Working in bars over the years has given me a unique opportunity to practice keeping my mouth shut. For instance, "But he has a cold sore!" -is something I'm not going to yell out, tempting (and true) as though it may be. But human interaction at its finest is not alcohol's specialty, and often, being the only sober mind, body, and mouth in a room is a decidedly, well, sobering experience.
First there is the frustration of hearing the same lines, catchphrases, and stories day in and out. More depressing still is hearing them from all the same people. It's the best anti-drinking commercial you can find, and having the patience to endure it is a lesson in Buddhism.
Then, there is the unbridled and all-too-often uncensored human mating rituals. Here's where you will either get extremely good at hurting people's feelings, or sparing them- depending on how they rank on your list of people you can tolerate. The values on this list range between "no way no how" all the way up to "just barely." But really, the most important thing one needs to remember in their observations of drunken foreplay is this: think of the people in front of you as horny dogs and cats, all vying for the opportunity to spray on you and smell your ass glands. Sound gross? It is. But so is the thought of dating someone you've witnessed coming into the same place for years, dry humping several different dates in the bathroom hallway minutes after you heard their date throw up in the ladies room and walk out without washing her hands. Somehow, the magic just isn't there anymore.
When inebriated, humans are gluttons for their own emotions, insecurities, instincts, and fantasies. If you squint hard enough, you can peer across a room full of simultaneous conversations between strangers and see people for who they are imagining themselves to be in that moment. Some people are dressed in capes and others like porn stars. Some people become children and all fat chicks become skinny. The skinny ones become Beyonce. Sober while wearing these glasses, you may soon realize you've been doing this too long and become too unapologetic when explaining to people why you don't go out, why you prefer home, why you prefer the loyalty of your relationship. You are unblinking when you say this and now the jig is up. You're not one of them, even though they are your peers. You are an impostor in this scene of social solidarity, and you've come here to judge them and take away their fun and grandeur.
But you grew out of their sort of fun a long time ago, having never been fully convinced of your own drunken alter-ego or its judgement. While it never seemed to bother anyone else, it's always bugged the fuck out of you. Now you make money off of the vices you've given up, taken on the role of the nurse with the clean needles, and sneak out the back door on every offer for a free drink. The noise and crowded, cramped spaces become fluid to you as you drift through them, quiet as a thought. And maybe, someone squinting at you from across the room sees you as the ninja on a broom. The fly on the wall. The tiger in a cage.