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Drinking On Duty
"Imagine if I HADN'T been drunk! Heh heh."
The Demoman, Team Fortress 2

Bob's indulging in an adult beverage or two (or three, or four) while he's supposed to be on duty. The consequences for Bob and others depend on whether this Trope is played for laughs or for anvils, but it usually results in Bob getting chewed out, fired, court martialed, or dope slapped. In some rare cases, it ends up making Bob even better at his job, somehow. Unless it overlaps with The Guards Must Be Crazy, in which case you are likely to be killed by the escaping prisoner.

If Bob's duties involve being at the wheel of a vehicle, see also Drunk Driver.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Film 
  • In the first Wishmaster movie, the Djinn's crystal is freed when the crane operator, drunk on the job, causes the statue to slip and fall. The heroine's third wish, which ordinarily would have unleashed Hell on Earth, was for the crane operator to not have been drinking that day.
  • In the opening sequence of Final Destination 2, one of the irresponsible drivers seen just before everything goes to hell is a trucker taking a pull from a beer bottle.
  • It is heavily implied that Commissioner Loeb in The Dark Knight often drinks on the job when dealing with death threats. This is ultimately how he dies, in fact, because The Joker had one of his goons lace his bottle with poison.
  • Red Tails: Many of Easy's decisions are called into question by Lightning and himself once this is revealed.
  • Flight tells the tale of Captain William "Whip" Whitaker, played by Denzel Washington, who is a raging alcoholic - albeit a functional one. While drunk, he pilots a plane during a mechanical failure that leads to a fatal crash and when he admits to an investigative committee that he was drunk during the accident he is sentenced to prison.
  • Invoked in Conspiracy. Heydrich offers Eichmann a drink at the end to congratulate themselves on organizing a genocide. Eichmann notes he is still on duty, so his superior simply orders him to indulge himself.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Enterprise hosts a diplomatic dinner for the chancellor of the Klingon Empire. Not being particularly fond of the idea, the Enterprise senior staff serves Romulan ale, hoping that it will make the meeting go a bit smoother. After the Klingons beam back to their ship, several Enterprise officers, while admitting that they're drunk, immediately return to duty. Chekov in particular is visibly struggling to make it through his watch.

