New company. New job. Destination: Portland. The place: yet another software company with too much VC money and not enough foresight in the upper/ middle management.
Things showed signs of going off the rails by 10am, when the NOC manager poured me a double of Scotch, and the rest of the NOC also pounded shots. The neighboring remainder of the Ops department followed suit.
You have to understand - Ops is a drinking culture at the best of times. At the previous gig, it wasn’t unheard of for there to be bottles of whiskey lingering around for special occasions and Friday. But they usually waited until four in the afternoon, or after their managers went home, to pour a dram and settle in for a good complain.
In this case, it rapidly became apparent that noon was the demarcation point. Managers hung out with their reports in the cube farm, cracking the bottle and holding forth on the qualities of bourbon. Directors would have a beer with you on the roof. Kegs sat on every single floor, and by the time I was wrapping up my stay in beautiful Portland, one floor contained two taps of wine (one red, one white), and a tap that usually held a winter warmer or other stronger, darker beer.
My attention to the drinking culture was derailed by an agonizingly dramatic breakup and a deep divide between me and most of my brogrammer-populated department. Still, a year later, when the punk rock NOCling came over to my cube with an invite to a midweek bar crawl, I was ready for a distraction from the mind-numbing purchasing process and eager to say yes to some shenanigans.
First stop: roof deck, which is littered with a cross-section of Security, IT, Ops, and Engineering. Petrov is holding forth on one end, talking about his farm in the countryside. Someone else from Accounting is complaining about their salary on the other. “This is Intern Bob!” someone says, introducing me to a tall, blonde guy with the guiltless grin of a sheepdog. “He’s visiting from Palo Alto!”
“This is George!” someone else says, and I shake hands with a sharp-tongued, head-shaved IT guy. “You know Rick.” I do know Rick. “How’s your beer doing?” someone asks. Someone else further down the balcony toasts me and raises a voice, saying “did you SEE what that asshole in the data center did?”
I do indeed know what that asshole in the DC did. A year in, I’ve been told to keep my nose out of the racks and cages after being hired to help manage them. My would-be peer is the kind of insecure jackass who can’t take feedback, especially from some opinionated bitch who made her career building Internet all over the world.
“Fuck that guy!” I belt out, relieved. “Jesus, I’m glad I’m not the only one who sees it.”
“No man,” George the IT guy says. “Dude’s a fucking joke. Let me tell you about the time I had to ship some shit to Norway. Four goddamn months.”
Second stop. Hair of the Dog Brewing. One more beer, strong and dark and pungent with a higher alcohol level. Alcohol has overcome my habitual anxiety, and the bitching about the DC manager is in full force. Then we’re joined by a Director, and the party moves north to a upscale gastropub in the shadow of one of Portland’s many bridges.
George throws a FIT when we can’t push tables together at the gastropub. Tina slides out from behind the table and casts me a look and a shrug. No one else is paying George much notice. “We’ll catch up with you at the next place,” Intern Bob says.
By this time, I have realized that Intern Bob isn’t an intern.
We head to an upscale Italian joint and find ourselves waiting for a table. We roll back down the Southeast Portland hill, and into Base Camp Brewing, where the stout is served with a toasted marshmallow and the food carts outside serve surprisingly delicious collision cuisine. From there, it was an easy stumble up the road to the Rum Club, which poured us stiff cocktails. One. Two. The Director, four drinks in, decides it’s time to turn in.
Two hours later, I am drinking shitty beer in a strip club on Powell while my coworkers ply a goggle-eyed George with further drinks and lap dances from the local strippers.
“I think I’m done,” I decide.
“Cool!” Tina says, “See you tomorrow. Don’t forget those pickled strawberries.”
“Mrrrgh,” I agree.
The next morning was the first of many hangovers.