Tuesday night, a few friends and I headed down to Recessions to enjoy a send-off drink for a departing friend.
A group of about half a dozen fellow drinkers were seated adjacent to us. One was slumped, extremely intoxicated and possibly unconscious, at the head of the table. Recessions’ motto is “Get too MUCH for your money!”—-their King Kong double-beer mugs sell at the price of a regular pint-sized brew—-and this guy, it seems, had gotten too much for his money.
One of the conscious patrons at the table, a guy wearing an upside-down “NBA” headband, took two of the aforementioned mugs, raised them, and rammed them together close to the drunk man’s head. One shattered. The headbanded man shrugged. “I was trying to make a clinking noise,” he explained, pushing the broken mugs into a pile of empties. “Is this guy your friend?” he continued. “Do you know this guy?”
I peered at the drunk man. I had seen him, only minutes earlier, when he was upright, coherent, and sporting the most extreme popped collar I have ever seen. The thing was impressive: buttoned all the way up to the neck then popped triumphantly to the cheekbones, resulting in a look I can only describe as Frat Vampire (Frampire?).
Now, the guy was immobile. His head hung limply over his lap; his collar had drooped back into a resting position. His friends were gone, replaced by a fresh table of young semi-professionals.
No, we said. We do not know this guy.
The man with the headband tried again to communicate with the intoxicated man. “Biiiill,” he called across the table. The drunk man shook his head. “Jim? John. John. He looks like a John.” Again, the drunk man shook his head.
At this point, the man with the headband jumped onto the table, declared several times that he was Theodore Roosevelt, and returned to his chair.
“John,” said Theodore Roosevelt. “Bill. John.”
“Percy,” I suggested. The drunk man managed to tilt his head toward me and, eyes shut, strike a bemused smile.
By now, nearly half the bar had become interested. The attention from the bar patrons ranged from sympathetic concern to severe ridicule:
“Where do you live? Where are your friends?”
“Can we call you a cab?”
“Hey, what congressman do you work for? Tancredo, right?”
Theodore Roosevelt sprung to action. He grabbed hold of the ultimate drunk-shaming instrument—-the Sharpie—-and held it in the air. The crowd erupted in laughs and groans.
“Look,” Theodore Roosevelt insisted, wielding the marker, “When a guy passes out drunk at a bar, I’m not responsible for what I do to him.”
“No, don’t draw on him,” some insisted. “You’re not his friend.”
“Where do you think I got this earring?” Roosevelt demanded, rubbing the sparkling silver hook that rested high on his ear. “Do you think I got this earring at Claire’s? Because I didn’t. Someone gave me this earring when I was passed-out drunk. Did I complain when I woke up and I had an earring? No!”
I became confused. Roosevelt was planning to pierce this man’s ear with a Sharpie?
“We have reached a moral dilemma,” my departing friend noted.
I considered it. Was it our right to humiliate the intensely drunk Frampire? Or, by taking a seat next to him, had we become responsible for caring for this childlike figure?
The dilemma was left unresolved, as the crowd remained cautiously helpful—-but firmly condescending. One man brought over a glass of water, a gesture the drunk man couldn’t register. Theodore Roosevelt offered to pay for his cab, but then rescinded the offer when the drunk man mumbled something about living in Virginia. I contemplated venturing into his pant pocket to attempt to recover his telephone or some sort of identifying information, but decided that reaching into a drunk dude’s pants probably wasn’t the best idea.
“Can I borrow your cell phone, please?” I asked.
His head wobbled slightly from side to side.
“Hey, I’m trying to help you.”
At last, the Frampire spoke: “Ahhm finnhe. Learrve me allohne.”
“Oh, you’re right, my mistake,” I said, and backed off. But as soon as I reclaimed my seat, the inevitable happened—-—alcohol began to escape through the man’s mouth, with an extreme urgency, onto the carpet below.
The sound alerted a Recessions barman. The crowd dispersed. Roosevelt ordered another round of tequila shots. Percy, or Jim, or John—-he looked like a John—-was escorted from the bar, and our moral obligation was lifted. The intoxicated man’s fate was handed off to a bartender, a cab driver, maybe a cop. The party was over.
For a moment, I wondered about the drunk man’s safety, but soon, his plight left our minds. Seated at our new table, we clinked glasses, only slightly tipsy. “That guy sure showed us up,” I said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”