understands that you’ll be working with these people tomorrow. It is important to remember that your partner’s behavior will reflect on you. And if he doesn’t understand that, then I have to agree with your mother, you deserve better.
  9. A decoy is not a lie: If you don’t drink and don’t feel comfortable admitting it or if you’ve hit your limit before it’s time to leave, then order a club soda. It’s like booze without the alcohol. Are you even allowed to order a club soda anywhere else besides a bar? Seriously, I don’t know. Admittedly Controversial Advice: With a little foresight, you can also bribe the bartender to give you a coke every time you order a rum and coke, but this is actually lying, and although it probably won’t get you fired, it certainly won’t score you any points.
  10. Back doors and rope ladders: Even when you don’t have other plans, you have other plans. This will help you set an end to the evening. You may only be going home to eat leftover Halloween candy in front of “Grey’s” with your cat, but that counts. Just don’t say, “Mr. Whiskers thinks McDreamy is the perfect man.” That’s weird and a little sad.
  11. The second biggest mistake of all: Not going. You may have saved yourself from saying anything stupid to the publisher, but what does it matter? He doesn’t know your name and is probably beginning to wonder what you’re doing in the building anyways.

* Lappy hour: n. 1. lunch + happy hour. v. 2. the act of rolling a late lunch with the girls into an early happy hour with the company with the intention of bending the two drink rule. Always risky and never a good idea.

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