The Rosie Project Page 30

Gene\s advice was surprisingly perceptive. Did he know how much time I was spending with the cocktail book?


My name is Don Tillman and I am an alcoholic. I formed these words in my head but I did not say them out loud, not because I was drunk (which I was) but because it seemed that if I said them they would be true, and I would have no choice but to follow the rational path which was to stop drinking permanently.

My intoxication was a result of the Father Project - specifically the need to gain competence as a drinks waiter. I had purchased a cocktail shaker, glasses, olives, lemons, a zester and a substantial stock of liquor as recommended in The Bartender\s Companion in order to master the mechanical component of cocktail making. It was surprisingly complex, and I am not naturally a dextrous person. In fact, with the exception of rock climbing, which I have not practised since I was a student, and martial arts, I am clumsy and incompetent at most forms of sport. The expertise in karate and aikido is the result of considerable practice over a long period.

I practised first for accuracy, then speed. At 11.07 p.m., I was exhausted, and decided that it would be interesting to test the cocktails for quality. I made a classic martini, a vodka martini, a margarita and a cock-sucking cowboy - cocktails noted by the book as being among the most popular. They were all excellent, and tasted far more different from one another than ice-cream varieties. I had squeezed more lime juice than was required for the margarita, and made a second so as not to waste it.

Research consistently shows that the risks to health outweigh the benefits of drinking alcohol. My argument is that the benefits to my mental health justify the risks. Alcohol seems to both calm me down and elevate my mood, a paradoxical but pleasant combination. And it reduces my discomfort in social situations.

I generally manage my consumption carefully, scheduling two days abstinence per week, although the Father Project had caused this rule to be broken a number of times. My level of consumption does not of itself qualify me as an alcoholic. However, I suspect that my strong antipathy towards discontinuing it might do so.

The Mass DNA Collection Subproject was proceeding satisfactorily, and I was working my way through the cocktail book at the required rate. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not destroy brain cells.

As I prepared for bed, I felt a strong desire to telephone Rosie and report on progress. Logically it was not necessary, and it is a waste of effort to report that a project is proceeding to plan, which should be the default assumption. Rationality prevailed. Just.

Rosie and I met for coffee twenty-eight minutes before the reunion function. To my first-class honours degree and PhD, I could now add a Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate. The exam had not been difficult.

Rosie was already in server uniform, and had brought a male equivalent for me.

\I picked it up early and washed it,\ she said. \I didn\ want a karate exhibition.\

She was obviously referring to the Jacket Incident, even though the martial art I had employed was aikido.

I had prepared carefully for the DNA collection - zip-lock bags, tissues, and pre-printed adhesive labels with the names from the graduation photo. Rosie insisted that we did not need to collect samples from those who had not attended the graduation party, so I crossed out their names. She seemed surprised that I had memorised them, but I was determined not to cause errors due to lack of knowledge.

The reunion was held at a golf club, which seemed odd to me, but I discovered that the facilities were largely for eating and drinking rather than supporting the playing of golf. I also discovered that we were vastly overqualified. There were regular bar personnel who were responsible for preparing the drinks. Our job was merely to take orders, deliver drinks and, most importantly, collect the empty glasses. The hours spent in developing my drink-making skills had apparently been wasted.

The guests began arriving, and I was given a tray of drinks to distribute. I immediately perceived a problem. No name tags! How would we identify the DNA sources? I managed to find Rosie, who had also realised the problem but had a solution, based on her knowledge of social behaviour.

\Say to them, ’’Hi, I\m Don and I\ll be looking after you this evening, Doctor -’’ \ She demonstrated how to give the impression that the sentence was incomplete, encouraging them to contribute their name. Extraordinarily, it turned out to work 72.5 per cent of the time. I realised that I needed to do this with the women as well, to avoid appearing se*ist.

Eamonn Hughes and Peter Enticott, the candidates we had eliminated, arrived. As a family friend, Eamonn must have known Rosie\s profession, and she explained to him that I worked evenings to supplement my academic income. Rosie told Peter Enticott that she did bar work part-time to finance her PhD. Perhaps they both assumed that we had met through working together.

Actually swabbing the glasses discreetly proved the most difficult problem and I was able to get at most one sample from each tray that I returned to the bar. Rosie was having even more problems.

\I can\ keep track of all the names,\ she said, frantically, as we passed each other with drinks trays in our hands. It was getting busy and she seemed a little emotional. I sometimes forget that many people are not familiar with basic techniques for remembering data. The success of the subproject would be in my hands.

\There will be adequate opportunity when they sit down,\ I said. \There is no reason for concern.\

I surveyed the tables set for dinner, ten seats per table, plus two with eleven seats, and calculated the attendance at ninety-two. This of course included female doctors. Partners had not been invited. There was a small risk that Rosie\s father was a transse*ual. I made a mental note to check the women for signs of male features, and test any that appeared doubtful. Overall, however, the numbers looked promising.

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