    Literature 
  • In Michael Crichton's Sphere, Petty Officer Fletcher is discribed as having a noticable odor of alcohol on her breath during the first squid attack.
  • Protagonists in the Redwall series often ply vermin sentries with alcohol to make them fall asleep.
  • In Robert E. Howard's Conan the Barbarian novel "The Hour of the Dragon", how Zenobia gets the keys from the guards.
  • In the Tom Clancy novel The Hunt for Red October, the incident which provokes Ramius to defect was the death of his wife at the hands of a surgeon who had been drinking while on call - who went unpunished because of his political connections.note  Similar incidents occur in other novels, most often by Russian guards and/or soldiers who are classically known for such behavior.
  • Rudyard Kipling's poem "The Shut-Eye Sentry" is about an officer on night duty (in garrison) who had a few too many this particular night. He's sober enough to remember he should make the rounds checking sentry posts, but not sober enough to realize he shouldn't let people see him like this. Since the consensus of the enlisted and noncoms is that he's usually a good officer, they cover for him — by a corporal passing the word to the sentries to close their eyes, so they'll be able to truthfully swear they didn't see any sign the officer was drunk.
  • In Tim Powers' The Drawing of the Dark, Duffy, who has been hired to work as a bouncer at the Zimmermann Inn in Vienna tends to drink far more than the manager, Werner, would like, and to find rather drunken solutions to problems that arise in the bar. The work is set in an era where drinking on duty was more acceptable than it is today, but even so, Duffy manages to push the limits. The name of the work is a reference to dark beer, so this is all unsurprising.
  • The infamous case of General James Ledlie is depicted in The Last Full Measure. During the Siege of Petersburg, Ledlie's division was ordered to take the lead at the last minute in the Battle of the Craternote . Rather than briefing them, or leading them, Ledlie got drunk and his confused troops went into rather than around the crater, resulting in a horrific bloodbath.
  • The Hobbit: Bilbo and the dwarves escape from the Elvenking when the guards in the cellars decide to just taste a bit of the fine wine they've been sending up to the banquet, and end up snoring on the table.
  • In the first Provost's Dog book, Verene's training partner Otelia is an alcoholic; both she and the other partner, Rollo, are drunk while they're walking their beat on Beltane. They get into a fight they can't handle, which ends with Rollo and Verene dead and Otelia injured. Later, Verene's friends wonder how she could have been assigned to them in the first place.
  • In the Gaunt's Ghosts novel Straight Silver, a soldier on patrol takes a swig from a flask. However in doing so, he alerts the enemy to his squad's position, and the resulting ambush leaves a number of them dead. Gaunt, on finding out what happened, has to be forcibly restrained from executing the man.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Babylon 5: In season 5, Garibaldi started drinking again, culminating in him drinking on duty. Zack Allen quickly discovers the warning signs, but President Sheridan didn't believe it at first. After the Centauri war, Sheridan calls Garibaldi out on it, and suspends him until it is resolved (Garibaldi ends up retiring to the private sector instead of returning to duty, remaining only as long as he needed to find a replacement).
  • The Wire: Detective Jimmy McNuilty, on a couple of occasions.
  • Mason from Dead Like Me, all the time, with various substances, alcohol included. And he's a Reaper.
  • Several characters, most prominently Captain Lewis Nixon, on Band of Brothers.
  • One of the deaths on 1000 Ways To Die was a steamroller driver who drank on the job. He makes the mistake of forgetting to properly set the roller's brake when he climbs down to go use a nearby port-a-potty. Considering what show this was featured on, you can guess what happens shortly thereafter.
  • In Scrubs Turk and JD get ripped a new one and suspended for the evening for turning up drunk by Dr Cox. Later in the run Cox himself turns up drunk although in his case it is evidence of a nervous breakdown after several patients die due to his treatment. The Janitor and Kelso have also been shown as been drunk at work, but for them it is played for laughs as part of their Comedic Sociopathy
  • Battlestar Galactica's executive officer, Colonel Saul Tigh, is well-known for his alcoholism. While he was capable of command decisions, he tended to let his wife Ellen and the booze take over, and kind of went off the rails a few times. Most notably, he turned up drunk on the stand at Baltar's trial and revealed he'd killed Ellen on New Caprica for collaborating with the Cylons, a thousand times Harsher in Hindsight when we find out that Saul and Ellen are BOTH Cylons.
  • Gene Hunt from Life On Mars is hardly ever sober on duty.
  • This is part of the backstory for at least two Law & Order characters: Lennie Briscoe and Cyrus Lupo.
    • And of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit's Don Cragen.
      • Speaking of SVU, the unit lost one DA after she showed up to a trial 45 minutes late and quite drunk.
    • One of the early Law & Order episodes ended up focusing on a prominent doctor who was revealed to have been drunk while performing an operation and caused the patient to die. The investigation revealed that he had been doing this for years but everyone was too intimidated to report him.
  • Everyone, constantly (except perhaps Bert Cooper), on Mad Men. Along with Everybody Smokes, it's part of the series' Signature Style. Freddy Rumsen, however, had such a bad case that he got fired for it...passing out and peeing your pants during a sales pitch to a major potential client will do that to you.
  • Star Trek
    • The Original Series episode The Conscience of the King has Dr. McCoy drinking at his desk in sickbay while giving a report to the ship's XO, Mr. Spock. To his credit, he does offer Spock a drink, but even for the sixties, it's behavior that's pretty egregious for a ship's surgeon (and possibly contributed to the escape of a patient who was supposed to be confined to sickbay).
      • The fact that Spock doesn't call McCoy on it suggests that the Doctor is in fact technically off duty even if he is in his office.
    • On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Damar is drowning his sorrows so much that he can't keep away from the kanar while plotting the demise of the Federation, something that disturbs his handler Weyoun a bit. Weyoun is genetically engineered for diplomacy; you have to be doing something insanely scary to bother someone like that....
    • And on Star Trek: Voyager, there's Tom Paris (or rather, a shapeshifter posing as Tom Paris) who's having alcoholic beverages while he's on duty, and whom Seven of Nine catches reading through Captain Janeway's private log entries.
  • Randy Disher once drank on duty in the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Gets Married". However, when Sharona and Monk, and the audience, learns that certain circumstances involving his mother getting married and spending her honeymoon at a marriage counseling center with a guy significantly younger than her and she isn't even rich were the reason why he is doing so, it's kind of hard to blame Disher for drinking on duty.
  • On ER Carter just passed his medical boards exams and went to celebrate the fact with some of his friends. However, he was still on-call for the ER and was paged to come in during an emergency. He showed up late and it was clear that he had been drinking. He faced serious disciplinary action because of this and almost derailed his medical career. He was denied residency positions in all the major hospitals and the only reason Chicago General hired him was because he agreed to essentially work for free (he was independently wealthy).
  • On The West Wing Leo was embroiled in a scandal when it came to light that he was chronically drinking while serving as Secretary Of Labor.
  • Lampshaded a few times when MythBusters has done a myth involving alcohol consumption.
    Jamie: Don't tell me we have to get drunk at work again.
  • JAG: In "Desert Son", Lt. Williams jokes that he's not hungover, but rather "still drunk" just before the friendly fire incident, and later claims his hangover to have caused his mistake, before changing his story and letting Boone take the blame.

