The need for moderation

The bus eased in to the station and I bolted out the door, forgetting to touch my card to cancel my trip but I had more important things on my mind than losing $10.

I was about to lose my lunch all over the bus stop floor. And walls.

The day had been like any other Friday at work. I had arrived just in time for the poorly-run standup that most people saw as an opportunity to kill 20 minutes or justify their existence by rattling off a list of inane and pointless things that had prevented them from actually doing any work yesterday.

After standup most of the old-duck public servants took that as an opportunity to go have their coffee and morning tea. They wouldn’t be back for an hour so I settled in to my task of trawling through and cleaning up a massive data set before loading it into a database. It wasn’t work though, it was one of my personal side projects. Something I actually enjoyed doing.

This pattern of everyone else wasting their day and me losing myself in my data continued for the rest of the day. Right up until I felt a tap on my shoulder an turned around to see David slouching against my desk, eyes locked on my screen as he took in everything I was doing.

My practiced hands alt-tabbed quickly and the display changed to a browser window of the government intranet page, covering my code. But I wasn’t fast enough.

“That didn’t look like work.” David said as he turned his eyes to me, cocking his head to one side like a confused alsation.

“Just a little thing I’m playing around with. Trying to learn some new techniques.” It wasn’t quite a lie but it certainly wasn’t the open and direct truth. David nodded to himself, seeing through my bluff.

“Let’s walk and talk.” He said, turned, and headed off to the door, obviously expecting me to trot along behind.

David was my mentor. Not in the true sense like I was actually learning anything from him but more in the sense that after a recent staff survey, the department had decided it should assign mentors to all junior staff. The official line was that it ‘uplifted employee skills and capability’ but rather it came across as a box ticking exercise and pat on the back to reassure the execs that they gave a spare fuck about the lack lustre state of staff engagement.

David was a nice man, in a receding hairline, coffee stain on the shirt, let-me-tell-you- about-my-thriving-orchids kind of way. He was about 50, although I was terrible at estimating age so he could honestly be anywhere from 40 to 60, and had the face of a hard man that had been softened as the years passed and his intensity for life waned. He gave the impression of a man in cruise control, with his kids off to university and not much else on his plate, he was just winding down to retirement.

As a mentor David was a good bloke. He knew the idea was just a bullshit exercise and he ignored most of the mandated bureaucracy that came from the management team but he simultaneously reveled in the role of trying to guide me and my career. It was obvious when he found out that I never knew my father he had decided to try to fill that role in my life, bless his cotton socks.

I didn’t see him as a father figure and I didn’t care about this mentoring program but he was a good bloke trying to make a positive difference so I respected that.

That’s how I ended up at the pub at 3:30pm on a Friday, knocking back pints, telling David about my boredom at work and how I was using my spare time to experiment on side projects that interested me. I’m not sure if he knew the beer would act as a form of truth serum or if he had just been bored himself and wanted someone to grab a beer with.

Either way he was that generation that drank a few beers daily and he was putting them away with consistent speed. Being a young arrogant man I forced myself to keep pace and was only too willing to jump up and buy the next round.

Three hours, six pints, and an extremely bumpy bus trip later I found myself desperately hugging the dirty bus-stop bin, clinging to it like a drowning man clutches life preserver, while I waited for the world to stop spinning.

That’s when my lunch decided to pay me a second visit.

These events are often laughed about, even celebrated, by most young adults. The ability to binge drink, vomit uncontrollably, and do it all again the next weekend is considered something like a rite of passage. I’ve done it countless times before but I think I’ve finally learned my lesson.

I need to learn moderation again.

My passion for numbers helped me do a quick calculation.

6 pints @ 550ml each = 3.3l litres of beer. That is 1.1 litres of beer per hour. There are approximately 4 standard alcoholic drinks in a lire of beer which means I consumed 12-13 drinks in a 3 hour window.

No wonder I vomited. To save my poor liver from drowning my brain had quite rightly decided to swoop in and evict the overdose of poison that was running through my body.

It is the dose that makes the poison. I had taken too much and my body reacted accordingly.

I REALLY need to learn moderation again.


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