“Hey man, wake up!” Getting jostled out of a sud-soaked blackout is never fun. I was staying at my buddy Dale’s new apartment. We had been out celebrating his newfound freedom; a single guy in his mid-20’s with a nice new pad. Living the dream baby! The fact that we were both bartenders meant that drinks on the town pretty much always hit the double digits, and from what I could recollect, last night was no different. The usual litany materialized, a hangover checklist running through my soggy mind; The responsibilities I was going to have to evade until I sorted myself out, the guilt and astonishment at the punishment a liver can take, the pocketbook hit that I really couldn’t afford, and the cringe at jagged memories of terrible lines I slow-pitched to get shot down like an oversized skeet, but along all of the usual suspects I was really curious as to who the hell this guy was disrupting my disgraceful slumber.
“Who are you, man? Where’s Dale?”
“I don’t know Dale. You need to get out of my apartment.”
Wait. Pause. Hold up. Stop the tape. It took me a few seconds of assessing my environment while buddy stood there taking my measure. He looked surprised though, not pissed off. Kinda antsy, like a prizefighter before a fight, or an Olympic swimmer before a dive, jumping around with nervous energy. Things were definitely hitting home though. When I passed out the couch was on the other side of the room. This was not Dale’s apartment. Twilight zone discussions started bumping off the cranial walls. WTF?? A dream? An alternate dimension? What happened?
“Dude you came into my apartment, ransacked my kitchen, and passed out on my couch. You need to leave!”
Yup, he was right. Not that, out of the two people in the room, it was his credibility that was in question… The kitchen looked pretty messed up; among the debris I observed a half drank litre of Mountain Dew and a torn open bag of Doritos. I did love Doritos. Plus, Dale had just moved in, his cupboards were bare. Okay, things were starting to make sense. Seems like I didn’t stumble onto a gateway to another dimension, I was just a little snacky.
I apologized and got the hell outta there. Checking my pockets I was all good. One thing I’ve always prided myself on is being able to come out of the other side of a bender with my phone and wallet. The problem was that my phone was dead, and I knew Dale had to leave in the morning for a Tattoo appointment. I had kicked off my shoes and hung up my coat at his place before I went on my little scavenger hunt. My car was 5 or 6 blocks away, and it was a chilly October morning. What time was it? Did I miss him?
I couldn’t remember the apartment number, so I took a quick trip down to the lobby to scan the names. Sure enough, Dale wasn’t home, which meant that I would have to walk to where I parked my car John Mclane styles. Shivering like I was going through an opiate withdrawal, I passed a road crew.
“Rough night, eh bud?” I had to laugh along with them. At least I made someone’s day. Hopefully, that would offset the bad karma I was sure to have racked up from the kitchen burglary.
That was when I first started to realize that my sleepwalking was getting out of hand. I had done it before, but nothing too serious. What was apparent is that when I got drunk it wasn’t so innocent, it was downright Tyler Durdenesque, if Durden had a penchant for corn chips that is. I figure it’s a good thing I quit bartending, or I might just be flying around town looking for a Frito-lay kingpin launching tortilla start-ups across the country.
Most bartenders fall into one of two categories. Either they are complete lushes, or they are ascetic teetotalers. Yeah, there are definitely exceptions, and I am generalizing, but this isn’t a scientific report, and bartenders aren’t on the SJW’s endangered list yet, so just let it slide… When I first got into “the industry” I was a fairly moderate Joe. I’d have a few beers, and sometimes a few more, you know, if it was sunny, or I needed liquid courage for a date type thing, but most weeks I was a six pack and Netflix on a Sunday kind of guy.
The problem with bartending is that it normalizes indulgence. All day and night, you watch as patrons slam back pints like they were in training, and so when you got off your long ass shift what’s a couple of drinks compared to those degenerates? Plus, you earned it, and all your co-workers/friends are sitting around talking about the day’s events, it’s communal, you wouldn’t want me to be anti-social, would you?
One day down the road I took stock and realized that it had been quite some time since I strung together a few days of sobriety and my waistline had gone from Adonis to a dumpiness… I tried to cut down at first, but I quickly realized that I needed to leave bartending full stop. Everyone I knew was a problem drinker, and everywhere I went there was free booze. In my eyes, the only solution was to get the F outta dodge, reboot, and recalibrate.
So I gave my notice, and despite all the tears, my co-workers were able to power through, accept the loss, and a farewell night out was planned, or… my fellow servers were freaks who took any change from status quo as a reason for Viking style celebrations, hard to really know, you know?
