Title: Designated Driver

Date Occurred: December 30, 1989 through January 1, 1990

Date Written: January 8, 1990

Date Prepared for the Web Site: April 26, 2019

Written by: Joel T. Kant

Copyright (c) 2019 by Joel T. Kant


I heard a car pull into my driveway. I looked at a clock to discover it was almost one in the morning of December 30th, or what some might consider late on the night of December 29th. One in the morning is a time many adults planned to stay awake on New Year's Eve.

I had been waiting for and expecting the company. John and his friend Greg had just arrived. They had come up from Baltimore to stay for the holiday in my basement apartment in Arlington, Massachusetts. Greg was one of John's roommates from when they had shared an apartment. John had since bought a house, but remained friends with Greg, who had stayed back at the apartment. As for John, I knew him well. We had both gone to University of Wisconsin-Platteville and then transferred to University of Wisconsin-Madison.

We sat around my kitchen counter, which looks more like a bar than a counter. This was not by my choice, but how the small basement apartment was set up when I rented it. We were using what looked like a bar counter as a bar, which is about the only time that happened. When waiting, I had put a six-pack in my small refrigerator to get cold. As we sat talking, the beer slowly disappeared. With two bottles a person, we had been slow because I looked at a clock. It was past four, so three hours later. I got out a sleeping bag for John. Greg slept on the couch, which really was a fold-out twin bed of a dorm room style.

Later, my phone began ringing. I had bought the phone at Radio Shack for five dollars when I had first moved in and had little money to spare. For that price, my phone emits an irritating screech that sounds almost as bad as the smoke detector. It effectively woke me. A friend's father wanted me to come over and fix the headlight of his car. Somewhat incoherently, I said that I was busy. I had guests.

The clock said it was 8:30 am. Even though this loud phone had woken John and Greg, neither of them made any movement to get up and greet the day. Two beers a person weren't enough for a hangover, but I was not ready to be up after so little sleep. Normally I would be up by then, though. I went back to bed.

We woke up and stayed up around eleven. Greg said that he had a friend in a city called Lowell, about fifteen miles north of Boston. Greg phoned his friend and gave him instructions to my apartment.

Taking turns using the shower, making beds, folding sleeping bags, and eating breakfast took some time, but not enough time for Greg's friend to arrive. We sat around listening to CDs while waiting. During this, Greg warned us that his friend loved wild parties. I will call Greg's friend Bob even though that isn't his real name. Greg and John are real names, but every other name is not in this story.

After an hour, I asked Greg whether he had given decent directions as I felt Bob should be here by now. Greg assured me that they were adequate. After still another half-hour, I was ready to give up, but Greg wasn't. A few minutes after that, Greg's friend finally showed up. It was just short of two in the afternoon, which meant it took nearly three hours to go fifteen miles.

Perhaps the reason for being so slow is that Greg's friend Bob and another guy with big biceps acted like they had been drinking already. They joked about doing just that, but I do not think it was a joke. It seemed to me that Bob was as wild as Greg had indicated.

As we sat around, Bob and his buddy Mr. Biceps bragged about their wild, drunken adventures. In one of their stories, Bob told about how a guest had put his fist through a wall in the house that Bob rents. I had the idea Mr. Biceps and one or more other men live there too, but I was not certain of this. Bob also proudly told us of the time that Mr. Biceps and someone he was fighting had smashed into a door and tore it out, frame and all, in the same house. Mr. Biceps looked like a bodybuilder, strong enough to rip out a door. Mr. Biceps pointed out that they had reinstalled the door, so nobody could tell what had happened.

Another story they told involved a party guest defecating in a sink rather than waiting for the toilet to be free. The two new visitors laughed heartily, although I thought it was stupid and disgusting. John and Greg looked put off by that particular story.

John, Greg, and I did not tell any similar stories in response. I do not know about John and Greg, but I do not have stories to match those sorts of drunken antics. The two newcomers then told some more stories of drunken adventures. I was feeling more appalled then amused, but was trying not to show this and to remain the polite host.

