There is a commercial on our local radio station for a bar that boasts the state’s best happy hour. When my kids hear that ad, they lose their minds. “Mom! That said ‘the best happy hour in the state!’ Can we go there?!” They are not the world’s youngest alcoholics, but they really do love a happy hour.
The Doctor’s department sponsors a weekly happy hour. It starts on Friday afternoon after a scheduled speaker or two present their current research project, and is usually made up of the same 30 or so department employees and graduate students. You know, the smart ones that budget their time to drink free beer every week. It is an opportunity to discuss projects, share ideas, bitch about science, and develop stronger working relationships with people in other labs.
My husband is not one to pass up free beer, so he’s in attendance every week. We are a one car family, and the kids and I pick him up every evening, so one or two Fridays a month, we pop up to say hi. Over the course of four years, our quick hello and one beer has turned into my bringing a simple dinner for the kids and a couple of hours of adult conversation with our “science family.”
The kids love happy hour. There is a chalkboard that takes up an entire wall. There are chips and cookies. There are two huge tubs of beer on ice, and the ice is fun to play with after the beer has dwindled. Many of the Doctor’s coworkers have known the kids since they were babies, and some have babysat a time or two. They enjoy seeing the kids, and sometimes other coworkers bring their kids. I don’t want to say I ignore my kids when we are at happy hour, but I really have limited interaction with them. They play with their Legos, draw with the chalk I bring, or watch a movie on the iPod.
When I first started attending happy hour, it was the only adult interaction I had, outside of my short conversations with moms at the park or library. I was pretty lonely, in desperate need of a friend, and even more desperate need of a beer. Science is a somewhat transient industry, with people commonly moving very far from home to study or work in limited time commitments, and almost all of our science friends are from other places, frequently from other countries. This makes for a very welcoming environment, as they are used to people coming and going, and creates very interesting conversations, since there are so many people from different backgrounds.
I have local friends now, and am not starved for adult conversation, but I still love happy hour. The Doctor’s coworkers are my friends, too, and I look forward to sharing a drink with them once or twice a month. I love that they like my kids, and that they graciously share their beer with me. They have welcomed us into their homes, have watched our kids (overnight!) and are listed at the kids’ schools as emergency contacts. They are our local family.