In general, this exhibition went well and all the firms there were very happy with their results. They had met with many of their customers, even with those who were not easily accessible to the representative when visited.
Feeling magnanimous, Declan, my boss, explained to me: ‘We are having a bit of a get-together when this exhibition is over. It gives us time to get to know our customers better. There is a nice pub across the street and I have arranged for a spare room to be reserved for us. So, you may invite whomever you wish.’ He smiled at me encouragingly and I smiled back – rather forced, because in reality this was a planned booze-up and therefore a torture for a teetotaller like myself!
On such occasions, everybody is friendly enough at the beginning. There are a lot of pleasantries and business matters being discussed which are, of course, is always welcome.
Later, I always noticed that what people said was often exaggerated or strange. This was followed by more talk that doesn’t make sense to me and I was always in an unreal world where everything was warped. It ended with a situation where I was out of touch with everybody and had nobody I could converse with!
Respected business men, upright members of their communities, would slide into dirty talk, others told lies or, worse for me, started to tell me how good they were and what they said to a customer, what their customer replied and what they said back.
Do you follow me? Such events were always a kind of purgatory for me. If you are a Catholic you will know what I mean.
And then, as a refinement of this torture, there was always a small group of people that refuse to take their leave. Standing in a circle, beer glass in their hand, they have such a good time slurring their words and guffawing in unison, with no concern for their hard-working hosts who deserve a night’s rest after a long hard day.
Myself, I had to go on a country trip the following day and therefore leave home very early.
It was past midnight when Declan whispered into my ear: ‘They are not leaving Peter - I’ve tried everything!’ He himself was unaffected by all that drinking, or perhaps I should say impervious; standing there, elegant and suave in his Armani suit, a very successful company director, and yet helpless since he did not know these people that well. How do you tell them it is time to go when they are immune to polite hints?
Myself, I felt worn out but elated to hear from him that the end of all this drinking was near.
‘Since they are mostly Ken’s customers, I think we should ask him about the best way to close this er…..meeting. He will know how to handle them!’
With trepidation, I carefully extricated Ken from the centre of the crowd and, when out of hearing and as diplomatically as we could, Declan and I broached the subject of closing the meeting,
‘Is that what you want?’ Ken’s reddish face showed no sentiment, only his eyes bulged a little bit and his shoulders shrugged momentarily.
He spun around and facing the circle of hard-line boozers he shouted the immortal words: ‘Piss- off you bastards, the lot of you! Go on – go home.’
This was greeted by loud and lasting laughter, with some of the lads bent double. But they got their hint and began staggering slowly to the exit.
Whilst I was standing, shocked and transmogrified, at the door, a large beefy retailer from one of Victoria’s backwoods shook my hand warmly, swaying back and forth, and assuring me what a ‘bloody good bloke’ Ken was!
And another one managed to slur: ‘What a great evening…my two floor layers over there are very happy with your company!’ And he pointed a heavy sausage finger in a vague direction across the room. I tried to recognise his two floor layers but could only see one fellow leaning against the wall, pale and trying to steady himself..
Within a few minutes the room was empty, a situation, we could have achieved sooner if Declan and I had confided earlier in Ken’s unique diplomacy!