It’s a good a time as any. Three-thirty in the afternoon rounds up to five o’clock if my manager asks. Focus is nonexistent. My hands quiver. Any productivity proves impossible. Either extreme boredom or alcohol withdrawals are setting in and Happy Hour seems like a catchall antidote.
Forgetting about reality through fermented, mind-altering elixirs is a beautiful ritual entrenched in our society. Collectively, we’re better at glazing over stress and anxiety with beers and discounted mozzarella sticks. Today I plan to further solidify said societal rut.
My local haunt, uncharacteristically filled with natural light, always feels strange this time of day. Encrusted filth is more apparent. Regular patrons are notably absent, presumably still passed out somewhere in a gutter or other garbage cavity. Scampering in behind me appears to be a recent college grad (1). Bright-eyed and chipper, his excitement and his psyche’s lack of brokenness are dead giveaways to his age.
He’s doused in a musk that’s likely dubbed something like AXE Business Poon. Not long ago he was cracking his first beer of the day somewhere between his first skipped class and the second Showcase Showdown. Today, though, his sober afternoon has been jam packed with thanklessness and, overcome by tunnel vision, he’s been fantasizing about drinking and unclipping his tie since quarter-to-two. Upon entering, he enviously eyes the table of un-showered, already-drunk, sweatpant-clad students (2).
Backed by returnable cans and blood plasma transactions, the students are here to exploit specials and tip very little. They’re blissfully oblivious to the people around them, each convinced that he will be offered a job upon graduation with full benefits as a skydiving instructor, screenwriting legend, or pizza mogul.
Most sickened with the college kids’ presence is the manual labor guy (3). I’ve connected the dots. He’s always covered in dirt, he seethes with anger, and he has disposable income that primarily funds his union dues and bar tab. Gruff, he’s the most embittered towards the college kids, for they didn’t spend their early adulthood toiling in a sadness quarry.
As with most days, I will avoid Manual Labor Guy—all he ever rambles about is how much he likes Family Feud with Steve Harvey. Today the guy next to him is stoic, oblivious to his Harvey-centric lauding. Well-dressed with perfectly coiffed hair, he’s a workaholic (4) paragon of financial success. Though, eighty-hour weeks do have a cost. I never once witness him crack a smile. His life appears to be a never-ending cycle of work and sleep—boozing has become his lone hobby and personal life.
I spot an acquaintance, a likely unpopular guy (5) out with his office clique. Nervous and sweaty, he’s hoping that he’s more fun, less creepy, and less fart-y when he’s out of the workplace and tipsy. I won’t attempt to assuage his permeating awkwardness. Instead I’ll seek out secretly unemployed alcoholic (6).
On the surface this gent seems normal: dressing in a suits, carrying a briefcase, and being away from home between eight and five-thirty each day. His family thinks he works, but he just comes here everyday. His briefcase, he states, is only filled with unopened bills and saltine crackers. I have literally thousands of questions about his eventual train wreck, but, alas, he is not among this goon squad today.
Effectively stereotyping, I can attest that there’s no one present with whom I want to force conversation. Their specials are tempting, but beers at home are still far cheaper.