The story you are about to read is one of my favorites. It happened pretty much exactly as you are about to read. It may take a few weeks to get through this one, but I promise you, it’s worth following. It’s about a really crazy night I had several years ago. I hope you enjoy.
I had once promised myself that I was never going to tell this story again. After much pleading, and urging from a handful of friends, I’ve decided to relive it one last time. That’s why I’ve chosen this format to share it. I figure what platform could be more intimate and personal than an internet magazine? This way I can be assured that the story will only be read by a small handful of my closest friends. I would totally hate for this one to find its way to a medium where it would be out there forever for all to see whenever they wanted to. As I’m sure you’ve already surmised, this one is going to be completely at my own expense. This is quite far from one of my proudest moments, or my finest hour. It seems that my most popular stories are the self-deprecating ones when I find myself a victim of my own chronic misfortunes and poor judgment.
It was about six or seven years ago. I was already employed at my current job as a bartender in Ocean City, MD, but had not yet met my wife. I was in my mid thirties and found myself standing unwillingly at a major crossroads in life. I was too young to be old, and too old to be young. I had just enough youth left in me to still party like a rock star, yet just enough wisdom to know better. It was without a doubt the most awkward period in my life since I was about 15. I had recently come to grips with the fact that Miss Right probably was not out there, although I hadn’t really been searching for her. I was accepting of the distinct possibility that I may grow old alone, but not nearly ready to head out to pasture. Truth is, I was still having a really great time. I was so happy being unhappy, that I didn’t even realize I wasn’t happy.
This particular summer was a really great one at the restaurant and bar where I work. Not so much because of the money, or the business though. It was a decent year financially, but it was that fluke summer where we just had a really great crew. As long as I’ve been doing this, I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of years that I have had a full cast of coworkers with not one bad apple, and everyone got along. This is even more unlikely in a seasonal resort town because of the number of new faces coming in every spring only to be there for a few short months. It was possibly the most fun, and tight knit crew I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Everyone seemed to do their job without complaint that summer and we quickly became a big happy, dysfunctional family. It was enjoyable for me to watch from the seat of the salty old veteran. It wasn’t just on the clock that they all became fast friends. Almost the entire staff seemed to go out together just about every night after work. I seldom if ever heard of any drama, just a bunch of goofballs having a great time together.
Despite the fact that the majority of this staff was ten to fifteen years my junior, they repeatedly tried to enlist me into their late night, post work festivities. I would always smile, and respectfully decline for a multitude of reasons. Though most of them were closer to my son’s age than mine, they all seemed to view me as a generational equal. I believe this was largely in part because in many ways, I stopped maturing emotionally at thirteen. I’m pretty sure they just figured that anyone who laughs as hard as I at jokes about body parts and bodily functions, and is a sucker for any movie with talking animals can’t possibly be pushing forty. Surprise!
I also declined because title or no, I was sort of their unofficial leader at work. Even if only by default, I found myself in a position guiding them while on the clock. There’s one thing I learned long ago from my own observations, and before my own many years as a restaurant manager. It’s nearly impossible to garner respect and credibility from your subordinates if they just saw you doing shots of kiwi flavored Mad Dog right from the bottle being passed around between a dozen people at 4:30 in the morning. It’s difficult to reprimand someone who watched you feverishly trying to hook up with a much younger coworker while mumbling incoherently through your own drool as the sun came up. Please take note of the fact that the key word in this paragraph was “observations,” not experiences. I was reticent to tag along. I didn’t want to be hanging out late night at someone’s apartment and have his or her roommates giving me that, who’s the creepy old guy in the corner? look. So it was easier just to line up my own late night entertainment and maintain my anonymity.
It was now August, and the season was winding down. This group of consummate fun seekers decided to make one last attempt at getting me to hang out with them. They even played the, it’s our last week in town card. It’s not that I didn’t want to party with them, I just never thought it was appropriate. Well, on this particular night, I had no plans for after work. I had nothing to do, nowhere to be, I was off the next day, and realized that many of these kids I may never see again after this week. And quite frankly, I was really lonely. They wanted to see the Old Man of the Sea let his hair down and leave his chin and liver exposed. I decided to oblige them this one time.
I was always the closer, and the last person out of the building every night, so I could never meet anyone at another bar. I did however agree to meet up with everyone at the home of two of our female coworkers for the late night shindig. I made sure I was well supplied with grown up beverage so as not to show up empty handed. I don’t like to use the term trailer park because it seems to carry negative connotations, but let’s just say that each of the dwellings in this community where the party was held, could be easily relocated with a five man crew, a couple of jacks, and an F-150 with a hitch. They all seemed to look alike, so I just parked my car, strolled about and listened for familiar voices once I got close.
It was interesting to see the dynamic upon my arrival. They were all surprised that I actually came, and genuinely excited to see me. But many of them, once getting past their initial enthusiasm seemed to have this distant, underlying fear that they would have to alter their normal late night behavior since a dude with grey in his beard was now on the scene. Needless to say, I quickly dispelled that bit of nonsense. This group, like every other generation seemed to think that they were the first to play drinking games. Some of them were in shock to find me not only partaking in the games, but understanding all the rules, and excelling at them. The only difference was that while their cups were filled with cheap canned beer, mine had only ice, and really good vodka. It seemed the only fair way for me to spot them the necessary points to survive sitting across the table from me. The old Saint Bernard with the barrel around his neck had gotten off the leash.
I’m going to end it there for this week. I’ve arrived, the party has started, and it’s going to continue to get weird. I hope you come back and pick it up next week, because this story takes some turns that are worth following. Thanks for playing along.
Until next week,