In 2011, when I was arrested for my first and only-ever DUI, I was driving home from a professional networking event. That’s not an excuse, it’s just that most people assume people arrested for DUIs are out partying it up club hopping or taking shots, which isn’t the case. I had one too many glasses of wine, waited probably about a half hour too short of getting in my car to drive, and clocked over the legal limit. Luckily, I didn’t hurt anyone but my ego and bank account. I learned my lesson.
That’s why at 8:08pm I’m sitting in the food court of a deserted mall listening to “Love Potion Number 9” play over the loud speaker when I really should be at home doing a thousand other things I have to do. My company had a team gathering tonight and part of that gathering involved drinking. I didn’t go overboard — I had one glass of wine early in the night and cut myself off. But at the end of the evening my new boss, a fine wine connoisseur, pulled out a bottle of vintage bubbly, and it of the few members remaining at the table it was clearly rude to resist. And, I’ll admit, I wanted to try a sip or two — who am I to refuse the few tastes of luxury that are poured my way?
Of course after the one glass, I couldn’t drive, so instead of heading home, I headed into the nearby mall, where I wandered aimlessly for a while, found a shady nail salon, got my nails done, and then wandered into a food court where I now reside writing this blog post. I’ll jump to some work projects in a few and head home in a half hour when the mall closes, as by then the alcohol should be completely out of my system. With the DUI I can’t have ANY alcohol in my system when I drive for three years but honestly I never want to drive after drinking anything again. That makes networking and being in professional environments challenging. It’s not so bad if there’s a way home by public transportation, but often there isn’t. This event today was in the suburbs. Yes, I could have taken a bus to a bus to a bus home, but it would have taken three hours. And I wasn’t sure how to get here without my car without explaining to a new coworker that I have a DUI on my record and that I planned to take a three hour bus ride home later.
Do you have any suggestions for how to deal with drinking – or not drinking – in professional networking environments? It seems so part of the culture that it’s hard not to have a drink in hand at all times. It’s pretty easy to have a glass of sparkling water when no one knows what you are drinking, but when someone offers a pour of something special they brought or ordered it seems very rude to turn it down (and who would want to give up the opportunity to try something that’s clearly selected by an expert?)