Eric’s Bday

18 Oct

Eric’s birthdays are often memorable. I’ve been present for three of them now, and each one of them is firmly entrenched into my mind bank forever.

The first one I attended was a booze-fueled romp down the Han River on a sightseeing boat. It wasn’t a booze cruise, but we turned it into one, much to the chagrin of the families with small children onboard. When we returned to land, Eric’s friend, Judy, presented him with nunchucks, allowing Eric to put on a demonstration of his nunchuck skills of which he had none. Frankly, we were all watched the demonstration in the hopes he would smack himself in the nuts. (Humor doesn’t get more highbrow!) He never did. That was the only disappointing part of the evening.

The second one didn’t involve nunchucks or boats, but there was a Wheel of Fun you would spin Jeopardy-style that would land on different pie slices offering suggestions (commands?) of “fun” things to do. (It was provided by, who else, Judy. She’s a terrible influence!) The night devolved into love shots, kisses, and lap dances. Also, a long-term relationship grew out of the carnage of that night in a strangely roundabout way.

The third birthday of his I was present for also delivered in a big way. The crazy and the weird started well before the actual party began. The moment that kicked everything off came when we were approaching a breathalyzer stop on the road from Alleppey to Kochi.

There were six of us in the car, an English girl, Libby, and a South African girl, Kate, we had met on the beach in Kovalam, an English bloke, Peter, who we met on the train platform in Varkala, Eric and I, and our driver, a short Indian man with a mustache that wobbled his head from side-to-side when nervous and who, apparently, liked to throw a few beers back at lunch on Tuesdays.

Our driver was a maniac on the road, passing cars without abandon on blind turns and when being stared down by buses. This didn’t make him any different from the other drivers on the road.

He didn’t seem nervous when he approached the breathalyzer stop. He pulled up, blew into the breathalyzer and let his foot off the brake before the breathalyzer beeped back at him. He stopped, blew again. Beep! The cop told him to pull over and get out of the car.

The rest of us were left in the car running through the possible outcomes of this situation in our minds. Through the windows, we watched our driver fail the breathalyzer again. He returned to the car and pulled a bottle of tea out from under the driver’s seat. He took a swig and swished it around in his mouth. He blew into the breathalyzer again. Beep! The cops talked to him sternly. He shook his head. They berated him again. He acquiesced, shaping his index finger and thumb to signify “a little.” Then, the driver returned to the car. He got in. He turned on the engine.

“What the hell is happening?” one of us said, or perhaps all of us.

Our driver chimed in, “Only one drink and pffft…” He wobbled his head from side-to-side. We had been in the car for too long already for one drink to still be affecting him.

The cops all climbed into their car and had our driver follow them through the streets into the outskirts of Kochi. They allowed our driver, who had just failed his breathalyzer, to drive to the police station.

At first, he tried to pass them, as he had passed so many cars before, but they blocked his maneuver, gesturing with their hands and directing with their eyes for him to follow only. He flashed the police a huge grin. It wasn’t the time for joking, but none of us could hold back from laughing, though for most of us the laughter extended from a place of uncertainty and nervousness. Our driver, however, only seemed to display confidence.

When we arrived at the police station, our diver was escorted inside, leaving us alone in the car. No one informed us of what was going on, so after five minutes or so, Eric went up to the receptionist at the front of the station and asked, “What’s happening?”

The receptionist looked at him with a confused expression. “This is a police station. Nothing is happening.” And that’s about as much information as Eric was able to obtain.

We then contemplated grabbing another cab. We hadn’t paid our fair yet, and we were already an hour and a half into the journey, and our driver was pulled over for operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, so we could justify bailing on him. But then he returned.

He climbed in the car and told us he had to pay a 500 Rupee fine. He turned on the car and finished driving us to our destination. After having been busted by the police for drunk driving, he was released from the police station with his car keys and allowed to continue driving.

Incredible India!

Later on, the girls caught a night train on to Goa. Peter, Eric, and I stayed in Kochi. It would be Eric’s birthday at midnight. We had to celebrate.

There was only one bar listed in the guidebook the Fort Cochin section of the city where we were staying. That made planning the night easy but the prospect of a memorable birthday grim.

We never should have worried.

After a few beers at dinner, we made our way to the bar. On the way, we ran into a Scottish couple, Sean and Charlene, in the first month of a year-long trip around the world. They were headed to the bar too. Of course they were, they were Scottish. They asked us to join them. They were celebrating Sean’s birthday today, October 16th. We told them we were also celebrating Eric’s birthday. It was decided then and there that midnight would be the culmination of the night. Eric-Sean 2012 was on! (Say it fast. Eric-Sean. Eric-Sean.)

Out came the beers. Out came the accents. Out came the rats. A rat ran across the floor of the bar. Everyone raised their feet off the ground. Cheers! Keep drinking. The Scots mention they recently bought a flat in downtown Glasgow for 80,000 pounds. Peter, who lives in London, stands up from the table in a huff. “80,000 pounds?! That’s mental!” That would buy him a broom closet in London. Cheers! Keep drinking. The bar manager comes up to tell us the bar closes at 10:30 PM. Sean throws a tip his way, so he’ll keep serving us. Cheers! Keep drinking. The manager regrets his decision and kicks us to the street.

The party moved outside. The remaining bar patrons join our group. We congregated under a street lamp that kept turning on and off with the electrical currents sent in by the power company. Tonight, the breaks in electricity are frequent, going so far as to create a strobe light effect during one or two moments. Perfect.

We start to walk the streets. Midnight is closing in. Where are we going to culminate Eric-Sean 2012? Two locals emerge from the darkness, their timing as impeccable as it is in the movies. They have an open air restaurant where we can hang.

Charlene made an offhand comment about being able to buy anything in India for the right price. She threw some money their way and requested some music. It was a solid move that fell apart when she left the choice of song up to the locals.

Seconds later, Gangnam Style blared over the speakers and the two locals started dancing like PSY in the video. They shout all the words they know (all four of them). Eric has a look on his face that clearly read disappointment. He thought he had left Korea, but it had found a way to catch up with him. But when the locals started to try to get Eric to dance along, he had no choice but to embrace it.

The song ended and Eric and Sean pose for a picture. It was midnight!

The locals, however, not to be left out, run into the frame. They want their picture taken with Eric and Sean too. Altogether, they end up posing for half a dozen shots.

The moment came and it passed. Just after midnight, everyone started exchanging Facebook info. It was time to retire for the night. Just after midnight might seem like an early night for a birthday, but when you’ve been involved in a drunk driving incident, closed down a bar, and heard Gangnam Style, there’s not many more places your night can go but down. It’s generally best to get out while you’re still ahead.

Besides, as the clock struck twelve and the 17th turned to the 18th, Eric became 26. He is getting old. And midnight is plenty late when such fine memories had already been made.

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2 Responses to “Eric’s Bday”

  1. Henry October 18, 2012 at 5:00 pm #

    I love Eric birthday stories. After Eric’s 21st, he had so many permanent marker drawings on his skin that he had to skip teaching the next day. Some were simply inconvenient (black hands/fingernails/mustache) while others were not acceptable in a classroom setting (Hint: rhymes with weenis).

  2. Judy October 26, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    I am honored to appear in your blog.

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