The Irish have a reputation for being big drinkers. This is not helped by the fact that in 1914 Guinness was producing 2,652,000 barrels of beer a year, barrels that is, not pints and by 1930 it was the seventh largest company in the world. When I was growing up it just a natural step to start drinking and in my youth I drank a fair few pints but as I got into my twenties I stopped drinking almost completely. There are a couple of reasons for this, I was always designated driver as I was the only one with wheels but also my drinking previously had been as under-age and had a certain rebelliousness about it but once I was legally allowed to drink and the fear of being caught disappeared so did the thrill of drinking. In Ireland the police came into the bars frequently and would ask your age and chuck you out if they thought you were too young – and then proceed to sit down and spend the rest of the evening getting well-oiled with free drinks at the bar.
However, the main reason I stopped drinking was because I made an idiot of myself on more than a few occasions and realised that I can’t hold my drink. Friends of mine could drink copious amounts of beer and walk home but after one or two pints my higher brain centres shut down and I became a embarrassing slobbering idiot.
Someone once told me that when you start a new job then it’s important that you don’t show your true personality for the first six months and it’s good advice, keep your cards close to your chest. In 1984 I started a new job in a large factory and as it was near Christmas time I was invited to the Christmas party. I had been there a few weeks and was friendly with a few folk and we all headed to the hotel were the party was being held. I had a few drinks and chatted with a very nice woman whom I didn’t know worked in the factory with me and found out she lived roughly in the same area as I did. I suggested we share a taxi back and then I went off and mingled but towards the end of the evening realised I was wilting and needed to go home.
I went out to the reception and there was my friendly woman and she said “do you want a lift back with me?”. I said “yes, love to” and we both jumped into a mini-cab that had just arrived. I sat in the front and I tried to fumble with the radio because it was playing some dreadful turge, the taxi driver told me to leave it alone and gave me the worlds dirtiest look..Oops.. so instead I went into flirt mode with the woman and thought I was being funny but was most likely being obnoxious. I didn’t like the look of the taxi driver one bit and as I was getting out first I said to her “make sure you call me when you get home, I want to make sure you get home OK… “ and then added in “of course if you want to get out with me and stay for breakfast…” The taxi driver glared at me and we stopped at my place, I staggered out of the taxi and fumbled in my pockets for all this loose change to pay for the taxi but she waved it away and told me to get inside the house, she would be fine. I looked at the taxi driver and told him in no uncertain terms to make sure she gets home and no harm comes to her..and returned the dirty look back at him, “I’ve got your number mate” I said to him..
I collapsed in bed and as it was the weekend had two days off but went into work on the Monday morning and hunted out my woman friend to make sure she was OK (and flirt some more). She was with a group of other woman, all chatting and laughing away but as I approached they tried to suppress their laughter but were giggling away. I thought they were giggling away because I had tried my best to chat her up and I said to her trying to sound concerned “Did you manage to get home ok, I didn’t hear the phone ringing..?” and she said “yes, I got home fine” and I said “I really didn’t like the look of that taxi driver, I was worried he was going to try something on, he was very shifty looking..” and she said to me “Oh..didn’t you realise, that wasn’t a mini-cab…it was my husband come to pick me up” to howls of laughter from all the woman…
The story spread around the factory like wildfire.. I was mortified and hide myself away in my office for weeks and then left as soon as possible.
That’s why I rarely drink. The shame…