Ever notice how weird it is to go on a bar crawl and never have a drink?
I’ll preface this with saying that, for your good friends, you do what you gotta do. That’s the point of friendship. For a good friend’s 21st, I definitely do not mind being the DD. That’s what friends are for and I’m more than happy to do it.
But not drinking at a bar? Weird.
I’m not gonna pretend like I’m some hardened alcholic here or anything. I’m 21 years old. I drink socially. Bomb shell, right? Chances are I don’t drink as much as the average college student, not even close. Some people might think that’s weird. I would hope I have much cooler weird qualities than that. But in any case, it’s still very strange to be in bars and only sip on an ice water (though I found you can make up drink names for your water…”Limp Dracula on the rocks” really seemed to interest everyone who asked tonight.)
Still, I can handle the prospects of socializing sans liquid courage. Did quite well at it actually. Unfortunately, I’ve found that most of the times I’m in Broad Ripple, it turns into some quasi-high school reunion. But not the reunion where you see all of your good friends from wayback. The reunion where you see a lot of people you kinda remember, but forget their names. Of course, they remember you – they always remember you – and you’re stuck trying not to look like that ass who thinks he’s too cool to acknowledge the past. I don’t want to make them feel insignificant, but truth is if I’m drawing a blank on the name, they probably are – in terms of their relativity in my life anyway. Facebook friend me! Then we can both take a “Which ‘Twilight’ Character Are You?” quiz.
But again, this is something I can handle. Social awkwardness is nothing new. Arguably, over time, social awkwardness has grown more entertaining. If you can identify it and topsy-turvy that mofo, it’s always great to make everyone else feel uncomfortable. So this isn’t much of a setback, in terms of enjoying the night. It’s a mild annoyance, but on the whole, not too difficult to conquer. Where does everything fall apart for me, you ask?
I’m one of those guys who can’t handle puke. I can’t handle the sight of it. I can’t handle the smell of it. And while I realize nobody enjoys the smell of puke wafting in their general direction, I feel that most people don’t react as strongly to it as I do. Perfect example is tonight, a crowded little bathroom in Brothers. Three urinals, two stalls and too many people packed in waiting to piss out the last pitcher. Dull green tiles, boring place that smells more like a bar than my shirt does, probably from the collection of foggy drunkbreath that keeps collecting on the grimy mirror just above the sink. I go in to check on my friend who is checking on Birthday Boy, and it’s your usual bathroom symphony of streamsplashing and story-swapping – who in the group has the best chance of getting laid, what bouncer was going out of his way to be a dick. Except for the brown screams coming from the stall furthest to the right, closest to Urinal Row.
Well, friend opens stall door and that vomit smell, the toxic cloud containing the foul remnants of whatever was expunged from the stomach, leaks out into the room. And I can tell other people smell it. Their noses turn up, faces cringe a bit. What I consider a normal reaction, a response to something unpleasant without feeling the need to note it beyond that immediate physical reaction. But me? My own stomach turns. I can imagine everything in the act of worshipping the porcelain, and I taste it in the back of my throat. That smell. Christ, that smell. I have to cover my nose and step away. I can’t handle puke.
Later, it’s time to get Birthday Boy back to the car, and he’s done a number on himself. His shirt is soaked with his stomach lining. His breath sprays like shotgun shells of vomitsmell, tearing through the sinuses and sticking to the sensory. It’s a sensation that, for me, makes me back away a bit. Nobody else seems to mind much. I get the car and drive back around to pick him up. Now begins the difficult process of being the designated driver.
You have to drive slow and smooth, so the bumps in the road won’t induce any more heaving than necessary. But you can’t drive too slow, because that’s how the police pull you over. His head has to be out the window, and you just pray he vomits in between the squad cars stationed on the corners. Again, the goal is not to make the act too obvious. Then there’s the matter of where the vomit goes. Tonight’s location of choice: the side of my car. Looks like I’ll be washing it tomorrow, though we did get one good wipedown in. Last comes the most difficult part, getting Birthday Boy out of the car. It was a strangely familiar feeling. As I struggled to call out directions and swing his legs over and out of the side of the car, I couldn’t help but envision myself back at my grandparents a few weekends ago, helping my quickly-detereorating (bless her soul) grandmother off her walker and into her wheelchair. She did not have the mental capacity to understand my directions. Neither did Birthday Boy. We narrowly avoid having the door closed on our fingers and heads as he slams the door shut and falls back down into the backseat, obviously unsure of where the hell he is.
With enough manpower, we finally manage to maneuver him out of the car and carry him into the next car that will transport him back to his place. It takes four guys. And I think back to my grandma again, and how many people it takes to walk her over a single step these days, and how she’s so oblivious to what’s going on. Just like here. In both cases, I want to help out. But I don’t want to be the one responsible if anyone gets hurt.
Finally, we get him into the car. I’m driving back on the interstate 20 minutes later and almost hit a man sprinting across the road. I’m too shocked to lay on the horn. I look back at him and see him standing in front of a car parked on the far left hand side of the road, talking to another man holding a large bag. They’re both black males, and I wonder if that’s a relevant fact or not. As I drive back through the flashing yellows and reds of my sleepy suburban town, I wonder just what the hell I did with the past five hours of my life. I saw a lot of people I kinda knew. I looked out for a lookout. I walked away from that rotten breath and I offered the minimal required support for a friend in need. I probably watched myself do all these things bored from a stool near the window, staring at my ice water and thinking of ridiculous names to call it to elicit laughter out of the cute girls who could be easily entertained.
Such are the Designated Driver Blues, I suppose. A lot of time spent being useless. A little bit of time spent pretending to be helpful. And if I wasn’t so drunk off all those Limp Draculas, I might say that’s an appropriate metaphor for my summer thus far.