Monday, April 2, 2012

The drinks are on me

I went to a drinks industry seminar last Friday and very nearly stayed awake through it all.

I’ve never been to a seminar of any kind before and so I was quite excited to be going to this one, especially seeing as it was going to be about the drinks industry. Just think about it; all that sampling and tippling in a room full of the drinks industries top luminaries, discussing the great and weighty subjects of the day while big deals were being struck in side rooms that could change the lives of a great mass of the working public. Yes, this was going to be a day to remember.

And it was---but for all the wrong reasons.

It was due to start at one O’clock and everyone attending was to be given lunch and to partake in a spot of networking. So I grabbed my SatNav, set the coordinates and off I went into a bright blue and very sunny day. At precisely 1:05 I was on the phone to the organisers asking for directions. The SatNav, who was having a hissy fit because I’d not been listening to her and had taken too many wrong turns, had delivered me to the loading bay of the local Focus DIY store--- presumably as a punishment. So consequently once I’d got the right directions, placed a HRT patch on the irate SatNav and had found the venue and conference rooms, I was a little late.
So as not to mess up their little timetable they placed a tray of assorted sandwiches, dainties and a jug of water in front of me and with the words ‘dig in’ they carried on as though I wasn’t there.

Unfortunately I was having so much fun with the food that I forgot where I was and made many appreciative sounds and hearty compliments to the chef. Once I’d finished--- and divested my fingers of all remnants from the tasty morsels--- the collected delegates were looking on at me in fidgety annoyance. I apologised and sat back to take in the show.

That was when the first big incident of the day took place. I was fed and satisfied and absorbing myself in the talk that was been given when in reality I should’ve been paying more attention to what my body was doing.

As my mind was drawn deeper and deeper into the amazingly mundane world of pie charts and forecasts my gastric juices were putting on an extra shift to deal with the unexpectedly large workload of my lunch. It would also appear that they’d signed an agreement with my yawning department, forming a coalition of anarchy behind my back. And when I went to yawn and my mouth was at its widest and most vulnerable point, my gastric juices decided to launch their attack. And just as the speaker took a break to take a breath from his discussion on the drinking habits of bird watchers from Teesdale, I emitted the mother of all belches.

It rang through the rafters; it made the water jugs ting, the windows rattled in their rebates and at least one loosely secured wig flew off its owners head and into the paper shredder, never to be seen again. If I thought the looks I had previously received were bad, you should’ve seen the looks I got from my fellow delegates after that faux pas.

I apologised once again and blushed suitably with embarrassment. The delegates harrumphed and grunted their barley concealed contempt for me. The person who was giving the talk looked at me with a wary if not slightly withering gaze before pushing on with his absorbing talk on the ‘Cider drinking habits of the Welsh’.

We were about ten minutes into the discussion when the call of nature struck me with an urgency that would not be denied. And in one of those illuminatory moments of bad timing I went to put my hand up just as the talker asked if there were any questions about the dry salted peanut consumption of Sudoku puzzlers.

He looked to me with the warmth of a parent who had just seen their toddler take his first faltering steps. ‘Yes’ he said with a glow ‘er...could you tell me where the toilets are’ I replied. The adoring look of the proud parent fell crest fallen to the ground as he directed me solemnly out of the room. As I left through the double doors he was already moving onto the weighty subject of ‘crisp packets and their relevance in today’s multi faith society’.

Now the instructions I was given were go out of the room, turn right, go through the double doors marked ‘to rooms 22-48’ then turn right again. But what he should have said was ‘Go out of the room, turn right, go through the double doors marked ‘to rooms 22-48’ TURN LEFT then turn right again.’ And because I’d only the first set of directions to go on, the speaker had hardly got into his stride before the door at the back of the room was opening and I was walking through it, trying to both undo my flies and look for the nearest urinal. I was met with the silence that was fastly becoming my trade mark. I smiled nervously to everyone assembled and tried to inject a little humour into the situation by telling them that there was a room full of people identical to them all just through the door.

This was met with even more silence and I was ushered to my seat---all calls of nature now drowned out with my embarrassment.

So with the food digested and the water drunk I once again tried to take up the thoroughly exciting subject of ‘Beer Bottles---Are they phallic symbols of the dark ages or just drinking vessels?’ But two minutes into this fascinating and wholly gripping subject, I felt a power nap coming on.

Now I’ve hit on this subject in a previous post, and how I am a martyr to them. Once I’ve been struck by the somnific undercurrents of a nap attack there is little more I can do but give up the ghost, close my eyes and snore my way through the next forty minutes of my life. But because I was aware that my track record today was not very high, I decided to fight it hard and stay awake.

I tried looking around the room and not fixing on any one point for too long--- but that didn’t work. I tried to open my eyes as wide as possible, but when I turned to look at the lady beside me it unsettled her so much she felt the need to move to another chair. Then I thought I’d concentrate on the person giving the talk. He was a wildly animated sort of chap and his arms were all over the place as he warmed to his subject of ‘Great Beer mats of the Northern Hemisphere’. His arms were moving to and fro, fro and to and my eyes were following them like a mesmeric charm. Two minutes later I was completely in his power until he clicked his fingers and I was back in the room again.

What was I to do? I was losing the ‘power nap war’. I could feel the wispy clouds of sleep enveloping my senses as the gentle whispers of the summer’s breeze hushed me to sleep. But I had to stay awake, because my kind of sleeping is not the sort of sleeping that likes to be ignored; if they thought the burp was bad they’d never get over the snoring. It would rattle the whole building; no one would be able to hear themselves think let alone talk for at least a four mile radius. It’s so bad that Karen, my long suffering lady, has taken to wearing ear defenders to bed. So I struggled on with the battle for consciousness.

I looked at the jug of water and thought. Maybe if I flick a few spots on my face that might work. I looked around; everyone was hooked on the subject of how to deal with ‘insect infestations that are under the influence of alcohol’. So I surreptitiously dipped my fingers into the water, looked around again to see if I’d been spotted, and I hadn’t. I flicked the dripping wet fingers towards my face, missed completely, and hit the lady I’d previously scared off with my bug eyes as she returned to her seat.

She erupted. I really was too much, this was the limit and she wasn’t going to stand for this any longer. She ranted and raved and no amount of placatory language from myself or the assorted delegates could assuage her indignation. Eventually she was calmed down with a shot of valium sneakily injected into a chocolate ├ęclair. And the room was once again absorbed into the subject of ‘Pie Charts---Chicken and mushroom or steak and kidney?’ And I continued to fight my losing battle against consciousness. Five minutes later I lost it. And as I slid down the chair and under the table I thought to myself, ‘What a fitting place to be at a seminar on the drinks industry---passed out and under the table.

I awoke a while later disorientated, and startled a Polish maid as I crawled out, bleary eyed from under the table cloth with a dried mint and parsley mini bite stuck to the side of my face. She dropped most of the plates and glasses she’d been carrying and ran out screaming something in her own language. I went to my car swearing that I’d never go to one of these seminars again.

My fellow attendees, who had adjourned to another hotel in a different postal district when the sound of my road drilling snores had become too much to cope with, had ironically arrived at the same conclusion.

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