Drinks on Friday

I went out for some drinks last Friday night.

That’s it. End of story.

Oh, you want more?

At my age, that could pretty much be a post by itself. What was once so mundane as to be rote now requires a notarized writ of release, followed by a full physical and psychiatric evaluation.

But at least I get to spend the rest of the weekend patting myself on the back. Which isn’t easy to do with a goddamned hangover. Does anyone have any Advil?

It’s not like I’ve become a complete recluse. I’ll have a beer before bed sometimes. Our household made it through not one, but two bottles of Booze Nog in December. Scratch that, I just checked the fridge and we only made it through one and a half bottles. Maybe by the end of February we’ll find the promised land.

The kitchen table isn’t the only place I drink. Wife and I are pretty good at coordinating calendars to allow one of us to escape for an evening once in a great while. Just never together at the same time, as that would necessitate a second mortgage to pay for a babysitter.

Yes, thirty-year-old me, I have to plan and coordinate my drinking endeavors weeks in advance. Yes, even if it’s just happy hour. You got something to say to me? Guess what? You’re also going to have gout in the future. Enjoy your shellfish while you can, motherfucker!

I usually meet a particular friend for drinks after work once a month or so. Back when we were single, we met a few times a week. We’d have a couple pitchers of beer on a regular day, maybe add a third or a fourth on a Friday or a Monday. The first Monday of the NFL season was often brutal because they do a double header. That’s seven hours of football. Do you know how much Bud Light one must consume to stay glued to a barstool for seven hours of football?

Sure, we could’ve taken a breather. Only watched one game. Maybe jog around the block during commercial breaks. But that’s heathen quitter talk.

Occasionally, a text would emerge from one of our phones around 6:30 the next morning to the tune of, “Upon further reflection, perhaps those last two pitchers of beer weren’t strictly necessary.”

The first four pitchers weren’t mentioned.

But that was then. This is now.

Now we meet once a month, assuming we can fit it into our schedules. We both work 7:00-3:00 jobs, so we meet up at 3:30, have two beers, a firm handshake, and we’re on our merry ways.

Two beers, I said. Not two pitchers. But you wouldn’t know it, the way my body feels the next day.

To be fair, the beer I drink now tends to be of higher alcohol content than the old stuff. Since I drink less often, I might as well enjoy it. The goal is no longer to gorge myself on as much liquid as possible. The goal isn’t to merge with the barstool over the course of an evening.

So in terms of alcohol content, my per-beer average is up. But I only tell myself that when I’m standing in awe of my lack of tolerance.

I used to scoff at those BAC charts that tell you how many drinks you can have based on your weight. For instance, I’m 220ish pounds, so it tells me that if I have three beers in an hour, I’ll be impaired. At my fifth beer, I’m inebriated. That used to be a joke to me. Who is wasted after only five beers? Lightweight!

Hey, I just had to double-check those BAC numbers. Did you know that there are some BAC charts with a designation beyond “Legally Intoxicated” at .08? They list “Possible Death” starting at .30. I mean, that’s good to know, but it seems odd to put on the chart. Presumably, I’m looking at this chart to see if I can drive a car. So I’m probably in the .06-.10 range. Who the hell is checking their BAC when they’re in the .30 range? Can they even read at that point? I think the BAC people just put that in as a challenge.

One year at Camptathalon, we had a Breathalyzer. Don’t ask. We decided against making a competition of it. Sure, the primary competition most floated was a “guess your BAC” game, which shouldn’t be too dangerous. But a bunch of dudes, miles from civilization, trying to compete for the “best” result on a Breathalyzer is rife with problems.

“What’s that? A point-three is potential death? Hold my beer. (And grab me the Everclear.)”

Fortunately I don’t have to worry about possible death. Every chart I’ve seen ends at ten drinks in one hour, at which point my 220-pound ass is only blowing a .16. Possible death doesn’t show up as an option unless you’re under 100 pounds and have eight drinks in an hour. And really, if you’re a grown dude that’s less than a hundred pounds, you might need something to take the edge off.

