Linguistically, there are many differences between Americans and British. I say braces, you say suspenders. I say suspenders, you say garter belt. And when I say Black Friday, I don't mean the retail frenzy that goes on the day after Thanksgiving. Black Friday is, given my country's predilection for wine, women, song, and yet more wine, the hot and heavy piss-up that goes on each Friday before Christmas. The next morning, most office workers are nursing black hole-sized hangovers, whilst ambulance crews put in the paperwork for a big fat overtime check. This is all fine and dandy because the next day is a Saturday (unless, of course, your party continued through the weekend, and you woke up Monday morning an hour before your 9 a.m. meeting, in a Dumpster, with first-degree burns around your mouth, wearing someone else's clothes, smelling of Cheeto dust and cabbage, with your newest best friend who's a hobo called Shizzle. Who's dead.)
Over here, the run-up to Christmas and the New Year means lots of parties—both for business and pleasure—which means that, if you're an office worker, chances are your colleagues are in the same boat as you—albeit a wobbly one, bobbing up and down on the choppy waves of post-festival nausea. So, the size queens amongst you can duke it out at the water cooler to discover just whose hangover is biggest, whilst the more discreet can just sleep it off in the janitor's cupboard, making sure they left their jacket hanging on their chair.
Telecommuters, however, have it easy—or do we? Those of us who work from home are probably more blasé about white nights out. After all, it doesn't take a genius to work out that there is no one to hide your hideously altered state from, and you can just sit and stare blearily at a screen without worrying who's going to smell that musky, morning-after odor. (You can tell I wasn't out on the lash last night, as all my American spellings are poifect.)
However, while an unproductive day in a traditional office merely means you might be a little less popular for a few days with the rest of your team, that pile-driver headache and lack of focus means you're the one who loses out. If you don't do the work, you don't get paid. And if you don't do the work you said you were going to do, your clients and paymasters are going to think that you're flakier than a snowman with psoriasis. Ergo, less commissions. Which means less money for booze.
So, what do you do when there seems to be some unspoken magnetic force propelling you away from your computer and towards your bedroom? Here are some suggestions:
- Drag yourself out of bed early and go for a run—or at least a brisk walk—and sweat out last night's residue.
- Have a hot shower, and then blast yourself with cold water for a minute. Get dressed. Working in your PJs is not going to cut it.
- Coffee. Coffee. Coffee.
- Force yourself to eat something. Some people swear by greasy fry-ups, I'm more of a porridge girl myself. However, don't overstuff yourself, as you'll just slump into a Jabba the Hutt-esque lethargy.
- Tonics and elixirs—Emergen-C, Andrews Salts, etc. etc., can put the zing back in. Beer is not a tonic. Gin and tonic is not a tonic, either.
- Spreadsheets are a no-no. Avoid the end-of-year accounts.
- Likewise, brainstorming. Avoid any kind of deep thinking if you can.
- The verbally dexterous amongst you may find working the phone an easier option. Those of you whose vocabulary starts and stops at "Ouch" may feel this is a non-starter. Sample conversation: "Uh, can I speak to (long pause) Sharon? Sorry, Darren. Erm, it's about ... it's about ... my head. Sorry, wrong number." *Hangs up, unplugs phone, sobs.*
- If you've got a laptop, work on the sofa. A mid-morning power kip of 20 minutes can be a lifesaver. But do not make the mistake of doing it before you've done any work, as you'll just crash out for three hours and then wake up feeling disgusted by your lack of productivity.
- When you're done, pat yourself on the back for going beyond the call of duty, and call it a day. Don't feel you have to punish yourself for last night's over-indulgence.
As I finished writing this, one of my fellow writers on another Web site sent me the Robert Frost poem, "Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening." I read it and thought that the final verse may have some resonance with anyone who has been suffering from pre-Christmas excess.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Readers, may your Christmas be merry—well, up to a point, I suppose!