Flash forward. My last day. I got off work at 4:30 pm and had shot of Jameson downed by 4:31. Now, usually I view shots as a waste of what would otherwise be a tasty stroll with a nice ale, but a pseudo special occasion is good enough for the girls I date, so what the hell. What I didn’t plan on was the shots that came around at 9pm, or the shots at 9:30… you get the drift. I then went back to the future, time-warped to the morning, and my hangover litany began like clockwork.
Coming to, I realized that some of my friends were leaving the after party and I surprisingly had enough energy to get up and hitch a ride. As we're walking out the door someone noticed a little turd in the hallway.
“Hey man, your dog shit in the house.”
“Dog? What dog? I don’t have a dog.”
Well, you know it happens… All of us had seen crazier things over our years of industry festivities, so we shrugged it off, got in the car and dipped, we all had better things to do, demons to nurse.
“It was probably me.” I joked, deep down knowing Durden was a possibility.
“Nah, it was super small, no way that was you.” Whew. How reassuring.
Later that afternoon, still curled up in the fetal position I received a phone call. “Dude, you pooped all over my house!”
I defended myself like I was Robert Shapiro. I think that I was so vigilant and convincing while protecting my character because of the confidence received from the “it was super small” insight from earlier. I based my case around recently submitted evidence that there had been corn in this turd.
“Corn? No. No way, I haven’t had corn in weeks man. How long can corn stay in your digestive tract? There’s no way.”
Hanging up the phone, pleased with my argument, emphasizing a no corn diet to establish my credibility and reasonable doubt. Pretty slick I thought, although my mother who was within earshot and had naturally become curious of my disavowal of any kernel injestion added: “you had corn in the Shepard’s Pie last night.” Oh yeah. Right. How could I have forgotten the Shepards Pie? Some kind of Freudian defense mechanism? Thank god she wasn’t called to the stand.
In light of the Shepard’s Pie discovery, later, I knew, I would have to give a full confession, but I would give myself enough time for the hangover to be over. I felt I would have wanted an apology if it was my house. It turns out that further investigation uncovered that the primary act took place in the front yard and that the clues had been tracked in, probably someone had stepped in it. Ok, probably that someone was me. Happy?
I tell ya, lying there in bed unable to summon sleep and yet too sketched out to do anything productive, those were some hours rife with embarrassment. I had gone out on the town to celebrate a new beginning, and I wound up dropping a deuce on my buddies front lawn. It seems my Durden was more monkey than a man.
Salvation did come through. Hours after the case of the corn cob bandit was laid to rest, I received a text from an old friend. It was a link to a YouTube video of Bert Kreishcher's “The Machine” story he performed on Ari Shaffir’s comedy show This is Not Happening. While Bert’s story is pure gold, and I’m sure many of you have seen it, many of the other stories are just as hilarious.
The premise of This is Not Happening is comedians telling true stories. The kicker is that whatever shame you’ve got knotting up in your stomach, or repressed and pushed away into the dark recesses of your mind, for fear of even having to remember them for a second, well, these guys have done worse! Comedians are a motley crew, and come from all walks of life. Ever make a fool of yourself by chasing an ex? Try flying across the Atlantic, interrogated as a terrorist, and then rejected again. Ever have a prank go wrong? How about one where the F.B.I gets involved? Threw a crazy party? How about a shindig where a crocodile clamps down on someone’s face. Took a deuce on your buddy’s front lawn? How about drunkenly urinating on your step father’s dining room table while he pleaded with you to stop.
In truth, I had seen the humour in my shenanigans, but I was still racked with embarrassment.
This Is Not Happening came at just the right time for me. First of all, it gave me some solid hangover entertainment, but even better, it brought me to the understanding that I wasn’t alone. That’s part of comedy’s power, along with being able to take a mistake, a moment of powerlessness, a public gaffe, lapse in judgment, silly blunder, and redefine your relationship to that memory. Comedy gives you the opportunity to rage against the machine and “take the power back”.
I’m done with my bartending journey, and I’m back to being a 6 pack on a Sunday type Joe, so all is well that ends well. I will leave you with a beautiful quote, a tidbit of knowledge I received from an older waiter at my first bartending gig when I had done something not nearly as embarrassing as fertilizing my colleague's lawn.
“The older I get, the more my bloopers turn into highlights.” Jeff