An Ode to Drinking

I like to drink. I really like to drink.

And if I can find a little, hole-in-the-wall bar, I like it even more.

I think one of my favorite things about these places, even more than the booze, is the people who you meet.

People in bars. People in dive bars. People in dive bars at 4:00 in the afternoon on a Monday are different.

They are more honest and open than people outside. I think if you are in a bar on a Monday afternoon, you want to talk and you want someone to listen to you.

I like to hear people’s stories almost as much as a like to drink.

So, that’s how I found myself at a local bar on a Monday afternoon here in St. John’s. Within 15 minutes of walking in the door, I had made a friend. She was a lovely lady a little older than me who had been in the city for over 20 years. She talked and I listened. I talked and she listened.

She told me about her job. She told me about the heartbreak of family tragedies. She told me about the excitement and joy she gets from her grandchildren.

I was happy to listen.

When it was my turn I told her about how I came to be in St. John’s. I told her about what I hoped to do here and some of my fears about what would happen if those things didn’t work out.

She was happy to listen.

There is something about drinking in bars, especially on a Monday afternoon, that strips away all the pretense and posturing of life. No one is there to impress or one-up the guy across from them. We are all there to forget for a little bit, to share stories, and to commiserate with one another.

Without judgment, we drink and we share. We gain insights into our lives and gain insights into the lives of others.

The booze is the bonding agent.

Over three or four beers my new friend and I shared a lot of stories – some funny and some sad. We each got a tiny little window into the other’s life and, at the end, I think we both felt a little better.

Had we met in a different place, I don’t think this would have happened. The coffee shop or the line at the bank don’t lend themselves to these types of experiences.

Had we met at a different time, I don’t think this would have happened. At 10:00 on a Friday, it’s a different crowd wanting different things. Those people are there to blow off steam after a week of work. They want loud music and strong alcohol. They want to drink, dance, and shout the night away.

The types of experiences I enjoy most only exist in those quiet hours that belong to the regulars, the slow drinkers who chat amongst themselves about sports, the weather, families, and politics. We don’t care about music. We don’t care about dancing or bouncing from bar to bar. We want to sit and drink and listen and be listened to.

I don’t think we are broken or sad although some may disagree. I don’t think we are alcoholics but some may. Instead, I think that we need to connect in a way that is hard to do in the outside world. And it is definitely hard to do when completely sober.

Like a confessional or a therapist’s office, there is something about an afternoon spent in a bar that opens you up and exposes the real human in you. It also makes you more receptive and empathetic to the humanity in others. Time spent there lays bare all of the conflicts and questions that you don’t want to (or can’t) face in the cold light of the outside world.

The problems of the self and the world are solved in a bar at 4:00 in the afternoon on a Monday. Again and again.


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