Mr. Biceps described the toilet in a jail cell he had been in. He said that it had no lid.

Apparently having had a similar experience, Bob said that the jail toilet was stainless steel and very cold to sit on. Bob complained, "I never did figure out how to flush the thing."

The two of them then explained that they had both only been in jail overnight. They said that it had been called "protective custody."

I interpreted this to mean that they had been very drunk, so the police had locked the two up until they became reasonably sober.

Greg left with Bob and Mr. Biceps in their car. I wouldn't have climbed into a car with those two guys, as it did not seem safe to me. However, I was merely guessing based on their behavior.

John wanted to go to a store in downtown Boston for a pair of cowboy boots. He had searched throughout Maryland and around Madison, Wisconsin for a certain brand and style. He hoped for more luck here in Boston. So, John and I took public transportation downtown. The bus and subway system in Boston is excellent. It is called the "T," which is short for Transit. Something that confuses me is that buses, subways, and trolleys are all described there as "taking the T," so I am not clear which is which. We took the Red Line subway, getting off at Park Street Station, which put us right in downtown Boston.

We went to a store that specialized in cowboy gear. Most of it was the flashy type of gear that Gene Autry--the Singing Cowboy would wear. To me, the gear seemed designed for rich city people to play at being from the West, but not the kind of thing any real self-respecting and hard-working cowboy would touch.

Despite the gaudiness of most of the merchandise, they indeed had the type of boots John wanted, but they didn't carry half sizes. John was looking for fairly ordinary styled cowboy boots without extra ornamentation, although nicely cut. These boots seemed about the most unadorned item for sale in the place. John informed me that it was very important to have just the right size because of the lack of laces or buckles like other books. This made sense to me, although I had never thought about it since I do not wear cowboy boots. He decided that he needed a size between two whole number sizes, so this store did not have what he wanted after all.

John asked me what kind of boots I like.

I pointed at my feet and replied, "I'm wearing them."

I told John why I selected these hiking boots, with laces. They have Vibram soles that give good traction but won't be cut by rocks. The boots have Thinsulate insulation for warmth. They are waterproof and reach above my ankles. I do not care what they look like, but how well they function.

I explained, "These are boots I have used several times for hiking in the White Mountains in New Hampshire."

John said that realistically he would wear his boots in malls rather than on rough mountain trails. Clearly, we had a different set of values for what we wanted out of a pair of boots.

While walking to another store, we saw a man working on some large ice sculptures in the public garden. This sculpture depicted two knights jousting. The knights were only roughed out. Behind the knights was a castle wall with a king and queen on top. The king and queen were completed and very detailed.

There were other ice sculptures up in the garden. Clearly, these were for the festivities coming up that evening. I told John that the sculptures look even better at night when brightly illuminated with floodlamps. These sorts of sculptures were an annual event in Boston. I had seen them in previous years when lit up at night.

After going to several more stores, John found the specific brand and style of cowboy boots he was looking for in exactly the size he wanted.

By now it was suppertime. I took John to Durgin Park in Fanuel Hall marketplace. This is a traditional place to bring tourists, yet has good and filling food at a reasonable price. After we had both had Yankee Pot Roast there, we went back to my apartment. It was about seven when we arrived.

John informed me that we should get in touch with Greg and his friends. I was not enthusiastic about hanging around with that crowd, though. While we were talking, the phone screeched. It was Greg himself. He invited us to his friend's house.

John and I ended up going there. We reached a house with several cars in front. It had to be the right place.

We were shown into the living room. A group of people sat around watching the television and drinking Budweiser. There was one girl in the group and she seemed to be the girlfriend of Greg's friend Bob. I'll call her Lisa. A large white patch on the wall in the back of the room was where the hole that had been punched in it had been repaired. This confirmed the story of the hole punched in a wall.

MASH the Movie was on. John was surprised when he found out that a few of the people hadn't seen it before.

I sat and watched some of the movie. I had one can of Budweiser. I refused to have another many times, insisting I had a car to drive. I was designated driver for John and Greg that night. I had no more alcohol the entire night.

