Modern-day etiquette: To guzzle or not to guzzle?

Modern-day etiquette: To guzzle or not to guzzle?

Modern-day etiquette: To guzzle or not to guzzle?

In fact, more than half of workplaces have imposed a complete ban on any alcohol at lunchtime.

Now, whether you think that’s fair or not probably depends on how well you can ‘take your drink’: anyone who, like me, feels ready for bed around half past three if they’ve had more than a glass of wine over lunch, is probably secretly quite relieved they no longer have to get a round in. Others, who are quite capable of putting away rather more and walking back into the office as if they’d just spent an hour at the juice bar, are understandably less keen.

But in my experience, prohibition tends to make otherwise normal, abstemious people act like teenagers who’ve been let off the leash on a school trip. Go out for lunch with a group of colleagues, and one person will immediately order a drink, then smirk at the rest of the table, as if daring us to tell. “Well, if you’re having one …” someone else quickly chips in, as excited as a child who’s been allowed a sip of sherry at Christmas, and suddenly everyone fancies going in on a bottle.

Ask for a lemonade, though, and it’s as if you’ve turned office grass, however hard you plead pressing deadlines and a feeble constitution. “Go on” they plead, pouting their disappointment. “Just a small one.” Although, as none of us is in charge of operating heavy machinery, I couldn’t give a toss if they demanded a round of tequila slammers, I sense that they resent my abstinence. It’s like being the spectre at the feast, glugging 7UP as they take furtive sips from their illicit stash and grin at each other in naughty conspiracy.

Of course, it’s even worse if it’s someone’s birthday: refusing to join them in a glass comes across as mean-spirited somehow, even though you’re already spending more than your weekly lunch budget on a pizza to celebrate the dawning of their 32nd year, having emptied your pockets into their gift collection last week. What with the constant stream of retirements and births and weddings, these brown envelopes are enough to clean you out of change on a weekly basis, and that’s before you’ve even made it to the after-work drinks.

Call me Scrooge, but unless the celebrant is a close friend (ie someone I've said more than “thank God it’s nearly Friday” to), or someone I’d like to make into close friend (ie anyone who can authorise a pay rise), I now plead poverty, and bring in my usual packed lunch instead. After all, there’s nothing to stop me going along for a lime and soda and a chat afterwards, or, if I’m feeling particularly benevolent, baking a few birthday biscuits rather than throwing a button into the gift fund – and it’s the thought that counts. Not how much Pinot Grigio you can put away together in a lunch hour.

What do you think? Should people be free to choose whether they fancy a drink at lunchtime, and does sharing a glass really help foster camaraderie between colleagues? And is it possible to take part in office celebrations without spending a fortune?

What might have been almost compulsory a generation ago is now frequently frowned upon. How great a loss is a cheeky glass at lunchtime?