Tonight I went on a booze cruise. On my three month anniversary of sober living. I didn’t go on it to booze I just went on it to cruise. I didn’t actually realise it was a booze cruise until I was trapped on the vessel. I had assumed it was an elegant sit down dinner on a boat but instead it was me, a few hundred piss-wrecks and a soggy fish taco to tide me over for four hours (I also thought it was only three hours so this was another unpleasant surprise). I had been given a spot on the boat by my boss at work, and had taken my partner. New to the corporate world, I also hadn’t realised that I was meant to schmooze to pay for my space on the boat, and part of that was allowing myself to be plied with a steady stream of alcohol. I obviously hadn’t realised or thought anything, and had assumed wrongly about everything.
The regret was almost instantaneous as we floated away from the pontoon on our prison vessel. Why had I done this to myself? I had elected to spend my Friday night with a bunch of people I don’t know and couldn’t escape from, and they would all be completely pie-eyed in the very near future. I looked over the side of the boat and envisioned myself jumping in, big wool jacket and all, and swimming to the shore with flailing fabric laden arms. People would probably be disappointed when I made it to the edge as they would have preferred I got eaten by a shark, just for the drama of it. Woman jumps from boat and swims safely to shore, what sort of story is that to share on Instagram? No, she must die from a horrible shark attack and then we can all pretend to be really sad, and hope the FOMO photo of the city lights at night accompanying the caption ‘So sad to see a woman eaten by a shark when trying to enjoy a fab night out with friends’ gets loads of little hearts.
Once firmly trapped on the boat, the rep who was holding the evening, started passing around glasses of bubbles. Let the social lubrication begin! I declined. Next she asked if anyone wanted a beer. Again I declined. Then vodka was offered. I told her a soda would be fine. Her spider senses were now tingling and she asked ‘are you not drinking at all?’, her face looked concerned, like I might be about to reveal that I have a fatal illness. At my confirmation that I was not, she replied, ‘well, more for us then!’ looking quite obviously put out by my revelation. Whether the ‘more for us’ comment was referring to the current group, or the boat as a whole, or Australia as a highly boozy nation, or the world in general, I am not sure, but someone indeed would be having more and this lady would make sure of it.
The woman had a mission, and it was to get everyone as boozed as possible as quickly as possible, and she succeeded. Within an hour everyone was so drunk that conversation, which had been pretty uninteresting to begin with, grew into just plain painful. One man droned on and on about how he would never go to Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan etc. (all these countries were the one to him. Thank you elder white man for teaching me the ways of your well trodden ignorance) when my partner and I said we had been on holiday to Sri Lanka a few weeks ago. Another man who had been throwing brews back like a pelican with a fish, tried to initiate a conversation with me as he hovered about 5 centimetres away from my face on his unsteady feet, a bubbly ball of spittle resting on his lower lip. I stared at that spittle ball with intensity. If I looked away and back again, and it was gone I would never know if he had managed to clean himself up, like a good little adult, or whether it had landed somewhere on me.
Once the boredom/irritation/yearning for a warm drink in bed took over I decided to escape to the bathroom,and perhaps get a little lost on my way back. The bathroom was a rookie error. The worst place to be on a drunken evening is the ladies toilets. It’s like a sanctuary for women to let the dramatic tears flow, to randomly kick doors for no apparent reason, a place to convene to swap gossip and assess who needs to be bitched out. It’s a dark abyss. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve probably been part of a gaggle a few times, nutting out who needs a good character assassination, but sober me couldn’t help but feel slightly worried when the door to my cubicle was body slammed, and then when I tried to make my way to the sink I was blocked by a flock of women evaluating whether Bethany Anne’s boyfriend was cheating with Jo Mary. I didn’t quite catch their names, but I feel I should have told her he probably was, and you won’t find out in here so mush Bethany Anne, go forth and catch that lying sack of shit. But mainly get out of my fucking way so I can wash my hands.
When sober no one meets at the toilet, no one says to you in a hushed tone, ‘meet me in the toilet, I need to tell you about this delicious herbal tea I tried’. Toilet visitation now and forever should be a solitary activity, a practical activity, used for the purging of unwanted waste or the intake of illicit substances to get wasted but not as a social hot spot.
After the toilet disaster I messaged my partner to tell him to meet me on the top deck. Away from the buzz of drunks on their way up, and the inevitable accompanying sexual heat that emanated from them, I could finally breathe a little easier. ‘What time is it?’, I asked him as he approached me, hoping beyond hope that the 3 hours was close to being up. However, it seems time stands still when you are in purgatory, and it was only an hour and a half since we had been swept away into the cruel river. This was also the point when I found out that the three hour trip was in fact four, and panic started to creep in. I wished I had brought my emergency Valium with me. I have a safety pack of Valium I take around with me as a precaution for times when I might get trapped somewhere. It’s like my cyanide tablet. Elevator breaks down: sneaky Valium, train stuck in a tunnel for an unendurable amount of time: sneaky Valium. I have yet to actually use it in one of these scenarios, and cursed myself that the one time I legitimately did need it I had left it at home. Probably for the best. I might have tried to throw the whole pack down my throat, and then my partner would’ve had to deliver the Heimlich manoeuvre to make me cough them up, and as I was led away on a stretcher by the ambos I would hear the rep’s voice in the background saying ‘I thought she might have a serious illness, I just didn’t realise it was a drug addiction. I knew she couldn’t be that straight’.
Eventually we made our way back to the party. As we were talking in a group the spittle man came up to me again, ‘so you don’t drink?’ he asked. It was obvious he had run out of people to talk to. Everyone was probably too afraid of wayward spittle to engage with him. At my agreement that I did not, he declared, ‘you’re the sensible one then!’. To me it kind of felt like the ‘you’re so refreshing’ byline that people take when really they wish you’d just get back into line and follow like everyone else. It’s well known that no one uses the word ‘refreshing’ for people unless they are being derogatory. I started to tell him how I’d only quit a few months ago but after the first sentence I could see his eyes glaze over and I stopped. I’m not even one of those preachy non drinkers. I don’t discuss it with people unless they ask but in his eyes I could see I had been labelled a bore. But that’s cool, I didn’t want to engage with him anyway. Who knows when that rogue spit ball could return.
After what felt like an eternity I could see the landing pontoon, and relief spread through me like I had partaken in a safety Valium. I even rushed over to the side of the boat to monitor the progress of the gang-plank. I felt like yelling, ‘keep the pace up boys! There’s a shiny dollar in it for you if you make it snappy’. It seemed almost funny that my punishment had been to walk the plank to get ON the boat but at that moment I had no time to ruminate on the irony of the situation. Eventually the plank was lowered with a thud, and I could taste the freedom. I rushed over to the rep to give my thanks and bid her adieu, and she enveloped me in a big warm hug, ‘I hope you enjoyed yourself! I feel like I’ve barely seen you all night. What a shame’, she exclaimed. Yep, I thought to myself, what a shame indeed. I guess we all carry regrets about this evening…
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