Some of the people who had seen the movie before acted bored and moved to the kitchen. Electronic game noises started coming from that area.

I heard John say, "I haven't seen one of these for years. These all-in-one units were popular for a while."

I got up to see what was going on. Apparently, these people had kept up with the computer revolution. In the dining room was an IBM clone computer. It was on the floor and disassembled. Another computer was in the kitchen on a chair. Although this one was in better shape than the other and may have worked, it wasn't making the noises.

On the kitchen table was a dusty videogame. The game looked like Asteroids. The CRT screen was built into the game. It used vector rather than raster graphics. It didn't look quite sturdy enough to be used in a real arcade, but it looked more durable than most home videogames.

I went back to watching the movie.

After the movie was over, everyone wanted to go out to a bar. I was taking my own car. Greg, John, and Mr. Biceps came with me. I needed Mr. Biceps for directions, as I did not know my way around Lowell.

While in the car, John joked, "Have you ever heard of damn?"

None of us had.

"Drunks Against Mad Mothers."

We laughed, including me even though I think MADD does good work. It was the reverse of MADD--Mothers Against Drunk Driving. I still remember a night back as an undergrad when I was playing Dungeons and Dragons with some friends. There was a phone call. The game had to end because the man running the game had to go take care of the children of a cousin. His cousin had just died in drunk driving accident, leaving behind a wife and small children. Despite remembering this, all these years later, I politely joined in the laughter at the joke.

We parked and went to the bar. The bar had two floors. We went up to the second floor where a small band was playing. While the band played, most of our group drank beer. I stuck to soft drinks. Lisa was drinking some mixed drink, although I am not sure what. I guess it was potent. Time passed slowly for me, as it always does when I am sober in a bar.

Two girls, each with dark sunglasses on even though in a dimly lit bar, were amusing to watch as they danced.

The chairs next to me ended up empty. Their former occupants were either dancing or up at the bar. Lisa got up from her chair and came to sit next to me. Bob got up, followed, and sat next to her. Lisa started rocking back and forth to the music. She kept swaying farther and farther. She fell over into my lap, clearly a deliberate act.

Lisa looked up from my lap and said, "You're going to be sorry you ever sat next to me."

Well aware of Bob watching, I pointed out, "I didn't sit next to you. You were sitting over there and moved."

I pushed her back upright

Some time later, a bouncer came up the stairs. He was large, bald, and middle-aged. His size did not include much fat.

Lisa said to both Bob and me, "He looks like Mr. Clean!"

She was right. With his shaved head, he looked very much like the man in the television commercials. I hoped he hadn't heard her. Embarrassed that she might have been loud enough for him to hear, I sarcastically told Lisa, "Why don't you say it louder so he can hear you?"

I never should have done that.

Lisa took my advice and yelled, "He looks just like Mr. Clean!"

I pretended to be looking the other way. I should have kept my eye on Lisa. When I looked back at the bouncer, I saw that Lisa had walked right up to him.

With her face six inches from his, she loudly said, "You know, you look just like Mr. Clean."

Mr. Clean was very patient, and he ignored her. Bob got up and hurried over to the two. He apologized for her behavior. Mr. Clean hardly reacted at all, like one of those British soldiers with the tall hat guarding the palace.

Lisa said that she wanted to do some dancing. Bob told her did not want to. She asked me. I normally hate dancing, but I noticed that everyone here was so drunk--including Lisa--that they would not pay any attention to my awkward movements. Bob himself encouraged me to go up to dance with her.

Lisa and I danced for a while.

For the last dance, I sat down again. Greg and Lisa danced together. They were the only ones left on the dance floor for the last song. The lead guitarist came off the small stage. He danced with the two of them. The guitarist had an empty glass pressed against the strings.

Soon, the last dance was over. Mr. Clean told everybody that they had to leave this floor. It was being closed. I moved over by the stairs. The rest of our group seemed to have trouble understanding the bouncer. Nobody in our group, other than me, moved to leave. The bald bouncer insisted, so the others reluctantly moved along.

