Ok, this is an old story but I haven’t actually posted it. This is for you, Mom: here’s what happened that night I only half told you about. 🙂
It all started at the end-of-month drinks at my work. This was my first time attending and I was resolved to at the very least be friendly and at most get nicely toasted so the train-ride and subsequent walk home would be done in the warm glow of the comfortably drunk. Now, picture a room filled with crates of beer, piles of pizza boxes and a host of wines ranging from cheap vinegar to fancy stuff.
Unfortunately for me, I don’t like beer and my useless pallet can only classify wines into two categories: shit and not shit. I unfortunately poured myself a rather nasty red at first, and rather than try pour it back into the bottle swilled that back pretty quickly so I could get onto a much better tasting white wine.
A few hours and 3 more glasses later I was in a good mood. Free alcohol, I decided, was all good regardless of how nasty it was. So, once all us drunk employees were cleared out of the building we herded out and headed for the local bar circuit.
Now, here was my first mistake: I discounted the wine as nothing but slightly bitter water. I didn’t take into account the average 14% alcohol content. So, when ordering at the bar I started as I usually would. A few shots and a subdued vodka lemon and lime. My second mistake was I hadn’t eaten much all day. I was fine and the evening progressed swimmingly. That is, until I got up to get my next round.
Hmmm. Things usually aren’t this difficult so early on.
Now, I have been drunk before but I have never been anywhere near what I would consider my “limit” there was always a sense that I was under full control, just that I wasn’t particularly interested in trying too hard to walk straight at the moment and no, I don’t need help across the street thank you very much I can see the cars quite fine from here. This time, however, I noticed a distinct disconnect between conscious thought and the movement of my body. My body seemed to walk simply through some form of process that wasn’t being consciously controlled. It was more like I suggested that I walk in this direction and my legs figured it out for themselves.
Somewhere in the back of my head, a little alarm bell went off and told me to start cooling off. After miraculously managing to both order and pay for my drink without falling into the barman’s lap, I made my way uncertainly back to my seat with a tray-full of Agavero tequila.I dish them out and sit next to this high-voltage electrical engineer. Another shot later and he starts talking about work. So, I put on my expression of polite-drunken interest and listen. It’s a testament to our general state that both he and I think it’s a riveting conversation.
I would have sat there and compared notes on the software I was working on and how it was applicable to his work well into the morning. Thankfully, the fastidious uptight bastard in me was keeping an eye on the time. He informed the rest of me that I had better get my trashed ass out of there and onto the public transport system lest I end up sharing a bed with someone on the street (and not in a kinky way either).
So, I get up and make my way out of the building and back to work. The human body is truly amazing. Without much conscious direction, my body was able to get into the office, log on (after a few false starts, stupid moving keyboard), check email, send an email, check the online bus timetable and leave.
Now, I should mention that at this point things like “reading” were not quite as simple as they usually are. It’s not that the reading is any slower. My eyes pick up the words perfectly and relay the image to my brain with perfect parity. My brain simply doesn’t seem to be too good at the whole interpretation thing.
Interestingly, I could read whole sentences fine but not individual words or numbers. This makes sense if you consider that the brain is a neural network and have a vague understanding of how neural networks work. Paradoxically, the more input I gave it, the better my brain was able to fill in the gaps caused by its own inebriated state. Part of me was fascinated by this and stored it in a slightly drier portion of my brain for later analysis.
I made my drunken way down Queen street. Daffodil poking out of my top pocket I might have been mistaken for someone off home after a late night at the office. I was still on autopilot at this point. I don’t think I could have consciously controlled all of my body at the same time. This is where the power of distributed processing comes in. It’s humbling to think that your body is actually quite capable of surviving without your conscious intervention. This is something I was quite glad of at this time because it was all the rest of me could do to remember to withdraw money from the cash machine to pay the bus driver.
So, I ended up at the bus terminal and sat down. Oh boy! Sitting is worse than getting up! The whole world spun drunkenly around me. I closed my eyes and willed myself not to throw up. I had never been drunk enough to lose my lunch and I wasn’t about to start now. I gritted my teeth valiantly but it was in vain. I ended up puking there at the bus stop. I quietly apologised to the unseen person who would have to clean that up in the morning.
With the slow and comical care only the drunk have, I took some tissues out of my pocket and wiped pointlessly at my pants. Thankfully I had hit more of the floor than myself. Had I been able to see myself, I would have laughed heartily. It really was a comical sight. I still had the fine motor control to flip the bird to a bunch of kids driving by and shouting obscenities out of their windows.
Recognising the bus was another triumph. I had been trying to figure out how I would do it but I needn’t have worried. After all, 6 years of catching busses in the Auckland region had to be good for something. A million little cues help you recognise something. It turns out I didn’t even need to read the words written on the side of the bus to know.
Thankfully I didn’t throw up in the bus. However, by this stage my visual system was threatening to give out. The darkness seemed darker and more confusing than it otherwise would be. My stop would be somewhere near the very end of this bus’s journey. Exactly when was going to be challenging. I caught a glimpse of a sign all lit up. Thank goodness they installed those lights recently. Then a flash of Winston Peters looking like he’s trod in something. Those two signs were the only two inputs I was able to use to make the decision, but I am 100% certain this is where I need to be. I aimed my hand in the general direction of the button and was surprised when I actually connected.
The bus dumped me onto the pavement and I wove my way home. Every drunk walks the same, zig-zagging in the general direction of his final destination. I was quite pleased though that I managed to remain on the pavement.
By this time I was singing: “Es ist ein Ros entsprungen, Aus einer Wurzel zart!” in my most drunken, broken, German.
Anyway, I made it home and got to bed at a reasonable hour. Unfortunately, although my phone was too flat to make a phone call, it had just enough juice to wake me up at (you guessed it) 6 ‘o ****ing thirty!
So, I unfortunately also experienced those uncomfortable few hours between drunk and hung-over, when you’re both drunk and hung-over simultaneously.
Well, they say God protects fools and drunks. I was both last night and so it seems the saying is somewhat true.
Would I do it again? Of course I would. But next time, I’ll steer clear of that cheap wine.