No such thing as a free bar

Concepts of innate selfishness and/or altruism seem to be a fashionable area of research for scientists and psychologists these days – New Scientist (which I’ve just unsubscribed from as I have about two year’s worth of reading matter piled up in my loo, which as any fule know is the only place (apart from on an intercity train) anyone should ever read such magazines) has regular articles where complex experiments say so much about both the human condition and, increasingly, how our animalian cousins behave along similar lines.

However, they’ve not yet, as far as I know, focused on the most obvious locus of study, the Free Bar (aware readers will remember I touch on this in Tuesday’s post). It’s a situation which, while not an everyday occurence, is familiar enough to most people as the perfect embodiment of Things That You Desperately Want (i.e. booze) being Free But For A Limited Time Only. And how people treat it is fascinating.

Using primarily myself as a subject (small sample size, I know, but I am Everyman, I contain multitudes etc.), it’s clear how the Free Bar literally rewires the way I think. I’m 35, I normally have a fairly good appreciation of the risk/reward nature of booze, I know what it does to me in the short and the long term and I know what’s worth it and what’s not.

The moment, however, I enter a Free Bar, the above evaporates like so much aged single malt in a nearly-empty bottle. The concept of what I need, and the concept of the price I will pay for it, both change utterly. I no longer restrain myself to my max 5 units (we’re assuming a weekday here) – as it’s free, I MUST have as much as I can justify, as quickly as possible, otherwise I am wasting a valuable opportunity. Worse than that, I must do all I can to prevent others from taking stuff that could be mine, for free!

So, essentially, because I am not spending money (i.e. the same scenario as if I wasn’t in a bar in the first place), I feel the inevitable hangover payoff is a cost I can deal with. Why? I hate hangovers, I’ll do almost anything to avoid them normally, but because I’m saving a few quid it’s suddenly a good idea?? And furthermore, why do I feel resentful when others are also enjoying the free bar, presumably as greedily and hungrily as I am? Why did I feel a bitter sense of loss on Monday when, having had my fill, I heard there was £500 still to be drunk?

Today is our work Xmas party. There’ll be a free bar. And it’s the weekend. Oh dear…

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    • Olivia
    • December 19th, 2009

    Same applies for a free buffet – where I used to work there was once (in the good old days) a free buffet for lunch and dinner. Everyone who started working there put on a stone – self control and calorie counting went out the window because it was free food. Free, I tell you! And the amount of food needed for 150 employees escalated predictably, and so in turn did the waist measurements of said staff. No such thing as a free lunch either.

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