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.