Thirty odd people, myself included, cluster around a table in a somewhat private corner of the Monkey House. Once a quarter, the guys and girls from work all pile in here to de-stress, and let our hair down. Rumour has it that after enough beers have gone around, fortuitous slips centred around what certain bosses actually think about certain staff have been known to occur. Usually, the evening starts with a few beers and nibbles – fish fingers, spring rolls, and all the other light food we’d collectively call small chops in my other world, the small matter of a few thousand miles away.
Three beers in, I find myself somehow wedged between two women from a different group within my larger team. Besides the odd ‘Hi’ tossed across the hall way as I have passed them on the way to the shared printer, or the even more occasional chit-chat at the coffee machine, these are not people I would consider myself particularly well acquainted with.
In allowing myself to be stuck at this end of the table, I have perhaps made my most grievous mistake. The conversation that begins around my being single – uncomfortable enough as it were – eventually segues in to the even less comfortable territory of botched spray tans, gelish application and removals, and endless harping on about a perceived slight; a contractor had used one of the ladies’ parking space without asking.
It takes all of my will power to not physically run, but I survive, long enough to seize the arrival of a fresh platter of nibbles as an escape clause.