The morning after the night before

I know it's a cliche and I know it is true, so why does it still occasionally surprise me when colleagues really come out of their shell when they get drunk? Of course as the company is paying everybody is going mad, including myself, with free booze. I know it's a school night but opportunities to get locked on sponsored alcohol are few and far between. People I hardly ever speak to, people that usually avoid me on the workfloor, people who can often hardly disguise their contempt for this foreign interloper with a better salary come over and slap me on the back. We laugh and make jokes.They tend to get very tactile when drunk, and being British this still freaks me out somewhat, so I decide to get drunk quickly; it's bad form to flinch when your boss taps you on the back of your upper thigh. I have about 4 conversations on my interlocutor's desires to speak English better, peppered with my usual jokes about not being able to speak Japanese at all, delivered in Japanese, and how if an idiot like me can speak English anyone can. This seems to be the norm for any evening with Japanese people.

Of course the next morning I regret it. I usually do. Though the nights have been getting colder today is a warm, sunny day; the worst kind of day to have a hangover. On my way to work I purchase the items for my survival kit; a bottle of Pocari Sweat, a glucose drink so sweet you can feel your teeth and eyes and brain rot as you drink it, but it packs a bit of a punch and takes over the role of coffee this morning. Also a chocolate bar of sorts. Again, sweetness and unhealthy crap, a perfect foodstuff for when I am feeling this way. I couldn't possibly imagine eating a Japanese style breakfast with the remains of God only knows how many glasses of red wine sloshing around my veins. I think I am actually still drunk. The chocolate was a compromise though; they have some excellent bakeries here that bake fairly outrageous buns, stuffed with sausages, curry, or both or many other things I usually don't eat for breakfast, but on mornings like these they are a great pick me up.

My colleagues have all reverted back to their normal selves. The golden rule of Japanese drunkenness is that you will not hold anything against anybody for acting the way they do when they are stiff as an owl. This, sadly, also includes all the friendly banter. One can't approach a colleague so easily and continue last night's conversation. It's as if they have two personalities, one fueled by alcohol and one by corporate obligation. Sadly, the golden rule also dictates that nobody will remember my grand gesture: the grand raffle prize I won last night and in a fit of drunken benevolence and acute quitter's guilt donated to the company for use by my soon to be ex-colleagues, as I already had one and didn't want to lug it around all night. A fine gesture I think you'll agree, but one I regretted almost instantly and again a little later in the evening when a colleague tells me he would have bought it off me and again this morning when I realise how nobody is going to mention anything about that drunken night ever again due to possibilities of embarrassment. At times like these I try to be pragmatic and tell myself "easy come, easy go", rather than dwell on my stupidity, as well I should.

The morning drags. As they don't like to pay people for doing nothing they won't ever tell someone to sit out their notice period at home yet still give the last month's wages, as has happily been the case whenever I quit a company back in the UK. No, I am sat here doing nonsense work that won't be of any use to anybody. Boredom is a brain killer so I throw myself on the task with more energy than my ragged soul ever thought he could muster today. If I can just keep focused it'll be going home time before I realise. Sadly, I don't remain focused.

I decide to go out for what I call my "bad Jew" lunch; a toasted bagel with both ham and melted cheese. A woman walks into the smoking area to hand coffees to the two older guys sitting near the window, one of whom gives me the involuntary gaijin stare, obviously mesmerised by the whiteness of my skin or enormity of my nose, or maybe the bags under my eyes. As the woman walks back out to get her own coffee she pulls a face and waves her hand in front of her nose. Why come into a smoking area and be disgusted by the smoke? It makes little sense to me. But later I feel a little bad for her as she sits with the two old geezers. She doesn't smoke and obviously has to mother these two guys and keep them company. But still... On the way back to the office I walk past a woman who looks Japanese but is dressed as an African queen. I half expect her to hand me a flyer for something but she's just playing with her phone and her perfume is much too potent.

Here I am, looking at the clock's minute hand slowly creeping forward in little jumpy motions. A few more hours until a much needed weekend, and then one more week of this before creative freedom. Being at the office has a real last day of school vibe about it these days.


  1. Shame about your coworkers' split personalities, but I suppose it means you'll miss them that much less when you're a gentleman of leisure. How does the Pocari Sweat do against a hangover, anyway? I'm not much of a drinker, but if I can find something comparable here in the States, it'd be nice to keep in mind.

  2. Pocari Sweat, to me at least, is a little like a hangover miracle cure. So much sugar, it really picks you up. God only knows how unhealthy it is, even if it is a "sports drink".

  3. I remember reading about Pocari Sweat far too many years ago in a magazine, well before I knew anything about Japan except that it was far, far away. I've been curious since.

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