Again, a period of neglect. I have intermittently been forgetting that I even have a blog. In my neck of the media woods, I am drowning in opinion and I can’t see that adding mine will help anyone. But, you know, it might ‘lead to something.’ That reminds me of something that I retweeted the other day, by @BigFashionista. ‘I was thinking of calling up a plumber to sort out my rads. No cash for the job, but it’ll ‘raise his profile’. And that, dear friends, just about sums it up.
Anyway, the festive season. Actually, these thoughts apply all year round, but they are heightened during the winter party months. And the summer ones. And spring and autumn.
So, as you’ve probably worked out, I don’t drink. Neither do quite a few other people, for varying reasons. Just to ram the point home, I don’t drink alcohol, like, ever. And yet I, and others like me, are sometimes, when out for the evening, still sometimes expected to chip in for the drinks part of the bill.
I’ve lost count of the number of events that ‘throw in’ a glass or two of horrible wine as a justification for bumping up the entrance fee. I don’t want this, thanks. Mind you, when an event is unusually overpriced, and there’s free ‘champagne’ offered as part of the deal, you know the evening is going to be rubbish, so it’s quite a useful indicator.
But the non-drinker’s tolerance is far more heavily tested when they go for a group meal in a restaurant. The odd beer slipping through the net is one thing. A booze bill that doubles the cost of the meal is another. A while back I went to a posh book launch and then about 15 of us went for dinner. The wine flowed. Then the bill came. £40 a head. I looked at it and said, ‘I’ll give you £20 as I haven’t drunk anything.’ The host looked bemused and disturbed. ‘But I’ll have to recalculate the bill!’ he said. ‘You’ll have to recalculate the bill,’ I replied.
One friend who invited a group of us to a restaurant last year cracked it by running two tabs, one for the alcohol and one for the food. Perfect, and I wish people would think a bit and offer to do this more, when there is clearly a number of sober people at the table. Of course, even this wise and reasonable course of action can still be thrown by the one non-drinker at the table who will loudly show up the rest of us sober types, in our killjoyish meanness and poverty, by theatrically insisting on paying a full share.
The thing I hate the most is having to ask permission not to pay for alcohol in advance of an organised event, when I know the bill for the meal is going to be large. The potential humiliation (ohh no, the host might think I’m poor!) might be enough to silence you and get you to reach into your pocket and subsidise the drinkers. But we are in a recession and I have no shame on this. If someone’s going to get stroppy about it or act like they’re doing me a special favour, it’s a friendship that might just be over.
Of course, sometimes over the years I’ve swallowed it and paid up. Context is all. But can you tell this pisses me off a bit?
I’ve been reminded that the situation is the same for people who aren’t drinking because they happen to be driving, and people who only ever have one drink. Also, and I remember this from long ago boozy restaurant days, it’s often the people who have ordered the most, whether brandies/champagne, or just food (the fanciest starter and the biggest steak), who demand equality over the bill, and call ‘spoilsport’ the loudest.