    Music 
  • In Stan Rogers' folk tune about the titular fictional transport, the captain of the Mary Ellen Carter had been... Y'know what? Here are Stan's own words:
    The skipper, he'd been drinking, and the matey felt no pain.
    Too close to three-mile rock and she was dealt her mortal blow,
    And the Mary Ellen Carter settled low.
  • The Glass Hammer song "Dwarf and Orc" is about Balin Longbeard's anticlimatic duel with an orc guard who had been drinking on duty.
    Dwarf and Orc, a battle not worth telling.
    Spear or cork, which which should you be assailing?
    Just pop that dwarf on the head with a cork, and see if his axe don't sing,
    Just take that axe upon your skull, and see if your head don't ring!

    Myth And Legend 
  • In Celtic Mythology, Prince Seithenyn of the Welsh kingdom Cantre'r Gwaelod was put in charge of the sluice gates that protected it from flooding. Unfortunately, Seithenyn liked to knock back a few and it was during one such bender that he neglected his duty to keep the sluice gates closed during a storm surge leading to the entire kingdom sinking underneath the waves of Cardigan Bay.

    Radio 
  • The Navy Lark: Vice-Admiral Prout has never knowingly been sober in his entire career.
  • This is a suspicion often directed against former BBC presenter Sarah Kennedy, who on at least one occasion had to be sent home, allegedly too tired and emotional to continue presenting a radio show to the nation. Officially, it was blamed on an adverse reaction to prescription drugs.
    • Another BBC presenter, this time in the 1930's, was a former Royal Navy officer tasked with reporting on the Navy review at Spithead. He had evidently enjoyed too much wardroom hospitality beforehand and partaken of the rum ration, as his commentary was somewhat slurred and exciteable.
    Oh my goodness, the entire fleet is completely lit up! It's like Fairyland....
  • In the Cabin Pressure episode "Fitton", Martin and Carolyn get spectacularly drunk on duty because they think that Mr. Goddard isn't going to show up. He does. Fortunately, Douglas and Arthur are completely sober.
  • The Brewing Network: Understandable and pretty much expected as all of the shows involve discussing various aspects of beer. Justin pointed out in one episode off The Session that he couldn't remember an episode he was in where he didn't have a beer.

