A guide to free drinks

26 Oct

PhD students are phenomenally poor. 7 years at uni doesn’t come cheap: loans, fees, sinners virginity, rent, dignity are all lost in the process. Even for those of us lucky enough to have funding aren’t exactly rolling in cash. This means it is important to continue the great undergrad tradition of going to things in order to get free stuff. Whether it is flyers, pens, curries, pizzas, or just 10% off some-clothes-you-really-shouldn’t- be- buying-because-you-don’t-have-the-money it is important to keep claiming the free stuff.

One such free thing is of course drinks. But there is an etiquette, a protocol, a cost-benefit model that needs to be considered in this situation.

Departmental events and the drunkenness scale:

Any kind of departmental mixer is the ideal event to attend, you can stand with your friends, chat normally and drink as much as is humanly possible in the allotted 2 hour period. Now obviously as the drinking increases you need to assure your friends stay close, you need to keep your eyes peeled, you have to get ready to duck out or take an ‘unexpected call’ when your supervisor/some other academic you owe work to/ the boss in charge of everything nears your drunken perimeter. You are clearly drunk. You don’t want to give this away.

There is one exception to this rule. If said ‘authority figure’ has been downing the drinks even quicker than you then it is ok to talk to them. In fact this is an ideal opportunity to mention work you haven’t had time for, funding issues etc. They won’t remember when morning comes that they said it was ok for you to move away from Newcastle/go on holiday/submit another conference paper/hand in a chapter late, but nor will they want to admit they were drunk. This results in them acting as if they remember the conversation and remember approving your misdemeanour. You are drunk, your supervisor is more drunk, your misdemeanour is excused. Triple win.

[A quadruple win is possible here – there is left over wine, you take it home, you are drunk enough to drink bad wine – the Shangri La]

Drink quality versus loss of own time:

Now there is a corollary on this triple win. You have had to drink enough departmental wine to get drunk. Departmental wine is cheap, it is corner shop wine, bought in bulk. About 20years ago someone in the office got drunk on a bottle of it and decided that the particular brand they buy for every event was ‘deliciously drinkable and reasonably priced’ and now it seems we may drink nothing else. The reality is the white is always warm, the red is always super cold and both taste a bit like vinegar and the rotting of your insides. So a decision must be made, is it worth sitting through paper X if the only think you are going to get out of it is bad wine. Maybe you have had a bad day and an hour in silence next to the wine will be a good thing. Or maybe the Roman period brings you out in such a significant rash that it will never be worth sitting through the paper in return for a few glasses of really bad wine. One has to model need for wine, lack of cash, hatred of event/paper one must sit through and loss of own time against each other in some form of Venn diagram and see which combination of circles means an hour listening to the Romans is worth the free wine versus which combination just is not. Ever.

Need to not see supervisor versus need to get freely drunk:

Sometimes you really need to not see your supervisor. Maybe you had a fight, maybe they were mean, maybe they gave you too much work, maybe they moved the goalposts once too often, OR maybe you moved the goalposts, maybe you spent all your money, maybe you didn’t finish your chapter again, maybe you were mean about them in front of other people. All of these situations inter-lock with a need for free drink. You are angry, they are angry, you probably both need a drink. But almost certainly you don’t need that drink together. Do you risk the free drink? It is quite the conundrum.

When the wine quality is raised the event quality if almost always lowered or made more serious:

Now, big events often have better wine. Graduations, probably have better wine. Retirement dos, better wine. Inaugural lectures, better wine.  I would guess that HASS probably has quite good wine (then again the coffee situation suggests otherwise). HOWEVER often there is a sense that these events might be things you don’t actually want to go to. Or that you know nothing about. Or you aren’t really invited to. Risk it, risk it for the better quality wine!

Two notorious members of this blog went to an inaugural lecture where they felt they knew no one, and didn’t really know the subject of the lecture either. The only response to the social awkwardness of this event was to keep drinking, indeed eventually they captured a bottle in a corner by themselves. When the drink was over and the lecture began they were wasted. They had to sit through the lecture, which they wouldn’t have understood anyway, trying to stop themselves falling asleep. When the lecture ended they went on to drink more. Now in many ways this was a success, both of them avoided social awkwardness by being drunk and didn’t even try to understand the lecture, however their wine fumed breath may have been a mistake in front of so many other eminent archaeologists. There is a fine line to tread here kids, and it is not one you will always get right.

The one exception to this rule is HASS, I will never know if it has better wine because I won’t ever be there.

Time wasted from PhD: 30mins

Time usefully spent on ‘research’: days, and then the days lost with the hangover induced by bad free wine.

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