Irish Rob is a 30-year old male model that lives his life chasing summers with his equally beautiful model wife. As testament to the fact that the better-looking you are the more you see, Irish Rob is a wonderful storyteller, regaling us with wild-eyed stories that he punctuates with shots of tequila, these tales growing more colourful with each shot.
None of the stories start with, “So, we were in this coffee shop…”
Together with the Irish couple there are three others – of which my wife and I are one. Being the amicable fellow that he is, Irish Rob politely asks if some of us wouldn’t mind swapping seats so that all of us guys can sit together at one end of the table.
At first I thought that this was so that we might conspire about things that the ladies would find offensive. However, after Irish Rob commandeers a second waiter, putting him in charge of our drinks and giving him strict orders that he should return with refills whenever our glasses reach halfway, I swallow hard.
We are not drinking to appreciate the purity of our Windhoek’s Reinheitsgebot process, or the asparagus notes in the Chardonnay. There’s no enjoying the mouthfeel of a brandy, the rich amber colour of a whisky, or the viscous legs of the Cap Classique that stroll leisurely down the flute. The fragrance of our alcohol is wasted on us, as is the sound of ice clinking in the myriad glassware. We are sport drinking. Drinking to assert ourselves as manly men. Drinking to get drunk.
The girls roll their eyes.
“Remember what happened last time?” says Irish Rob’s wife.
I think about the last time my wheels came off. But what can you do when your rubber arm has already done a complete 360-degree rotation and your new friend is encouraging you to drink up in that charming Irish lilt of his, decline? So we roll up our sleeves and proceed with the good libations. Our gears are now greased and the machine is running smoother. We are funnier, looser and more charming than when we arrived. Our bond grows stronger with each round.
Still, we aren’t drinking fast enough and so Irish Rob initiates a drinking game. Right hand. Drink. Swearing. Drink. Pointing. Drink. Touching skin. Drink. Showing teeth. Drink. Crossing limbs. Drink. We try to adhere to all these rules while playing a numbers game that I can’t grasp, and so I’m forced to grasp a new drink every time it’s my turn.
“It’s fine,’ says Irish Rob. “I’ll pay. I get the Irish discount.” Then turning to our other waiter. “Don’t I, love?”
So we drink to Irish Rob’s Irish discount. Likewise we drink as punishment. And in celebration, too. We buy the table next to ours a round of shots and drink with them. We toast our waiters and all do a down-down together. We drink like champions. Like Kings!
I notice that Irish Rob’s drink is never more than 10cm away from his mouth, and when he does set it down amongst the table, he always picks up the glass that is the most full. He is often found to be double-parked, two-fisted and belly to the bar. We introduce Irish Rob to the Katemba and in keeping with the cultural exchange he orders a round of Irish Car Bombs. When the food arrives our bellies are too bloated with booze to ingest much, so we pick at our plates like spoiled children, while continuing to focus on the task at hand.
Eventually I have to break the seal. Only after I’ve emptied my bladder do I realise how drunk I am. I look at my face in the mirror. It doesn’t look good.
I return to a table of women, who nod towards the bar where the guys have some Jagerbombs lined up…
Now we’re operating purely on the lizard part of our brains. We start an impromptu dance floor and dance the dance of drunks in a restaurant. Broken. Baboon whipped. Every double a stiff two-fingered salute to our neurons.
Irish Rob steps outside onto the postage stamp sized metal balcony so that he can fire up a smoke. Even in a vest, shorts and slops he’s still sweating. The double brandy and coke is so cold that condensation forms on the outside of the glass. Irish Rob knows better than to drink it using his right hand, and so holding his drink in his weaker left hand, while cupping a match and lighting the smoke, he then drops it squarely on top of his foot, severing something that must matter because the blood that squirts out of the wound is awesome.
“Feck!” says Irish Rob, before turning pale and passing out.
There’s blood everywhere. The most responsible from our party, Jason, pulls his shirt off and wraps it around Irish Rob’s leaking foot. The blood starts to seep through the shirt and Jason passes out. All seven of us now have some of Irish Rob’s blood on us. There’s a waiter bringing out more and more paper towels. Two ADT security guards come in with their bulletproof vests and their walkie-talkies and their batons and then just stand there and rubberneck. Jason goes to have a little lie down along one of the booths. A patron pulls on a pair of surgical gloves and attends to the foot. My wife is berating me for Tweeting while I’m actually very busy trying to find the video function on my cellphone. The checker plate balcony is now a slick red.
An hour later the medics finally arrive and Irish Rob is stretchered off to an ambulance and then the hospital. Jason pays the bill and almost faints again. Irish Rob will end up spending two nights in hospital and something to the tune of 20 grand for the surgery that follows.
Yep, just another night of sport drinking where there are no victors; a night we can’t entirely remember with a guy we won’t forget. While nursing a hangover straight out of the Old Testament.
I blame our heroes. Guys like Ernest Hemingway, whose manliness was as soused in alcohol as it was adventure. Charles Bukowski who regularly found poetry at the bottom of a bottle. My mate Gavin, a drinking demigod whose boozing brilliance never ceases to leave those around him in anything less than open-mouthed adoration…
I blame our women. After all, it’s because of the rejection we’re faced with on an average night out that leads us to drink. Alcohol gives us the confidence to approach those who women who are, more often than not, waiting to retort with a scathing retort.
I blame our insecurities. Drinking makes us braver. It helps us to be better versions of ourselves. It strips away the layers, our shyness, our doubts and reveals our true selves.
The thing is, when you point at something you have three fingers pointing back at you. I should really blame myself.
Binge drinking, (that’s technically only five drinks in a night for us guys – ha!), harbours a ying to the goodtime yang. The hangover is actually a mild poisoning. Poisonings that grow increasingly more severe until your only way of fighting it off is by staying drunk. Thus entering a Sisyphean cycle whereby no matter how hard you attempt to push through, your only salvation is to keep pushing through.
The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness,” and, sure, we all need to go a little bit crazy every now and again, but at what cost? Because in the end drinking will kill you. But not before it robs you of your looks, like a Fat Jim Morrison was burgled by booze. Or makes you lose your girl, alienate your kids, disgrace your parents, irritate your friends and piss all your money away.
Take heed of the lyrics of any Johnny Cash tune.
So drink smart, stay sharp and mix your liquor with a modicum of decorum. Also, if you happen to go out for dinner with an Irishman don’t allow him to exhort you into drinking harder than you usually do. There’s nothing pretty about the view from under the table.