    Tabletop Games 
  • In Red November the crew of the gnome submarine can drink grog in order to temporarily boost their skills and perform dangerous repairs without the proper equipment. This increases the gnome's drunkeness level but does not effect their standard actions. However, every time an event card is drawn, the gnome must perform a sobriety check. If the gnome fails the check, he collapses at his station and must sleep it off. While the gnome is sleeping off the alcohol, the compartment could catch fire, start filling with water or the submarine could be destroyed due to reactor failure or its missiles exploding.
    Videogames 
  • Invoked in Ōkamiden when Chibiterasu has to bring one of the imps in Orochi's lair some sake in order to get him drunk enough to allow him to pass.
  • Team Fortress 2: The Demoman, master of Stuff Blowing Up, is always drunk. His default melee weapon is a large bottle of alcohol from which he drinks as a taunt.
  • World of Warcraft has a hilarious aversion — there are ogres in Blade's Edge Mountains who love getting drunk. However, important Ogres tend to be guarded by "Sober" guards who have sworn off booze. These guards are Elites, and are very difficult (if not impossible for some) to kill solo, at the intended level for the quest. The important ogres, are the ones you are sent to kill. You kill them by dropping a mug of booze on the ground so the important ogre walks away from his bodyguards to drink it. A True Crowning Moment of Funny, doubly so, as many players just can't seem to figure it out.
  • In Batman: Arkham Asylum, the fact that one guard regularly drinks on duty is an important clue in an early investigation.
  • TimeSplitters: "I am.....BEST guard. Numbar one!"
    • In fact, throughout Future Perfect, a drunk guard can be found in nearly every level. And their drunken rants are hilarious.
  • In the Thief games, encounters with drunken, singing-off-key guards are not uncommon. Though they're easier to sneak past, if they spot you, they're no less formidable than other guards.
  • The Commandos series allows you to distract guards using bottles of wine. You can even spike them, allowing for a Non-Lethal K.O..
  • In Dwarf Fortress, dwarves are always drunk; in fact, being sober makes them less efficient. However, this trope can still come into play when, due to Artificial Stupidity, a dwarf chooses exactly the wrong moment to take a break in order to go get liquored-up.
  • In Episode 1 of Dysfunctional Systems ("Learning to Manage Chaos"), the first thing Cyrus does in Brighton is go to a bar — both for the beer and for the patrons.

    Western Animation 
  • One of Kevin's teacher's (Mr. Czelanski) on Mission Hill has an endemic case of this. Perhaps the most notable instance is when he has to do a parent teacher interview:
    Mr. Czelanski: Kevin is a wonderful student, good grades..." blah, blah, blah. Do you really want to hear this?
    Andy: No, not really.
    Mr. Czelanski: Well, we still have 14 minutes left. (He promptly pulls out a bottle of scotch and two glasses from his desk) If only more parents were like you.
  • On the finale for Daria, Lindy, a friend Quinn had made while working as a hostess at a restaurant, get's fired when their boss finds Lindy's screwdriver at their post. This later causes Quinn to develop the courage to confront Lindy about her drinking problem.
  • In The Simpsons, Mr. Burns ends up drinking himself to a drunken stupor after Mr. Burns was given a $15,000,000 fine in regards to the hundreds of violations at his power plant.
    • There was also the time the old sea captain was drunk at the helm when he ran his ship aground. He attempted to bribe the reporter interviewing him to take the blame.
    • Subverted with Chief Wiggum in one episode. He's depressed at work and decides to hit the bottle. He then proceeds to take a huge bottle of syrup out of his desk and pours it all over a huge stack of pancakes.
    • In Team Homer, Mr. Burns is huffing ether to avoid the pain he apparently experiences when Smithers files his fingernails. In his ether-induced delirium, he cheerfully gives Homer—who he believes to be The Pillsbury Dough Boy—start up money for bowling team. He possibly also murders the plant's janitor.
    • Homer, himself, regularly drinks several 'lunch beers' during his lunch break, according to Lenny.
    • Though many teachers at Springfield drink during school hours, Ms. Hoover (Lisa's teacher) and Groundskeeper Willie both stand out as seeming to have fairly profound alcoholism; often indulging during classes.
  • Beavis And Butthead's principal would occasionally be shown taking pulls from a bottle of Old Crow stashed in his desk.
  • Futurama Bender Bending Rodriguez is required to do this. Justified in that he's a robot whose systems are fueled by alcohol. If he doesn't drink, he starts rusting as his systems begin to break down.

