Drunken Dilemmas

[This post was written in April 2005, originally#349 as part of the Hyperion Chronicles]

Drunken Dilemmas

I am sitting in Denny’s—where else?—trying to write, as it approaches Two a.m. This is my least favorite time to be here, for the bars are closing and all the drunks will start rolling in. Even on a Monday Denny’s gets its share. First comes a trio of girls, who do not look old enough to be out carousing on a school night, slightly tipsy and dressed like promiscuous fashion victims. They dish about who got felt up at the club by hot guys they will never see again. Whatever. Caveat Sluttor.

Next comes three guys. The restaurant is empty except for the lasses and myself, but where do you think the guys want to sit? You got it: right behind the girls, so they can “stretch” their arms and perhaps make contact. I wouldn’t care, except that both tables are somewhat close to me, and the resulting obnoxication is disturbing a delicate scene I’m attempting.

This particular night it is the fellas who are the most annoying (‘tis not always the case), and in short order the girls are driven out of the restaurant. Lacking females to bird-dog, the guys content themselves to harassing the lone server Izzy, who was having a bad night before they arrived. The guys seem to delight in howling loudly whenever they want a whim met. Take a good look, ladies: this is what you’re shoving your breasts into too-small shirts and bras for.

(I found out later from Izzy that whenever she went near their table one of the guys would kick her. Why, oh why did not the gods of Heaven, Earth and Denny’s not let me witness this particular atrocity? It would have been the WMD-like justification I needed to take action. Sigh.)

The three continue to get louder and more raucous, harassing other patrons who straggle in for a quiet bite, and generally making asses of themselves. I manage to more-or-less block them out and get back to writing when one starts in on me.

Using the world’s worst Irish accent, he asks me what I am writing. I am not keen on being disturbed when I am in the middle of something, but there is a certain graveyard-shift etiquette to making conversation with total strangers. It’s encouraged, and I would not be one to break the marrow-of-night truce that bonds the bleary-eyed set together.

I answer the chap and get back to writing. He has more questions for me. What am I writing about? I generally hate that question. Most of you know I strongly believe that what something is about isn’t nearly as important as how it is about it. (For example, you could say your script was about “the Mafia,” but that could mean anything from the weightiness of a “Godfather” to the crude satire of an “Analyze That.” The breadth of the world is the difference between the two, but a sophisticated parsing of therein is not permitted with a one-word answer to the query.)

However, this is not the time to get into my theory on movies, so I answer the man as succinctly as possible and try to get back to it. My answers have all been polite but terse, a clear signal to anyone with an ounce of common sense that I do not wish to engage in a lengthy discussion.

The problem—and perhaps you have encountered this—is that such a fellow, like the one now talking to me, is not apt to pick up on the social subtleties of body-language. Nor, would I suspect, would the fellow care. He wants to chat, and screw what anyone else wants.

The situation is tolerable—if barely—and annoying, but we have all encountered worse. However, next the man crosses yet another invisible line, this one much closer to me and the back of my hand.

He starts making fun of my movie plot, heckling me for it and asking “what the f**k kind of movie” it could be without him in it. Now, up until this point I have maintained a civil if hardly warm tone, and answered each question directly without any monkeying around. (Trust me; if you have any experience with drunken people, you know that giving them too many words too quickly just confuses them.)

At this juncture, though, the proverbial gloves are getting unlaced. “What did you say to me?” I ask, looking at him directly in the face for the first time in awhile. Much like a lower primate (a much lower one), the direct eye contact startles him. He’s not sure what to make of it. One thing is certain: he picked the wrong subject for one of his hilarious riffs that inebriated people always think they are capable of.

If nothing else, he seems to have grasped the dangerous ground he now treads. Sadly for Fake-Irish Sot, this dawning comprehension does not translate into letting the matter alone. He starts in again, as if earnestly explaining (to idiot me) why my screenplay is terrible, and needs to be changed out whole-cloth, to include more interesting topics, preferably including him as a main character.

