I have a work/customer night out tonight and I am dreading it. It our pre-Xmas ‘smooshing’ event where we basically take one of our customers out to a fancy restaurant, wine and dine them, spend an obscene amount of money on food and booze and hope at the end of it they will go back to the office and place a mega amount of orders. Which of course never happens: Customer eats, Customer drinks, Customer laughs hysterically knowing they are getting a free meal and then they go back to the office and place their orders with whoever the Hell spent the most money on wining and dining them.
But that is all by the by. I HATE client socializing. Always have done, always will. Of course, there’s the odd gem of a customer who is totally on your wave length and makes the whole evening far less painful; but for the most part I sit through the evening with sweaty palms and smiling falsely through gritted teeth until my jaw aches.
And the reason why?
I am a complete failure when it comes to social etiquette. And I get nervous because I know I’m a complete failure at it. All sorts of mishaps happen and as a result of too many embarrassing situations I now have a number of rules that I follow in order not to come across as a complete useless pleb and if you are slightly lacking in the social etiquette area, follow these rules and all will be fine.
Rule no. 1: Never EVER choose the spaghetti. Or noodles depending on what kind of cuisine we’re going for. Trust me. It will either end up down your top, in your hair, in the hair of the person next to you, or even worse, in the hair of your boss. No Christmas bonus for you then.
Rule no. 2: Never EVER drink red wine. Or any wine at all for that matter. Or any alcoholic drink that might make you decide to jump on the table, sing the Grease medley, knock out the previously afore-mentioned waiter with your particularly energetic moves to ‘Go Grease Lightning, go Grease Lightning’ and then eventually end the night collapsed in a heap sobbing about your pet hamster that died when you were five because you accidentally rode over it with whilst wearing your roller skates.
Rule no. 3: Pay attention to what everyone else is ordering. It will do you no good to leap into the menu and pick out a starter, main AND dessert because trust me, eating the Giant Mountain of Profiteroles with EXTRA chocolate sauce won’t seem so tempting when you have fifteen dinner guests eyeing you with disgust and watching as you spill that extra chocolate sauce all down your chin and down your top where it will nestle comfortably beside the spaghetti you dropped there earlier and still haven’t noticed.
Rule no. 4: Pay attention to your guests. They ARE the customer after all and therefore The Most Important People At The Dinner Table. This basically means you nod your head politely no matter what they talk about, you laugh at all their jokes and don’t forget to compliment them on their attire/hair etc etc. Do NOT under any circumstance discuss your infected toe nail, your nan’s infected toe nail or the fact that you squashed your pet hamster flat when you were just five.
Rule no. 5: Do NOT clock-watch. Do NOT check your phone every five minutes to see if someone has just tweeted what they are having for dinner that night or what they are watching on TV. Do NOT check Facebook to scroll through a million Farmville posts. I mean, who really cares if someone just planted some turnips anyway? And let’s face it, it never really goes down well when you laugh raucously whilst pointing at you phone and announce ‘Such and such just told Gary Barlow they want to ride him like a horse!!!’. You won’t get many LOLZ with that one. Just awkward silence and the sound of your boss making a mental note to fire you on Monday.
There are, of course, many many more rules of social etiquette that I’m sure you all follow. Or maybe you are all just naturally gifted when it comes to the smooshing department.
Whilst you are all comfortably seated on your sofa’s tonight, watching some celebrity being forced to eat a kangaroo’s ass in the Australian jungle or maybe you will be out on the town yourselves, sitting at a table in some fancy restaurant and knowing EXACTLY which knife to use for which course; please spare a thought for useless ol’ me as I will be smiling like a crazed loon, nodding my head as if it were about to fall off and telling someone that their hair looks exactly like Frank Carson’s when of course I mean, Frankie from the Saturdays.