So I met my friend for a few happy hour beers at around 3:30. I had two pints of beer (sixteen ounces, not those imperial 20-ouncers) followed by a “small” beer, which I assume to be in the 8-10 ounce range. We said our goodbyes and I was off to my next adventure around 5:30.

That next adventure was “Curling Night in America,” one of the worst ways to watch a curling match. It’s a program that NBC runs where they film some non-competitive games between the United States and some hand-selected teams that we invite over because we know we can beat them. You won’t see U.S. vs Canada or U.S. vs. Sweden. Instead, you’ll see Japan and Australia and Italy. Not places known for their curling prowess.

As if blowouts aren’t enough reason to avoid a sporting event, these things are also pre-recorded. The curling matches they’re showing now took place last August. We could totally look up the results if we wanted to. But we don’t, because they’re pointless exhibition games.

I know, who’s ever heard of NBC showing tape-delayed Olympic sports, huh? But “Curling Night in America” is even worse than, say, the Miracle on Ice or, I don’t know, every single Olympics broadcast EVER. Seriously NBC? It’s one thing when the Olympics are on the other side of the world and going on live when we’re all asleep, but the 2016 Olympics were in fucking Brazil, and you still tape-delayed most of them.

But “Curling Night in America” is even worse because it’s edited to fit into a two-hour block. So they’ll randomly skip an entire end of curling, the equivalent of an inning in baseball. So imagine you’re watching the World Series game. They go to commercial after the second out in the first inning and when they come back it’s the bottom of the third. And the score is 3-2, but they don’t bother telling you how the runs were scored. That’s “Curling Night in America.”

It gets even worse at the end of each broadcast, because you know precisely when the game is going to end. They try to build suspense, going to commercial right before the final shot of an end, a make-or-break rock that might tie up the game and force an extra, sudden-death end. Will he make it? Will she miss by an inch? Oh, so enticing.

But then you look at the clock. If it’s 8:35, they’re going to make the shot. If it’s 8:50, we’re coming back from this commercial break to see a miss and be done with it. How lame. That’s why sports are supposed to be broadcast live. If you know ahead of time that the pitcher is only going to throw one more pitch, it takes some of the joy of it. The NFL doesn’t say “Any Given Sunday.. except not this Sunday.”

But “Curling Night in America” works as a good recruiting tool for my curling club. The other people in the bar don’t know we’re exaggerating the oohs and ahhs. So once or twice a month a bunch of us head out to a local cantina and make a ruckus.

That’s where I was headed after my two-and-a-half beers last Friday night.

But first I had to stop for a coffee.

This was hardly the first time I caffeinated in between drinking sessions. On one Friday night when I was a new teacher. I went to happy hour, then hit Starbucks on the way back to school to announce the football game, then went back out to re-buzz after the game. Then it was back to coffee in the morning. I swallowed the cat to catch the bird. I swallowed the bird to catch the spider. I swallowed the spider to catch the fly. I swallowed the fly because cocaine is too fucking expensive.

That’s what that song is about, right?

Of course, back then, I wasn’t drinking the coffee to my buzz. Far from it. I might have been trying to mask it. Or I might’ve just wanted a coffee. Whereas this time, I was thinking,  “Holy crap, I’ve already has a few beers and now I’m going out to get more beers and it’s almost my bedtime. Where can I find some meth?”

Unfortunately, I had to settle for coffee. With cream.

Not milk, mind you. Full fucking cream. I could’ve suckled up to a cow and not noticed much difference. I never get cream. I’m a black coffee guy. But I wanted more calories in my stomach. I wanted more volume in my stomach. If I could’ve ordered a coffee milkshake, I would have.

The hipster batistas were giving me the “gee I wonder why you’re getting coffee” look. Then, as if I wasn’t feeling old already, they asked what I was doing this fine Friday evening. I told them where I was headed. Each one blinked back.

“You know,” I explained, “the pub over on J Street.”

The blinks continued.

How the hell have they not heard of this place? It’s been there for… well, I don’t know how long it’s been there. But I’ve been going there a good twenty years. It was the hip, cool place to hang out after work when I was a restaurant server. Back in… the last century.