    Real Life 
  • To get the obvious out of the way, this, for a host of reasons, is not a smart thing to do.
    • Unless your profession involves drinking. Also, kinda subverted as many people whose jobs involves drinking tend not to drink when not on duty.
      • Some bars' and pubs' mottos are even: "If you can't do your job drunk, you simply can't do your job." Justified in some places where customers often buy drinks or shots for the bar staff, so having a good tolerance is necessary.
  • Winston Churchill was well sloshed more than a few times when he took decisions in World War II.
    • As was Franklin D. Roosevelt, mostly under Churchill's influence when the latter spent much of the winter of 1941-42 as a guest in The White House. These decisions were also typically taken very early in the morning.
  • Any UK politician or public figure described in the press as "Tired and Emotional" due to an infamous incident in the 1960s. This is parodied in the Yes, Minister episode The Economy Drive with this exchange:
    Bernard: "William Hickeynote  says you were overwrought."
    Jim Hacker: "Just overwrought? Nothing about being drunk?"
    Bernard: "Just overwrought."
    Sir Humphrey: "Overwrought as a newt, actually."
  • In UK Politics, former leader of the Liberal Democrat party Charles Kennedy. It was his chronic alcoholism that led to the "former" part.
  • British politics provides another example, this time a responsible one: The sole exception to Parliament's ban on food and drink in the debating chamber is during the Chancellor of the Exchequer's annual Budget Speech, where tradition allows him (or her, but that hasn't happened yet) to drink anything he likes. With a few exceptions (most recently Gordon Brown and Alastair Darling), the Chancellor has opted for something alcoholic and sometimes rather stiff, since the Speech is such that he really does need a freaking drink.
  • Legend, rumour and hearsay tell that the Skipper of the Exxon Valdez, Joseph Hazelwood, was drunk on duty when the ship crashed. In 2008 it was revealed that he was below deck sleeping off a bender.
    • This was revealed in Exxon Shipping Co. v. Baker,note  in which Justice Souter (who wrote the majority) saw fit to note that he had had five double vodkas, "enough that a non-alcoholic would have passed out."
  • First Prime Minister of Canada, Sir John A. MacDonald, was notorious for drinking in Parliament. Popular legend holds that the Conferences that led to Canadian Confederation consisted of Sir John getting everyone else drunk until they agreed to it. This is not far from the truth.
  • Canadian Forces regulations allows for a maximum of two standard drinks while on duty. This is subject to further regulation by the local commanders though, so it's rare to see this fully permitted, unless you're in the Navy.
  • Speaking of Her Majesty's Navies, there's the old quote about the Royal Navy (often wrongly attributed to Winston Churchill):
    Don't talk to me about Navy tradition. It's nothing but rum, sodomy, and the lash.
  • In the lead-up to the 1984 general elections in New Zealand, then-Prime Minister Robert Muldoon drunkenly called a snap election after one of his MPs threatened to dissent over key legislation. This became known as the 'schnapps election'. For the record, he lost.
    • Speaking of New Zealand, former MP Nandor Tanczos made the accusation in 2000 that he had seen politicians "drunk in charge of a country".
  • Former Irish Taoiseach Brian Cowen once did a radio interview while still drunk from the night before and was speaking with obviously slurred speech. He later claimed to have had a cold.
  • Ever hear of a business lunch? While the Mad Men style three-martinis lunch has long since been stopped, and most people on a business lunch will stick to water or soft drinks, occasionally someone will indulge a little and order a beer. Furthermore, it's become something of a trope itself to have someone try to negotiate a business deal after the other person has had a couple to "loosen up" and possibly agree to a deal that they might otherwise be hesitant about.
  • Drunkenness was common at the Chernobyl NPP, and may have contributed to the lax standards that resulted in its meltdown.
  • In the The American Civil War, Union general James H. Ledlie was removed from command after his drinking on duty contributed to the disaster at the Battle of the Crater. His failure to brief or lead his unprepared troops resulted in massive Union casualties.


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