I drink for a living. I enjoy drinking. I enjoy drinking with people who enjoy drinking. Drinking is my hobby and my passion. So, I automatically feel a flutter of disquiet when confronted by someone who doesn’t believe and act the same.
Their excuses are almost always of the tired sort, but every once in a purple moon I hear a “why I quit” story that come close to making sense. Such as the one which follows, told to me by someone near and dear. And while it in no way persuaded me to end my personal love affair with ardent water, I feel it’s worth passing on, mostly because its simply too goddamn funny to keep from public view.
My friend joined the air force after graduating college in the mid 1950s, was schooled in the ins and outs of the dental hygenist, and wound up stationed at a base in the wilds of Alaska. He described the biggest state in the Union as mind-bogglingly beautiful, hellishly cold, even in the summer, and, ultimately, rendered dull by the strictures of military life. In other words, there wasn’t a lot to do but look out the window at the same mountain vistas, complain about the ball-shrinking temperature, and search for ways to while away one’s off-duty hours. Can there be any wonder that the number one pastime among the airmen was boozing? What the fuck else was there to do?
My friend and a couple of his fellow soldiers, in posession of two-day passes, got their hands on several bottles of tequila. How they got that particular tipple in Alaska in the 1950s is beyond me, but they did. And they put the stuff to its full purpose, draining every bottle dry. At a bottle of Mexican go-go juice each, they must’ve been gloriously shitfaced.
The bottles dry, they hit their racks for a few hours of nappy-time.
At 0630, my friend is shaken awake by another airman.
“You’re needed in the clinic,” he says.
“Blurmaflurmle,” my friend responds.
“Right now, fella. On the double. Emergency root canal. Move it.”
Feeling as though a herd of caribou with loose bowels is stampeding through his head, my friend hauls himself off his bunk, tidys himself, dons his fatigues, and scrambles across the base to the dental suite. The base dentist, a captain, is irritated at his tardiness. Their patient is already in the chair, suffering the singular pain of a rotten tooth.
My friend deposits himself upon the assistant’s stool, a tray of instruments nearby, trying to focus while the captain administers Novocain. My friend can barely maintain a verticle position. The caribou have sprouted claws and have begun breathing fire. His stomach is a perfect Charybdis of roiling bile. He wobbles a bit.
The captain looks up, frowing all the way to his stubbly crew cut. “Are you ill, airman?”
“No sir,” my friend mumbles. “A little bit, sir.”
Squinting, the captain says, “Have you been drinking?”
“Um…Yessir. Last night.”
“Jesus, man. You smell like a flophouse bathroom.”
“I’m sorry, sir. I—”
“Can you do your job?”
“Yes, sir! No prob—”
But he never gets to complete the lie, because at that moment the ugly contents of his belly staged a coup over their masters, and broke for freedom. He belches, wetly, thickly, and then the rebels are flooding over the prison gates, and my friend vomits a warm slurry…
…directly onto the patient in the chair. Directly onto the patient’s face, in fact.
I should mention at this point that I’ve left out a couple of the story’s salient details.
The first is that by way of preperation for the root canal the dentist had inserted small rubber blocks between the patients molars to keep his mouth open—wedged open; wide open—transforming it into a nifty little…well…receptacle.
The second is that the patient was a major, the base’s second in command.
And my friend spewed yesterday’s Spam and last night’s tequila right spang into the man’s mouth.
My friend did not receive a commendation. But, he wasn’t thrown out on his ass, either.
And he never got drunk again.
As excuses go, that one’s not too shabby.