I’d like to stop the narrative for a moment to go on one of own riffs; also not funny, but at least mine’s on purpose:

You want to know what pisses me off about imbibing alcohol to the point of intoxication, beyond the catastrophic health problems, violence, and loss of life, and the irreparable damage to relationships each and every day? What torques me is this: drunken behavior—that which would not be tolerated by any other individual—goes on unchecked all over this land, and is passed off, forgiven and swept under the rug by the catchall excuse of “he’s drunk.” Drunken people can voice rudeness and display behavior that would otherwise bring violent retorts out of reasonable human beings.

I for one am sick of it. This “get out of jail free” card is given cart blanche to many of these total assholes; freedom to act like out-of-control children with impunity. Because of this prevailing social more, I firmly believe many people act drunker than they truly are, knowing the safety-net excuse envelopes all their boorish behavior.

Even if I am way off in that assessment: so what? The fault still squarely lies with the offending parties. As far as I know, no one rolls up into a club with a Mac-10 and yells, “All right: anybody moves and I blow your head off! Line up single file at the bar and each of you take 16 shots of whiskey. Let’s go now!”

Maybe I’m just never there when that happens, but barring Smirnoff-financed jackbooted thugs with automatic weapons, the choice to drink is the person’s, no? And while I agree that at some point every person will come to a threshold where he can no longer remotely control behavior (let alone motor functions), each person knows what that point is personally, when the night is still fresh and the seal yet unbroken.

Therefore, I say enough of this societal molly-coddling of alcohol-fueled atrocity. You are responsible for your behavior, and if that behavior includes loud thrashings in public and other knavery, then it is incumbent upon you to not get to that state of affairs.

Moreover, since I firmly believe one should offer a solution to the problems one brings to the forefront, I say this: I vow to treat these developmental incompetents like the animals they so clearly seem to want to be. If a dog messes on the rug you don’t absolve him of all responsibility, you immediately rub his face in it and swat him with a rolled up newspaper. “No, Fido,” you say. “That is not acceptable behavior.” The dog quickly learns.

What kind of cruel man would I be that I not extend this courtesy to my fellow human being? Is he not worthy of receiving instruction too? Of course he is. Therefore, take it as naught but kindness, the next time you witness such buffoonery, to go over to the man, and swat him one on the nose. “No, son. You can’t act like that in public and expect to get away with it.” He will learn.

Back to my situation. Having not formed the requisite intent of the preceding paragraphs, I did not journey over to said table and give a few well-placed raps with my cane. I did, however, put on the “Hyperion is not best-pleased” face. Folks who know me attest to my general geniality and good nature. However, they also readily aver that I am the LAST person you’d want to pick a fight with. It is not just the size and ability to cause you suffering: it is the iron-will and divine sense of purpose to do so.

Irish was still going on about his suitability for my script. I cut him off with a “Be quiet.” For a drunken man, I have to hand it to him: he shut up, and right quickly. I was not finished.

“You do not talk to me or anyone else this way," I continued, “and you do not treat Izzy or any server in such a manner. Now, turn around, finish your food, and do not make me speak to you again.”

Truth be told, I believe he read a threat in my words. At least it’s nice to know he wasn’t illiterate.

The three finished their food quickly, and in relative silence. Unfortunately, it included maple syrup—not a good combination with spirits—and soon the men’s washroom was uninhabitable. Just one more thing to remember for next time.

But look on the bright side: I not only got a column out of it, but a whole new way to approach what has been a thorn in my side for some time. And you can too. You don’t have to be the size of a rock-troll or possess the skills of a Ninja-giraffe to confront these people. Heck: the odds are they won’t remember it the next day anyway. All you have to have is the will to say, “This will not stand.”

And a nice bitch-slap; preferably with rings.

April 26, 2005

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Thanks to Izzy

One More Time
Caveat Sluttor. Please try to work this phrase into three conversations this week. That is all I ask.

And because I’m on a roll…
Obnoxication. Tell me that isn’t a cool word

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