Is it better to get punched in the throat when you know it’s coming, or when it’s a surprise?
As far as taking awful shots is concerned, I have no definitive answer for this. I can’t recall a time I more competently knocked back a warm ounce of whiskey so cheap that it tasted like it was distilled in a trailer’s repurposed but only half-cleaned septic tank — you could sense notes of bleach in the way it burned, but the sour aftertaste was clearly human waste — all because I knew what I was in store for. Mostly I just psych myself out. Like when I’m about to rip off a bandaid. If that bandaid were duct tape. Coated with Gorilla Glue. Laid over my taint.
At the same time, though, a surprise shot of border wall-justifyingly cheap tequila can easily be the mentos to my stomach’s bottle of soda. The dynamite to my stomach’s gasoline. The turd floating in my stomach’s swimming pool that sends everyone in it frantically scrambling out.
For every consumed shot of liquor that’s just other, better liquor that was distilled poorly and rebranded as a
cheaper more consumer friendly alternative — maybe someone screwed up the recipe, maybe a raccoon that just had its way with a Del Taco dumpster crawled into the vat and died — there are stages of acceptance before and after taking it.
What is this?
A lot of times, maybe most of the time, you don’t know what you’re going to be handed and, frankly, you don’t care. It’s a free drink. And like with all things that are free, whether they be, say, a t-shirt, some pizza, or sex with a person without exerting any effort to get it, your standards for what is acceptable drop to shamefully low levels. For the former two, you don’t care, for example, if the one is an XL that has no business being on you, or that the other is troublingly sloppy, respectively. For the latter example, you don’t care that it’s either of those things.
Sometimes (like I did this past weekend at homecoming) you forget you’re in a college bar, with college kids, and that to the guy who is handing you a shot, two dollars is a lot to pay for a single shot of tequila. He could buy at least four beers with that money, dammit.
If you do know that you’re getting some hot brown fire water, an internal conversation immediately begins, in large part because you’re too much of a proud, stupid man to have an external conversation along the lines of, “Absolutely not you sick piece of shit. I decline your useless, demented offer.”
As if being able to stomach a shot of rancid trash water is impressive to anyone, even, ultimately, the guy buying you the shot. At best he’ll just be bummed that he didn’t get you spit up like a baby that had too much formula. In the history of the planet, no man has ever gotten laid saying, “Sup babe, NBD but I was just able to hold down something that tasted like spicy pig diarrhea without barfing soooo where do you wanna go bang this one out?”
And so, either in your head or out loud, depending on how drunk you already are, you stare at God’s latest ignored reminder that pride is a sin and alternate between telling the shot and the person who bought it for you, “Fuck you I will beat you you sick bastard.” Then, you switch to yourself and try to hype your way into the shot being a good idea.
“Don’t be a little pussy. Take this shit.”
“Oh God It Was Poison!”
When I was handed that aforementioned shot of tequila, it was clear and cold so I didn’t think much of it. I said thank you and turned back to the conversation I was in the middle of. The girl I was talking to kept right on excitedly telling me about being in law school, and then I tilted my head back, poured what for only the smallest fraction of a second seemed like normal liquor — and only because it was chilled — down my gullet, and then my brain went into panic mode.
It was all hands on deck to keep that icy piss down. Every fiber of my being was focused on closing my esophagus. Nothing was allowed in or out of my body, to the point where I think my ears stopped sensing sound waves and my eyes stopped letting in light. An active shooter could’ve started lighting up the bar and still my priority would’ve been to stand up, and as still and rigidly as possible, to suppress my body’s extremely natural and justified attempts to purge.
Nothing else matters in that moment aside from keeping down the demons.
Just Breathe And Act Like Everything Is Cool And That You’re Cool, So That People Will Think You’re Cool
Again, because you are a dumb idiot like me who believes, or at least was convinced, that there’s some small sliver of pride to be gained by taking a shot of McClinty’s Sewer Aged Whiskey, the next step is to act like your body definitely isn’t physically responding to the alcohol like it’s the sight of your parents fisting each other. So you stand there and absorb the blow, hoping no one notices the sweat on your brow or your quivering lips doing their best to stay tightly pressed together and contain the eruption waiting inside you.
Now real pride is on the line. None to gain, mind you, just pride to keep. Because now you’ve put yourself dangerously close to yakking at the bar. If you do, you’ll either be thrown out or need to leave and go to a place where everyone doesn’t already know you’re trash. I assume this is sort of how someone feels in the middle of a game of Russian Roulette. They started playing to seem tough, but now that they’re in it they’d like to be anywhere else.
“Hmm, now that this loaded gun is pointed at my temple being called a pussy doesn’t seem all that bad…”
Finally (usually, anyway) you suppress the evil and send the dragons back to their lair. And you’ve learned absolutely no lessons. This might happen again tonight. It might happen again within the hour. You have no shame. And, ironically, no pride..