Holy crap! Do you mean to tell me the skeevy, decrepit bar filled with septuagenarians that my grandpa went to in 1980 didn’t start as a skeevy, decrepit bar filled with septuagenarians? Was the wrong side of the tracks, at some point, the RIGHT side of the tracks? Hmmm…

This might explain why people keep throwing their hips out at our Learn-to-Curls.

After I power through the large half-coffee-half-cream, spilling a bit for good measure as if the nose-ring-clad, twenty-something baristas hadn’t rolled their eyes at “grandpa” quite enough already, I was on my way to what might as well have been Howard Cunningham’s Leopard Lodge.

Where I promptly ordered a full plate of fish n’ chips. Can’t be too safe.

I also ordered a beer. When I handed over my card, the bartender asked if he should keep the tab open. I told him to keep it open. Mainly out of habit, but partly because it feels so wrong to limit myself. After all, the night was still young, at least according to the clock on the wall and not my internal clock. But maybe the pre-recorded curling match will feature a surprising come from behind and I’ll buy a round for the whole bar. Perhaps being in a bar that I frequented at 28 will make me feel 28 again. Who knows, I could have five more beers and Uber home in the wee hours of the morning.

And then get the look on Wife’s face in the morning when we’re have to come back downtown to get my car, which will probably have a parking ticket by then.

Aw, who was I kidding? I knew exactly how many more beers I was going to have and I had enough cash to pay for it. Sure enough, when I bought that second beer, tummy full of deep-fried breading n’ chips, I closed out the tab.

Then the moment the curling match came back from its final commercial break and the Japanese failed to send it to an extra end, as we knew they would, I beelined it for my car to head home. It was 9:00. I was exhausted!

Then came the harrowing drive home. Hoo-wee. A fog had settled on the land. Only it wasn’t fog. It was dark. I think they call it nighttime? Glare from car headlights blinded me. And it’s hard to recite the alphabet backward, even if I’m sober.

I was practicing all the lines I would tell the cop while I dutifully put my hands at the ten and two positions, except when they were prying open my droopy eyes.

But I also did the math in my head. I ordered my first drink at 3:30. It was now 9:15. I had consumed four-and-a-half beers.

Let’s give me the benefit of the doubt. The beers at the first place were strong, so maybe it’s the equivalent of three of the 4.5% beers mentioned on the BAC chart. And I think the English pub was pouring imperial pints. So maybe those two beers were closer to three.

Still, that’s six beers over a course of six hours. One beer per hour. Okay, the Fuller’s ESB is a whopping 5.5%, so let me be manly and up that number all the way to Shit, I’m going to be bold and round up to seven. Seven full beers!

Let’s put aside the fact that I used to do seven beers in an hour. Not that I’m proud of seven beers in an hour, but hell, even the 100-pound dude would still be marginally alive at that point. Seven beers in an hour, according to the chart, would put me at a .11. Back in the 1970s, that would’ve been barely above legally drunk.

But this time, I didn’t have those seven beers in an hour. I had them in six. The BAC chart says I burn off .015 BAC, or one drink, per hour. So even if I had drank them all in one hour, I would’ve burned off .09 of that .11. Notwithstanding the fish n’ chips, coffee, and cream.

That .02 is also the number the chart gives me for drinking one beer in an hour. Which makes sense, since I’ve effectively had one per hour, with only a slight addendum. Some charts are nice enough to say that, at .02, driving ability might be impaired. Of course, those ones put everything on the chart as “possibly impaired.” They’re trying to make a point.

The more honest ones don’t list the possibly impaired until .04. Because the first thing the cop’s going to do is smell your breath. And the .02 probably ain’t gonna show up.

If a cop had pulled me over that fine evening, I would’ve told him to take me into the drunk tank and he would’ve thought I was just trying to play the “fugue state” game from Breaking Bad.

“Sorry, sir. All you’ve had tonight is fish n’ chips.”

Like I’m Beavis and Butthead in the episode where they get non-alcoholic beer.

“You’re not drunk. You’re just a dumbass.”

I couldn’t agree more, Ozzifer.

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