Wednesday, May 13, 2009
It is a sad truth that business lunches are only enjoyed by those who do not have to have them very often. As a luxury, a long, wet treat in a Friday celebratory sort of way or an occasional blow-out with people you like, they can be lovely. For someone who is asked to attend several in a week and, occasionally, two in one day, they are about as much fun as making conversation in an elevator with two strangers, one of whom has just farted.
First there is the joviality over the wine. Shall we have some? Only if you want ho ho ho twist my rubber arm he he he. Red or white? One bottle or two? The possibilities are endless. The back-and-forth nauseating. Then because you, unlike everyone else at the table, have to go back to work to file a story, you get to spend the next two hours nursing a glass of increasingly warm white, while the person next to you works up to asking if his niece could possibly do work experience at the paper next month.
If you’re very lucky your lunch is at a restaurant and the food may be quite good. If you’re very unlucky you are eating at a hotel and the food will be sufficiently awful that you spend the entire meal rearranging bits of rubbery polenta beneath your napkin to give the appearance of having just enjoyed a good nosh.
Either way it doesn’t matter too much because you will have about ten free seconds to stuff your face in between answering questions and/or feigning interest in whatever wretched business venture it is that has dragged you out to the Duxton at 1pm on a Tuesday. Waiters who have been clambering to take your plate away since before they set it down pounce the moment you release your grip on the silverware, leaving you the choice of grasping at the plate like a greedy pig or listening to your stomach rumbling throughout the rest of the meal.
Worst of all is the conversation, which usually teeters somewhere between patronising (“you HAVE heard of the Gorgon project?”) and opaque (“…better regulation of CFDs which is, of course, really a matter for the OICDJFKWKFJ@#FJ”), almost invariably with a generous slathering of Boring As Fuck (“…”).
Getting out of there requires a certain amount of luck. By which I mean: good luck getting out of there before everyone at the table has finished two coffees and a small plate of file chewy caramels inexplicably deposited beside you. Even when you do manage to get up out of your chair you’re faced with the inevitable exchange of business cards, during which you a)consider amending all the ‘sixes’ on your card to eights just to avoid ever talking to any of these people ever again, and b) realise you have been calling “Matthew” “Michael” for the past two hours.
Back on the street you either return to face a parking ticket on the company car or spend ten minutes wobbling in heels to attract the attention of a taxi driver. Pray you didn’t choose the latter because, if so, enjoy the fifteen minute ride, during which he tells you exactly what he thinks of your publication, then asks for your opinion on his share portfolio while you feign deafness and wonder idly if he plans to rape and murder you in an alley.
In the office you return with a page of scribbled notes, half covered by a mustard stain, only to be told that the boss isn’t interested in the story anyway and wants you to do something else immediately, by which he means have it filed ten minutes ago.
It’s enough to make you sick to your stomach.