My dad’s three brothers were all alcoholic, and although he never had a problem leaving the hooch alone he displayed traits of what used to be called an alcoholic personality. I saw signs of it in my own behavior, so when I went off to college I was in no hurry to sample the boozohol.
I accidentally had some freshman year, when someone — of course — spiked the alcohol-free punch bowl at a Halloween party with vodka. I realized what had happened when I suddenly felt comfortable in the crowd of strangers. Friends got me back to my dorm room, and that was the last I had anything to do with demon liquor or parties for some time.
Incidentally, I was a pretty big buzz kill on my hall that first year. When a bunch of the guys chipped in to hire a stripper, I refused to join in. It’s not that I was so moral or lacked raging late-adolescent hormones; I had pretty limited funds and needed to save them for important things like comics and pinball.
A few years later I was spending the summer in a sublet, working for the university housing department. I’ll have to write about that sometime. It was the best worst job I ever had.
Anyway, one of my housemates went out to a bar once a week with his friends. It sounded pretty fun, and I had begun to think that maybe I could put a cautious toe in the fire water. So one night I tagged along. Well drinks were half a dollar for the first hour we were there, so I tried a vodka Coke.
Ten dollars and a few hours later we staggered home.
Now, I certainly didn’t have 20 tumblers of barely mixed drinks. The price went up at regular intervals until it hit two dollars a glass, I think. I don’t know for sure how much I had, but it was enough that I just remember really enjoying myself. Maybe eight?
At any rate, I was drunk enough that when everyone else jumped in a fountain I realized that my shoes would get wet but not that my shoes could be removed.
The next morning I reported to work bright, early, and nauseous. My assignment that day turned out to be cleaning refrigerators that students had rented. These had been sitting in a storeroom for month, unplugged and doors shut. Cracking these open was like inviting a new and horrific curse of the pharaohs with every unit. The stench ran straight up my nostrils, grabbed my throbbing brain, and threw it around my skull like a terrier with a rat.
I don’t believe in divine justice, but as a fan of old horror comics I appreciate blatant lessons. It was a long time before I drank again, and I’ve never drunk myself sick since. Stupid, yes. Never sick.
Please tell me that the fountain you jumped in was not the one by the Bell Tower?
Well, I go halfsies on that request. I didn’t jump in, because I didn’t want to get my shoes wet.
While everyone else jumped in, I looked up and marveled at the starlit night. Then suddenly I was flat on the ground, with no memory of the bits in between.
We all seem to have to learn this lesson the hard way. 🙂
I still feel nauseous when I think about it.