Wait on a line that snakes along an avenue and observe the attire of your compatriots: pinstriped button downs for the lads, sequins and stilettos for the ladies. Check out your own garb in the reflection of a parked car: so forgettable that you can’t even bother to do a mental recap for the sake of this essay. Do people still make a fuss about going out anymore? Are people still getting dressed? The answer is yes. YES.
When you reach the door, greet the girl collecting the cover charge with a smile that says, “WHAT THE CRAP AM I DOING HERE, EVEN.” Don’t worry; she’s thinking the same thing. She spouts, “Are you here for a birthday party?” as she fingers one of many multicolored wristbands. One of those wristbands is your destiny. It will determine whether you have access to the well drinks, the middle-tier drinks, the top shelf drinks, ALL the drinks, three-cent hot wings, or whatever’s behind Door #2. A world of possibilities is straddled between her French manicured talons.
Wonder if you should ask for the wristband that comes with a mirror for self-reflection and a shotgun. Murmur instead, “can i just have the black one.” You don’t know what the black one represents other than the color of your soul that very moment. “No. I need a name. It’s a $10 cover otherwise.” Think about the things you could purchase with $10 – five loosie cigarettes, four train rides, 3% of your self-respect back from the Gods Of Free Booze who drove you to engage in this lunacy in the first place. “John. My friend’s name is John.”
Your buddy John attended a one-hour open bar at the bro establishment in question one month earlier. And wouldn’t you know it? He, too, would win a free open bar all his own – all he had to do was sign his email address, birthday, social security number, and dignity away to be considered. He got an email a week later, declaring that he’d won. Then he invited you. Everyone’s a winner!
Hold your wrist out limply as though you’re waiting to give the Wristband Jockey a dead fish handshake, but really you’re just zapped of the will to live after that tedious exchange. She kisses your skin with a wet stamp that leaves behind thick black ink depicting a crescent moon. You get a green wristband.
Sidle up to the bar. Or at least, try to. You’re trapped behind three rows of patrons. Stand on your tiptoes and peer at the bar over their shoulders, like you’re the last one to arrive at a General Admission concert. Employ General Admission weasel tactics and fight your way through the crowd. Ignore the dirty looks and the elbows that ‘accidentally’ jab into your ribcage in protest.
Stand at the bar for a while and wait for the bartender to notice you. When that doesn’t work, take out a few singles and casually hold them in eyeshot. When that doesn’t work, lean half of your body on the bar and eye them relentlessly. Finally make eye contact and watch the bartender make his way toward you, only to be deterred by someone younger, drunker, and more attractive along the way. Writhe in pain as this happens seven more times before he asks what you’re drinking.
Can I have a Magners on ice?
Don’t have that.
Don’t have that.
That. We don’t have that. I have Coors Light cans. Want that?
That depends. Can I pelt you in the head with it? Yeah. How’d you know.
The bartender’s hand disappears momentarily and returns with a sweating Silver Bullet. “Seven dollars,” he says. Awkwardly model your lima-bean-green wristband for him. “I uh… I have this?” Offer it to him. “Coors Light isn’t included with that wristband, sorry. Seven dollars.” The disbelief wells up in your eyes. “Coors Light should not cost seven dollars,” you inform him. “Do you want it or not?” Throw eight crumpled singles on the bar and waddle away in defeat.
Go on a hunt for your friends. The search is long and in the end, fruitless. You soon find yourself drowning in a sea of bros. Hear “Pour Some Sugar on Me.” Hear “Sweet Caroline.” Hear “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Hear “Paradise City.” Hear “Build Me Up, Buttercup.” Hear, “Caress Me Down.” Hear your inner monologue. “Why am I still here? Serious question.”
Retreat to the bathroom for solace but instead find a display of peppermints, hair products, sanitary napkins, mouthwash, and Q-tips coupled with an expectant bathroom attendant. Lock yourself in a stall and half-engage with your phone for a couple of minutes. When you reemerge, wash your hands. There seems to be nowhere to dry—oh, of course—the bathroom attendant has the paper towels. Give her a please and a thank you in exchange for dry hands. As you walk out, she whimpers, “Could’ve left a tip…” Become irrationally angry.
Spot your friends huddled up in another section of the bar. “Christ, I’m glad to see you guys. I’m going to grab another drink, but I’ll be right back.” Hear “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking.” Repeat the ritual of brawling for bar space. Get approached by another bartender, because the first one clearly hates you. “Hi,” you say, “What exactly can I drink with this wristband?” She begins to rattle off your options, “Merlot, well vodka, well rum, frozen margarita from that machine over there, a bag of potato chips, Bud Light…” Cut her off. “Vodka soda, please?” She pauses to turn around and fixate on something – a clock. “Ooh, honey… so sorry, but the open bar is over. House rules! Can’t do it. If you want to pay for something I’d be happy—“
Look back at John and company laughing over foamy headed beers. Look in the opposite direction, at the exit. Hear “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”
“You know what? I’ll pass.” Walk toward the door, giving John the mental middle finger, when she approaches you. “Would you like to sign up for the chance to win a free open—“ RUN.