As most of the world probably knows, the legal drinking age throughout the United States is 21. We can vote, and die for our country at the tender age of 18, but heaven forbid we should have even the mildest of alcoholic beverage.
Once upon a time, I was a reasonably well-behaved Mormon girl. I didn’t partake of caffeinated drinks (coffee, soda), I never touched tea (sadly), didn’t smoke, and certainly never did drugs. (Well, okay, I tried pot, but it just made me giddy and giggly). Definitely, no alcohol, even experimentally. I didn’t particularly have an interest…
Just before I turned twenty-one, one of my oldest, dearest friends, Kevin, asked me to come and visit him, as after high school we’d landed in neighbouring states. We decided that I’d come for the week surrounding my twenty-first birthday. My birthday is in February, and his twenty-first had just passed in December. So, even though he didn’t necessarily mention it prior to me loading up my little Chevy Beretta and heading for Missouri, Kevin thought that it would be just the thing to go out drinking that weekend.
Imagine my surprise.
Kevin, being the fabulous guy that he is, took me out shopping that Friday in honor of my birthday. Cute, if pretty daring, clothes were purchased. Hell, he insisted, because frankly, they really weren’t things I’d have picked for myself. Big stompy black platform boots, short skirt, sheer black top (which, thankfully, did have a solid tank-style undershirt to go with it). Kevin even had a friend of his do my make-up for me.
And then he took me to his favourite weekend haunt. A pretty fantastic, if somewhat small, gay club. We had a designated driver – the friend that did my make-up was only 19, and though she could get in, she couldn’t drink – and so all the proper safety precautions were taken. At least, I thought so.
We parked in the designated parking lot for the club, which was across the street. At the time, they were doing some pretty major overhauls to… you know what? I don’t know. Probably power lines, or something. At any rate, on both sides of the street, there were ditches that we had to navigate. I’m not one to wear heels or stompy boots as a rule, and I’m a bit of a klutz anyway, so it was rough going when I was stone cold sober. Why, oh why didn’t I consider what a nightmare those ditches might be if I had had a few drinks?
Yeah. A few drinks…
Upon getting through the door, Kevin immediately steered me towards the bar. “Tell the guy what you want”, he instructed. So, having absolutely no experience with this whatsoever, I leaned over the bar and shouted to the bartender, “What’s good”?
“That depends”, the bartender answered me. “Do you want something sweet? Fruity? You could try a good ol’ beer, or…”
Naively, I asked him what he liked. The answer? Long Island Iced Tea.
Do you know what’s in a Long Island Iced Tea? I didn’t. It wasn’t until a few days later that I discovered that it contains tequila, vodka, rum, triple sec, gin, and a splash of a couple of other things, including cola, but I believe those few other things are not alcoholic in nature.
I lost count of how many Long Islands I actually consumed that night, but what I do remember is that any time that Kevin found me without a drink in my hand, he went back and got me another.
Oh, but I was having fun, at the time. Dancing, laughing, and drink, drink, drinking. All things (good or bad) must come to an end, though, and eventually closing time rolled around.
Our designated driver, Jackie, had to wait in line with all of the other under-21’s to get her driver’s license back at the door. Initially, I was standing nearby with her and Kevin as she waited. It dawned on me, though, that it was unbearably hot inside that little club, and I let Kevin and Jackie know that I was going to step outside and get some air. I told them that I’d be right outside the club and made for the door.
There were two very important observations that I made as soon as I stepped outside the door into the cold February air. Firstly, as soon as that cold air touched my skin, I immediately realised, “Oh, Shannon. You are so drunk.” Secondly, there were far too many other people hovering just outside that door for my comfort. Loud, unruly strangers, most of whom were out there so they could smoke as they waited for their designateds and under-21’s. Completely forgetting that 1.) I am a klutz, 2.) I was wearing ridiculous platform boots, and 3.) the parking lot required crossing the street with the ditches on either side, I told myself that Kevin and Jackie would surely realize I went to the car, and headed off in that direction.
I made it to the crosswalk safely, and that’s about all I can say for myself.
Cautiously, I began to attempt to navigate the first ditch. I couldn’t have made it more than a couple of steps before I lost my footing, and landed flat on my back. I laughed at myself for a moment, and then, half crawled out onto the street. Up on my feet once more, and thinking that surely that would be the worst of it, I crossed and began the attempt to get through the second ditch. I was once again flat on my back in a ditch quick as a flash. This second time, though, laying on my back and observing the stars above my head (real ones, thank you), I decided I was perfectly content to wait there for Kevin and Jackie to find me. And so, I stared at the stars and waited. After a moment, I closed my eyes.
“Oh, honey, no”.
I opened my eyes and turned my head in the direction I heard the voice coming from. All I could see, at first, was the largest pair of red hooker heels I had ever encountered.
“C’mon, baby. We got to get you out this ditch”.
I found myself being hauled to my feet, and this Good Samaritan supported me as we crawled out. On solid ground once more, I looked up and found myself in the (very strong) arms of a remarkably pretty drag queen, who looked a little bit like a very muscular Janet Jackson. (Of course, I was drunk, but honestly, that’s how I remember her)!
I’d love to tell you that I took that in stride, without even the tiniest hint of shock. I’d love to tell you that. I can’t. My mouth fell open and words completely failed me. I’m so thankful that my drag queen superwoman had a good sense of humour. She just laughed at my surprise and asked me if I had a ride home before insisting on walking me to Jackie’s car. I slumped onto the ground by the rear wheel as my Good Samaritan walked away – with far more grace even in her hooker heels than I’ve had in my entire life.
The next thing I remember is waking up very naked in Kevin’s bed.