I loped confidently into the bar, my fancy new camera hanging jauntily from its strap around my neck.
“Where have you been?” my boss, Llanwyn asked with mild concern. He’d called me not 15 minutes earlier to make sure I didn’t miss this important occasion.
I shrugged “sorry”.
I took the moment to show off my new toy and take a few pictures. Much to my pleasure my colleagues groaned as expected. I demonstrated how beautiful the lens was, how I could zoom right in to the follicle.
“Is that a camera around your neck or are you just happy to see me” Dean asked. I grinned coyly back at him “a little bit of both”.
“Vodka-7?” the barman asked. That was my usual after all.
“Frozen margarita, please” I retorted then turned my attention beck to Dean “so, how long have you been here?” his droopy eyelids already gave me a vague idea.
“Well, we finished moving Taral’s stuff at around 3 so… around 3. Taral?” He looked around uncertainly for his drinking buddy.
He’d been making short work of it too, Dean is well known for his two-handed beer drinking technique.
Never married, but definitely a ladies man, he has quite a lot of money invested in the stock market. So much so, in fact, that this job must have been something he chose to do because it interests him, not because of the money.
Taral’s laid back attitude to work & life, combined with his joy of drinking made him pretty easy to get along with. He does, however, enjoy talking about religion and his leftist, Atheist views are not particularly well received here in the South.
He also appears to have a disdain for authority, as evidenced by the fact that he almost came to blows with security at work.
Dean, a colleague who was staying behind, took the day off to help Taral clear out his apartment. It’s the kind of guy Dean is, when I arrived here, 15 months earlier, Dean was the one who drove me to work, he was the one who helped me pick up my first car, he’s your classic good-value, genuine kiwi bloke. He’s happily married with a very young family (one boy and one girl). In contrast to Taral, I think Dean does do it for the money.
I accepted my margarita, settled myselfÂ into the corner between Dean & Taral and regarded the merriment around me. I was about an hour late, so the evening was well on its way.
Llanwyn, my aforementioned boss was speaking in an animated way about his time as a young engineer in the New Zealand Airforce, a sign that he had imbibed a comfortable volume of the local “Shiner Bock” beer.
Llanwyn is someone I greatly admire for a great many reasons. To use a term he often uses to refer to other people, he has a brain like a planet. His flexible, general intelligence combined by his extensive specialist knowledge in the area of defense and engineering makes him the cornerstone of our work here in Texas.
There was another colleague present, he was also leaving for his trip back to NZ. I’m respectfully refraining from using his name or any image of him on my website because apparently he’s forgotten more scary-dangerous classified stuff than I will ever know and so he’s cautious about what happens to his personal information.
Most of the rest of the old guard were here too, an American, some Kiwis, some Australians, some from Beca, some from another New Zealand company in the aeronautics industry, some representing the Crown and even one, I believe, from the New Zealand ministry of defense itself.
We were all united in a common cause: to imbibe as much liquor as one can in the dry county Rockwall claims itself to be. Unique to this Friday, the wives had joined us on the auspicious occasion of this being Taral and my unnamed workmate’s last opportunity for a beer with the boys.
The staff love us at Saltgrass. We’re friendly, we drink a lot, and we’re big tippers. I made my usual comment about beer and someone quipped about me being “different”. It’s nice to be able to make people feel uncomfortable only when you want to, if you know what I mean. Before long, Llanwyn decided to get up on a stool and add to the decorations surrounding the walls at our favourite watering hole. He stuck a New Zealand flag behind one of the ornaments for posterity, or, at least until one of the staff found it.
I was talking up a storm with Dean and the boys and also doing my best to make up for lost time. I think I managed around 3 or 4 margaritas before someone suggested we should go to Dodies. Now, Dodies’s is a new Cajun restaurant / bar they just opened up on the waterfront that sports, among other things, the strongest Margaritas in Texas. I, of course, wholeheartedly agreed. I failed, at this juncture, to register that I had had nothing to eat all day.
We staggered gracefully out of Saltgrass. “Here, let me give you a lift”. Alan insisted. I wasn’t about to argue. Although I live a stone’s throw from where we were and although the Texans seem to have a very relaxed view on drink-driving, I knew I was not in any state to be driving anywhere.
Taral, on the other hand, argued for a few minutes that he shouldn’t leave his rental there at the pub. Alan soon talked him out of it. Alan is the perfect gentleman and an all-around good friend to have working on any team.
He has the distinction of being the only person working on our project who worked on the original project more than 20 years ago. It’s incredible when you think of the longevity of the code-base and the people who wrote it.
“Alan’s a good guy” I exclaimed to Dean as we both piled into the back seat. Dean nodded.
“In fact, ” I added perhaps a little too loudly “if he was single and half his age, I reckon I’d go for him” Dean raised an eyebrow. “I mean he has glasses and everything” I continued.
“Well, I don’t think it really has anything to do with that.”
“Oh, no well, what I mean is… as you kiwis say, uh, Allen is ‘Good Value’ ”
Dean nodded “Yes, I have reason to believe that Allen is good value too” he regarded Alan’s unmoving shoulders “Deaf as a post though”
“Uh, ” Taral added, turning around from the front seat. “You know I think he can hear everything you’re saying… everything.”
On the way we came across a police vehicle and I think Dean’s natural instincts took over.
He dutifully assumed the position on the side of the car.
The most amusing part of that is he has no recollection of the event himself.
Sure, if we’d been sober it would have all been far less fascinating since we’ve heard all the stories before, but with a little social lubrication everything went swimmingly.
The witching hour was rapidly drawing near. A problem at Dodies, since that’s the time they take your booze away. Last time we were there they had to literally pry a beer from poor Dean’s fingers, much to his indignation. We finally got the hint and after Llanwyn and I both coerced each other into one more triple-strength margarita we decided it was time to go. I, of course, insisted I could walk home and made to do so.
I hummed tunelessly to myself as I made my unsteady way up the hill towards home. It would be a very short journey, hardly a mile and the fresh air would do me good. To my great surprise, however, a minivan full of drunk kiwis soon stopped beside me.
“Get in” that was Connie, Llanwyn’s eldest. She had obviously been roped into driving her dad and all his old drunk friends home from their piss-up. I waved her away.
“No, no, I can walk ‘s not too far.”
“There’s a cop car following you, didn’t you see them?”
I turned around exaggeratedly to look behind me.
“I like a guy in uniform.”
“Oh damn” Connie exclaimed in embarrassment.
“Just get in” chorused the other intoxicated inhabitants of the car.
I did so, much to their delight and took a picture of the inside of the van.
“Never again. I am never doing this again!” Connie lamented.
We dropped Dean off first, he seemed to have a little difficulty finding his door but we were confident he’d be ok on the lawn somewhere. Next stop was me.
I waved them off merrily and made my methodical way up the stairs to the door. I attempted to insert the key and missed. I took better aim and tried again. By the time I had the key in the door Kameron had opened the door for me and greeted me with an
“I hope you didn’t drive.” I shook my head and stumbled inside.
Well, the rest of the night involved me expelling a little margarita down the sink. Kameron, ever the gentleman put me to bed with a bucket. Don’t feel too sorry for him, though, I’ve had to do the same for him in the past. The next morning, howeer, has to be one of the more unpleasant hangover’s I’ve had in recent memory. Still, it was well worth it and it certainly didn’t dissuade me from my beloved margaritas.