I have been really inebriated twice in my life—once at age 17 when I was learning about wine, and once at age 25, when I was learning about whiskey, and was certainly old enough to know better.
The first incident occurred when one of the kids “acquired” a couple of bottles of his parent’s wine. We were having a wine party at the home of one of the kids whoes parents were safely gone.
None of us were experienced drinkers and we all discovered that you could drink a glass of wine right down with no immediate effect, so some of us, including me, drank several. Then with the passage of a little time the effects began to manifest themselves.
I felt that I needed some fresh air, so I went outside and walked onto a vacant lot next to the house. On this lot was a large old tire. I thought, “I’ll just sit down on this old tire and rest a bit.” It felt quite comfortable so I slid back and laid my head on the far side of the tire and went to sleep. An indeterminate length of time later the guys who had been more moderate in their imbibing came looking for me, awakened me and took me home. I didn’t want any more wine for a long time and I went back to being a teetotaler. This lasted eight years!
Eight years later, at age 25 I was working at Lockheed Aircraft, as a group supervisor. It was Christmas Eve and the plant shut down early. My boss, the department head, invited all of the group supervisors to his home for a Christmas drink.
Some of the guys were sipping straight Ancient Age out of jiggers. It looked pretty macho so I decided to take mine this way, so that my inexperience as a drinker wouldn’t show. Well, it showed. But it took a while.
After drinking an unknown number of these little drinks, my friend Cliff Dillon and I left the party in his car. Cliff’s wife, Mildred, was working as a temporary Christmas time clerk at Nash’s Department Store in Pasadena. Cliff and I had a great idea! We thought “let’s go see Mildred on the way home!” So we parked and went into Nash’s and found Mildred. We thought she would be surprised and glad to see us. She was surprised alright, but in no way was she glad to see us. She couldn’t get us out of that store fast enough!
Cliff took me home and got me there just before what went down started coming up. Phyllis’ reception was startled and cool. She had never seen me like that, and she didn’t like it. She led me to bed and gave me a towel and a bucket.
The bed which had always been very stable couldn’t stay on the floor. The foot of the bed would rise in a nauseating swing, almost to the ceiling and then veer over to one side until I felt I would fall out.
Phyllis, who by nature was mild and gentle, approached me with a book and a pen and my paycheck, which she had found in my wallet, and laid the check on the book and handed me the pen and with a drill sergeant tone in her voice ordered, “SIGN IT!” Then she was off to do her Christmas dinner shopping, leaving me with my nausea and humiliation and stupidity to fend for myself.
She laughed about it later but at the time it was very unfunny.
It was a great lesson to me. It taught me to “coast,” which means to make my encounters with liquor gradual—and, as soon as I feel a tiny buzz, to order my next drink “tonic with a dash of gin on the top.”