On a recent flight, I bumped into the new live-in boyfriend of a very good friend. He was in first class, so he got on the plane before me. Of course, I stopped to say hello when I boarded the plane – and was a bit surprised that he was having a cocktail (light brown drink – ice – stirrer, NOT a bloody mary) at 7 a.m. My wife thinks I need to tell our friend, but I won’t, because I don’t want to look like a schoolyard tattletale. Is there any way that it’s not a big, red flag that someone is drinking at 7 a.m.? Could the drink have been something else? Really watered-down Coke? Bitters?
Do you think I should tell her or is this just none of our business?
First, I believe that your instinct to stay out of other people’s business puts you on solid ground, so we could leave it at that. From what you say, however, I gather that your wife is on the more squishy turf of offering unsolicited information and poised to lean in. That being the case, let’s organize your decision-making. Drawing on my Marine Corps training as well as business school experience, the question I have for you is, “What do you hope to accomplish?” Then the logical follow-up, “Can you accomplish it?” and, if so, “How can you accomplish it?”
What you hope to accomplish, if I read you correctly, is to let your friend know that her live-in boyfriend has a drinking problem. You base that conclusion on having seen the guy at 7 in the morning drinking something that looked like a cocktail. As you say, you’re not sure if he was actually drinking alcohol, but let’s assume that he was.
You ask, “Is there any way that it’s not a big, red flag?” Several factors could explain his having a drink at a time when most people who don’t have a drinking problem would not be drinking: This could be the last connecting flight for him; he could be coming back from a business trip to China, where the time is early evening and a more acceptable time to drink. Maybe he is unwinding from some kind of tense, business negotiation or other similar situation. Possibly he doesn’t like flying and finds that a drink helps to calm him down.