When I was 20 I left the little village of PE and went to live in England. It was my first time away from home. I had never even been on a plane before and to be honest didn’t know much about anything.
Up until that point I had never really drunk alcohol – something which I have more than made up for since then. I had been into a bar about once in my whole life and was completely clueless to the dangers of drinking. This story is about the night I discovered alcohol and – whilst I am in no way proud of it – don’t mind looking back in hindsight at some of the humour in it. Of course, at the time it was anything but funny.
The company I worked for had arranged a night out on the town and I was also invited. The history behind how I had come to be working there is also quite a funny story. I had met a boy at a party, found out where he worked and then gone to a recruitment agent and told them that this was where I wanted a job. I made up some story about it being close to where I lived (it wasn’t) and so they kindly obliged and sent me to work there. I can still remember the poor guy’s face when we “accidentally” bumped into each other at work. I arrived at his desk and he almost fell off his chair. As you can see my stalking tendencies had already begun to manifest themselves at an early age.
But I digress. As I was still getting used to the “whole going out and being social thing”, I was quite nervous about the Big Night Out. I decided that I needed something to take the edge off.
We had arranged to meet at the restaurant and so I stopped and bought some wine on the way home. It was a South African box of white wine and was about the size of a carton of Liqui Fruit. I think that’s about one litre. Or it could have been two.
I alternated getting ready to go out with downing glasses of box wine. This must have been over a period of under an hour. At any rate I had finished the entire box of wine before I went out!
By now I was feeling very bold and instructed my housemate who had a car to drive me into the city. (I normally took the bus). When I arrived at the restaurant my German boss who we called Hitler was already there. She hated me because I had been caught using the work telephone to phone home. I still don’t know what they were thinking giving a homesick South African a phone that could dial international numbers anyway. It was just way too tempting. Actually I think Hitler had it in for South Africans in general because later another girl arrived from Cape Town and was soon fired. (Although there were some drugs involved in her case). I can imagine that after the two of us left, Hitler discretely called the recruitment agent and told them to please not send any more South African girls.
The restaurant we had chosen was some kind of Thai place. To this day I don’t even know how I found the place in the state that I was in. Our table had one of those rotating contraptions in the middle of it which the food was placed on and then you spun it around to get to whatever you wanted. I think the spinning thing must have been made of glass because I distinctly remember the smashing sound my wine glass made when it fell over and broke.
I also remember being escorted to the loo by some of my female colleagues where I proceeded to fall over something that I still maintain looked just like a vacuum cleaner. I’m not sure if I passed out but I definitely could not get up on my own and had to be helped up. (Luckily these were the days when I still weighed 45kg. If the same thing were to happen today they would probably need a small crane to lift me. I can just see the bouncer coming in and shaking his head at the passed out baby hippo and calling the Fire Dept: “We’re going to need some back-up to lift this one”)
It was time to leave. Actually it was just time for me to leave as I had obviously become a bit of an embarrassment. One lady told me afterwards that I couldn’t even sit up straight and had eventually just crumpled into my chair. Beautiful.
Two of my male colleagues had the enviable job of getting the drunken woman who couldn’t talk, walk or stand home. As luck would have it one of them was Cute Boy who I’d had a secret crush on forever. (Note that this was a different boy to the one I had come to the company to stalk.) The other man was an old guy who was crippled in one leg and walked with quite a bad limp. Ironically he could walk better than me at that stage.
On the drive home I flirted madly with Cute Boy who seemed to have no trouble in completely ignoring me. I even felt that this was the perfect time to reveal my undying love for him.
I was pretty much bed-ridden for the rest of that weekend. (We had gone out on the Friday). I vomited so much that I’m sure I started losing pieces of my stomach lining when there was nothing else left to come out. To this day I cannot even smell white wine without feeling slightly nauseous.
I contemplated never going back to work but begrudgingly dragged myself back there on the Monday morning. Hitler didn’t say anything but gave me a lot of dirty looks and when I confided in a friend about the embarrassing flirting incident she packed out laughing and told me that Cute Boy was in fact gay. It was a long, long day.
I left England shortly after this happened because my application to extend my visa was rejected. I’m still convinced that Hitler had something to do with it though. I can just picture her mailing off an anonymous envelope to Immigration containing some rather incriminating photos of a drunken woman passed out on the floor of a Thai restaurant.