The mood at home is morose. I’m grim because my son’s guests are in conference over the “mid-career” plight of their young lives. “Cheer up,” my son says, “I’ll fetch us some beer,” but because the gloom is palpable, he does them the honour of pulling out his treasured Hoegaardens and serving them with a flourish and orange rings, while the cook looks at all the wasted fruit and wonders at the ways of the young.
But beer talk footsies around the main issues – how they aren’t appreciated enough, paid enough, loved enough – but serious discourse presumably requires more serious fortifications, and I watch in dismay as they find a bottle of Speyside’s finest in the bar while wondering whether life is all that it’s cracked out to be. First off is my son’s pilot buddy who’s been laid off, thanks to the politics of the civil aviation industry, and now he doesn’t know how to tell his father that he’s also crashed the family car. “I hope he’ll still pay my gym membership,” he moans. Because he’s a frequent complainer anyway, my son orders a chicken lasagne to keep him quiet.
His pal from school who now deals in luxury cars is having girlfriend trouble — in effect, the absence of a former girlfriend who thought he wasn’t good enough for her. “Well, dude, she’s way smarter than you,” says my son dispassionately. Finding little sympathy, my son’s friend helps himself to a refill of single malt. “Move on,” my son advises him, “get a life.” “How, yaar,” his friend says, “she still uses me for running errands” – which, for the record, means everything from keeping her in groceries to fetching her from work every time she’s working late. My son settles him with a wedge of cheesecake that I’d been saving for myself, but I suppose if he can’t get a little loving, he might as well get some feeding.
The grumbling continues. The boss dislikes the hotelier whose father had once refused him a promotion, what should he do? “Chuck the job,” suggests my son, which sets off the pilot who doesn’t hold a job any more, about the merits of a monthly cheque. Because everyone’s unhappy, my son suggests that champagne might improve the mood. A bottle is pulled out of the fridge and popped to scattered applause, but they’d really rather stick with whisky after all, so I help myself to the bubbly that’s going flat by the minute even though I’m no Dom Perignon fan.
The corporate-wala is unhappy because he hasn’t been able to persuade his parents to shift to a larger house in keeping with his status as junior assistant manager – never mind that his father is chief financial officer with a multinational company – but he won’t consider moving out on his own because “that’s just not convenient, Uncle”. His colleague from work agrees that parents can be the devil, his own being obstructionist and refusing to buy him a larger sedan that “they can afford”, never mind that he’s been working for two years and could as easily fund it himself.
At some stage amidst the griping and complaining, they decide to head off for a late-night movie, leaving behind a debris of empty bottles and wasted food, while I’m left wondering if I could apply to my parents for my share of lamenting – and some scotch on the rocks – because I feel a mid-life crisis coming on, even though my son tells me I’m too old to have one.