The first floor of the bar had not closed quite as soon as the second floor. Despite this, I and the people around me left the bar. While we walking to the parking ramp, Greg and John bodily picked up Lisa. She appeared to like the attention. They carried her down the sidewalk. Greg then slipped on the snow. They all tumbled down, but nobody was hurt. As they got up, John insisted that it was Greg that fell. I had seen it happen and can state that John was right. I did not see why it mattered, all were horsing around.

We made it back to the parking ramp. Bob and Lisa were with us, but Mr. Biceps and a couple other guys weren't with us. I thought they had been following us. The others seemed confused until I told the group that the first floor of the bar was still open even though the second floor had been closed. It was guessed that was where the others were.

On the trip back to the bar, Lisa was not carried. The missing people were indeed on the first floor. We got everybody rounded up. We were ready to go when Lisa realized her necklace was missing. She said that she had left it on a table on the second floor. Some of the guys talked the bouncers into letting them go up and look. One of the men in our group whose name I did not remember came up to Lisa and handed her the necklace. He had gotten it from the table when we were leaving, but had neglected to tell her.

After gathering the people who were upstairs doing the futile searching, all of us made it to the parking ramp.

While standing in the parking lot, Lisa told John that she liked me a lot better than him. Lisa did not mention her feelings about Bob, who I had been told was her boyfriend. Bob was standing two feet from me as this exchange took place. Lisa came up to me and without warning hugged me. I kept my arms at my side. She let go of me. Bob did not act surprised or angry. He matter-of-factly started telling me about how to get to the highway, which I needed to do.

I finally realized that Bob was the driver of the other car. I had not closely watched what he had been drinking, but unlike the others he seemed sober or mostly so. I wondered if the situation with Lisa's flirting with me might have gotten him more upset if he had been as drunk as the others.

While he was giving me the instructions, Lisa ran up to me again. This time, she kissed me on the lips. Again, I deliberately and carefully did not respond. John and Greg were amused. I was not amused either. At last, Bob looked very irritated, but I did not know with me or with her.

Bob said that rather than the instructions, I should just follow his car to a rotary. The rotary connected to the highway I wanted.

Lisa looked at me seductively and said, "Yes. Follow us. It'll be worth your trouble!"

While following Bob, we passed two different cars that had been pulled over by police. Since it was now bar time, the reason was clear. People were out touching their noses and walking the white line on the side of the road. I was glad I had been drinking Coca-Cola at the bar.

John said that he was impressed by the looks of a tall blond woman standing by one of the cars. I did not stop, nor look closely enough at her to comment.

We reached the rotary. Bob drove away in his car, while I went on the highway.

As we headed back on the highway, John made critical comments about how cold and unfriendly I had been with Lisa. He claimed that I should have held her more closely when dancing. He had other similar suggestions.

I said, "John, you don't seem to get it. Her boyfriend was watching me the whole time. He knows what jail toilets are like! I do not need that kind of trouble."

Around lunch time the next day, Greg talked to his friend on the phone. Bob told him that Lisa had spent much of the night throwing up. When she left later that morning, she put her car into a ditch. Bob and his friends were about to leave to see if they could push her car out, or whether a tow truck would be needed.

Bob and the rest of his crowd were going to an Aerosmith concert that night, which was New Year's Eve. I felt it was just as well that we would not be joining them. I would be happy never to see them again, especially Lisa. It would be flattering to think I had so interested her, but it felt to me like her main goal had been getting Bob to be jealous.

That night, John, Greg, Gary (a friend of mine), Dave (a friend of Gary's), and I went to a festival in Boston. It was called First Night. I had been to it many years in a row.

We saw a strange play that only John seemed to understand, a piano with a display of giant light-up multicolored keys, the disassembly of a couple of half-melted ice sculptures, three women in nylon bags squirming in hammocks in some modern art play or something, a laser beam--visible because of fog--displaying countdown numbers on a clock tower, cops confiscating all the booze they could find, fireworks, and a crowded subway.


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