Thursday, April 21, 2005

Why Do They Call It "Happy Hour"?

This evening's the Columbia Young Alumni Happy Hour at this place called PS450. The monthly newse-mail from the alumni association called it "the new Gramercy hot spot," and I guess that caught my eye because I never really wanted to go to one of these things before. Heck, I never even wanted to read the alumni newsletter before.

The party's from six to question mark, but the drinks are cheap only till nine. I get to the bar a little before five-thirty. I tend to arrive at these things when the opening bell rings, way before the celebration is in full swing, and I made a mental note to wait until at least six-thirty before making my entrance. I figured I'd leave work at five-thirty, deposit my paycheck, find a place to grab a slice of pizza so that the alcohol wouldn't have me tumbling down Park Avenue, and get to the bar right as happy hour hit its peak. But then, it was a little was a little before five when Ken left to see a client, and he asked whoever was leaving the office around 5:30 to take the trash out to the dumpster. And I didn't laugh and tell him that I don't even touch my own trash. I just made sure to leave well before 5:30.

Since it's early, I decide I'll walk past PS450 and try to get some sense of the place. I can't really see in, thanks to the tinted windows, but I can see three guys, executive dress, ties, like nine feet taller than I am sitting at a table, and my hopes crash. I scrubbed my face with Clearasil for this occassion! But still, I don't think I can make it in unnoticed. I walk around Murray Hill for an hour or so.

It gets later, and I see more folks I recognize but who don't recognize me. I'm walking past the bar for the fourth or fifth time, and there's this girl standing outside on her cell phone, possibly talking to a weather recording, "...I'm not gonna go in and start drinking by myself." I'm frantically calling people, not really expecting anybody to answer, but I'm not gonna stand around talking to the cell phone itself. Someone opens the door and I hear a lot of clamor and I figure it's safe to go in.

It is. No one cards me, no one even notices. A fifteen-year-old could walk in here and get a gin and tonic; in fact, there probably were some fifteen-year-olds in there. I saw Laura Sherman and that guy from Hillel and that girl he's always with, but I wouldn't hesitate to say that most of the bar was not Columbia Young Alumni. Most of the bar wasn't even young. I'm standing in the middle of a huge throng around the alcohol center, and I'm not sure, but I think it was bring-your-own-stilts night. I'm a little kid jockeying to get closer to the bartender, and the whole thing is kind of futile because even if I can move these people out of the way, the bar itself is taller than I am and I'll just become another stool. Honestly, drunks, this is why they invented the queue.

And it's not like I'm naturally the pushy type, either. I'll stand in the back and wait patiently for someone to take my order. I think I turn a little more proactive when I actually am inebriated, but that's a nice Catch-22. (I thought of going to a different bar and getting a drink there in order to psych myself up for the hot spot happy hour.) I wander aimlessly for a little while, trying to look like I fit in, but without friends or alcohol, there's not much of a point. I'll do better standing outside like I'm waiting for someone.

PS450, the Young Alumni Happy Hour, was perfect. Just like college. I was all by myself, out of place, and sober.

I actually tried again in the bar, but it didn't go any better.

Now, I have no idea why I did next what I did next, but I'm proud that I didn't have a cell phone conversation with no one. I called Mom. Whenever I'm down, I can always count on Mom to say something emasculating and inappropriate, such as, "Why don't you try a fuzzy navel?" and then follow it up with something else emasculating and inappropriate, like perhaps, "I'm sure if you went inside, you could talk to somebody. Ask them where they've been living." Then she would likely say something emasculating and inappropriate, which is exactly what she did, in a depressing attempt to get me back into PS450. Seven minutes later, I realized was standing outside a college bar talking to Mommy, and at that point, I figured the night was pretty much a wash.