We’ve all had these mornings when we wish the night before had gone just a little differently.
At the time it always seems like a good idea. Or, at the very least, like a harmless good time. In the back of the mind there is always the knowledge of going to work the next day that is supposed to act as a guide, steering us away from regrettably excessive fun. Most of the time it works, but every now and then the little devil inside us takes hold and reminds us why we work so hard to keep him in check.
In this particular case, my little devil was a young friend who was celebrating her 22nd birthday. That was my mistake: thinking that I, now in my 31st year, could keep up with a room full of partying college students. In uncool, old-guy fashion, I was the first to arrive. When this friend invited me I told her that I don’t do 10 p.m. starts, so to placate me she started the party at 8. My invitation was probably the only one with that time, though, since the rest of the guests didn’t start arriving until an hour later.
Since I had a head start and figured I’d be driving home soon, I paced myself with the drinks. However, once the youthfulness started swirling it was hard not to get caught up in its power. Soon I found myself standing at one end of a pingpong table set up in the living room with a plastic sheet underneath it. “This can’t end well,” I told myself.
Nonetheless, there I was with six red plastic party cups neatly arranged in a pyramid shape in front of me, all containing gulpable amounts of alcohol. My job was to toss a little pingpong ball into my opponent’s similarly filled cups, thereby forcing them to drink their contents before they did it to me.
It was a close match, as my partner and I kept pace with our foes until both ends of the table were down to one cup. With the amount of intoxicating beverage that had already been consumed, the back and forth of trying to toss a little ball 10 feet into a little cup could go on for a very long time. The spirit of competition is an amazing thing, though, and I, being almost a decade older than the other players, was the one to sink the winning shot. Maybe it was my extra years of practice controlling my senses under the weight of intoxicating beverages.
After the thrill of victory had passed, I checked my watch: 10:30 p.m. Sentences that were earlier running through my head — “I haven’t had that many” and “I can have one more” — were replaced with “I really need to drink some water” and “How can it be that late?”
Normally, I am sound asleep in my comfortable, pillow-topped bed by that time. The hour would not have bothered me so much except that in order to get myself home I’d have to spend some time sobering up before I could get in the car. So I replaced the contents of my happy red cup with water and continued to socialize while my head cleared.
Finally, about 11:45, I felt steady enough to take my sorry self home. The Wife was already sound asleep when I got there, so I quietly slipped in bed. I lay there on my back, thinking that I had a good time but that I really, really hoped the good time would be gone by morning.
At about 4 a.m. the good times had stopped and been replaced by a throbbing headache. I knew right away the cause: vodka. One of the gifts I received when I turned 30 was an undesirable after-effect to drinking Russians’ choice. I can’t drink it in any quantity without serious consequences to my head. I got up, popped two Tylenol and was finally able to fall back asleep. The pain returned several hours later and, well, two more Tylenol, a shower and a McDonald’s breakfast later, here I am.
Several weeks ago, The Wife went snowshoeing for the first time. She was so sore she could barely move for several days but she was determined to do it again that she has spent every day since exercising in the morning so her muscles would be ready. She went again on Friday morning and upon returning reported happily that she could in fact move her legs and arms normally. Perhaps I need to start a regimen of regular party exercise to rebuild my stamina to the level of my college days.
By no means is this the worst I have ever felt after an evening of fun. The day after my 30th birthday was far worse. But what amazes me is that once upon a time feeling like this was just all part of the game. I’d shake it off and think nothing of it. Now, on the rare occasion that it happens, I am just reminded of why I don’t do this anymore. As I told my young friend before the party started, I have come to enjoy waking up well before noon and having a productive day before enjoying a relaxing late afternoon and going to sleep at a decent time and waking up the next day on a full eight hours of rest. Maybe I am old beyond my years, but I like it.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go take a nap.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.