Hung Over

At age 17, more than 40 years ago, after finishing high school, I entered the workforce. My first full-time job was as a mail clerk in a law firm.

It was a big firm and there were usually about ten of us working in the mail room, dealing with a couple of thousand pieces of mail daily, I won’t bore you with the details of the procedures, but we really did need that large a staff.

One of my coworkers would from time to time arrive at work in the morning dead drunk. It wasn’t the result of a liquid breakfast, but rather the product of a late night with copious amounts of alcohol and no sleep.

This gave me a front-row seat to observe the effects of alcohol consumption on humans, something that being under the legal drinking age I had never experimented with. (That may sound strange, but at the time I was considering a law career, and was very careful not to break any laws that would result in a criminal record and my not being eligible for admission to law school. I still haven’t ruled out law as a career, so I am still law-abiding.)

My drunk co-worker was all happy and jovial when we started work at 8 a.m. By 10:30 he would be slowing down a little, feeling the effects of no sleep. By 11 he would have the beginnings of a headache. By 11:30 he would lower his head to his desk and sit there moaning as a full-blown hangover would kick in. “I want to die” was his usual mantra. It was obviously no fun and he would be useless for the rest of the work day.

I never could figure out why he didn’t learn from this semi-regular occurrence that excessive consumption of alcohol, which may seem pleasant while you are drinking it, has nasty consequences and really isn’t worth it. I certainly learned that lesson from watching him: I have never had a hangover. I have no desire to drink to the point where I will regret it.

It was with great amusement therefore that I saw a news report yesterday that scientists have done studies and discovered how to avoid hangovers. Turns out the folk methods such as drinking lots of water or eating certain foods, such as poutine, don’t work. The solution is simple: If you want to be guaranteed not to have a hangover, don’t drink any alcohol.

My first thought was: Someone got paid to come up with that conclusion? There are times I guess when you need science to prove what should be labelled common sense.

My coworker 40 years ago knew that his hangovers were a direct result of his alcohol consumption. He was smart enough to extrapolate from that that if he didn’t drink he wouldn’t have a hangover. That knowledge didn’t seem to stop him, and on a regular basis we could hear him at his desk, moaning, “I want to die.”

I suspect now that there is scientific evidence to back up the common sense, it won’t make the slightest difference to most people’s alcohol consumption. Those who drink to excess never seem to learn. They certainly don’t want to confront the facts.

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