If you crew change in New Orleans, instead of my favorite place to crew change EVER, you are treated with being able to grab a bite to eat just across the street from the Louis Armstrong International Airport at the local Denny's establishment. Not only can you have a stack of pancakes or a handful of bacon (some say I have an obsession with bacon), but if you are over 21 years of age, this particular Denny's also has a fully stocked bar. Now after a 2-week forced sobriety, commonly referred in maritime circles as “sea-tox”, one might be tempted to indulge in a cold beer or a cocktail or two, or three, or four, etc. You can imagine how tempting it would be after pulling a 6 week hitch, as one of our crew members had just done. Well, no one wants to drink alone. And what kind of shipmates would we be to let that happen? Bottoms Up!
|"You take one down, pass it around..."|
And so began our night/morning in the bar at Denny's waiting for our early morning flights. Now I'm not much of a drinker. A six pack in my house can last for months. Others seem to take drinking as a challenge akin to some sort of Olympic sport. It seems as though the Olympic spirit had inspired two of our crew and the gauntlet was laid down. The rest of us pulled up a chair, and as any good Olympic spectator would have, we just watched, cheered, and egged the contestants on. It really started to get serious when both of the contenders had exhausted their supplies of petty cash and resorted to paying with plastic. I lost count of the number of beers that were consumed early on. They then moved on to shots. Not your typical size shots. Big Shots. Wine glass sized shots. Any football fan can tell you that a wide receiver, going across the middle of the field to catch a pass, with a massive safety lining him up in the cross hairs, isn't going to end well for the receiver. A similar type train wreck was unfolding before us. It wasn't going to end well. Yet there was no way any of us were going to look away. As the rest of us snacked on breakfast burritos and scrambled eggs, the two alcohol athletes were locked in a game of one-upmanship.
Eventually, it was time to walk across the street and meet up with our departing flights. Our two contestants were perfectly content on having “just one more”. And so we bid them a fair adieu.
As the sun began to light the morning sky our compatriots were still nowhere to be found. A quick text message was sent to one of them in order to hasten their departure from the bar.
In response we received, “Help Me”.
If there was ever an understated call to arms, this was it.
I may be a sick bastard, but that simple little statement made me smile, just a little bit. It still does.
It was one of those “you reap what you sow” kind of moments.
So off went part of the crew to try to round up our lost sheep.
How the two of them made it across the busy street by themselves is a mystery to all of us. I was impressed they even found the airport. I was not witness to them trying to get through airport security. But imagine trying to get two highly intoxicated people to take of their shoes, and put them back on again, and not have them topple over as they go through the scanner had to be quite an experience. My first sight of our intrepid adventurers was of them stumbling down the corridor towards our boarding gate. No extra points were awarded for being able to maintain a straight line. Upon them reaching us, one of them was coherent enough to ask where his gate was. I kindly pointed him to the right, so as to go towards gate #5, as we were all the way down at gate #15. He put his ticket away and then continued his wavering walk to the left. He may have been coherent enough to know that he was actually in the airport, but not so much to know which direction was left or right. Hey, I tried. Eventually, a nice ticket agent was able to steer him in the right direction. I think she may have used a cattle prod on him. If I had one, I would have as well.
Our second not-so-ship-shape shipmate was being guided down the corridor by the Chief. His eyes were bloodshot and glazed over. But he was smiling. Perhaps just happy that his "Help Me” message had been answered. He had seen better days. He was then unceremoniously dumped into one of the most uncomfortable seats on the planet (as all of the chairs in the New Orleans airport are) and told, in no uncertain terms, “Sit! I'm going to get you some water!”. And sit he did. Kind of. It was kind of a bobbing and weaving type of sitting. Sometimes almost falling. At one point he decided to lean over to try to get something out of his backpack. I expect a “thank you” note any day now for catching him and preventing him from smashing his face into the ground and breaking his nose and knocking out all of his front teeth. It is possible he may have had one too many.
Getting onto the plane was a similar guiding/catching/steering type of exercise. It was like dealing with a 1 year old. But heavier. He was in no shape to carry any of his bags. He couldn't read his boarding pass if his life depended on it. The chance of him finding his seat on his own were between zero and not-a-chance-in-hell. At least I wasn't the one who had to help him put his seat belt on.
And all of this was accomplished with our help.
In contrast, our first contestant was forced to fend for himself, as he was flying with a different airline. How he was even allowed on board the plane will forever remain one of the great unsolved mysteries. We weren't there to witness it and he was in absolutely no shape to ever be able to recall it. So I guess we will never know.
We had hoped that a 2 hour plane ride would have given our intoxicated friend a little bit of time to sober up. He did manage to remove his seat belt by himself. Aside from that, it wasn't looking much better. So the Chief bought him a coffee. Which he inexplicably decided to remove the lid off of. Which led to some anxiety for us as he stumbled around with a full, scalding hot cup of coffee just destined to burn him into an instant case of sobriety. After another case of guiding/steering onto plane #2, he was able to manipulate the seat belt enough to not require any help. We were making progress. Upon our arrival, more than 6 hours after leaving the bar, he had finally managed to regain some of his faculties.
My babysitting duties expired as soon as we arrived at our destination. Last I heard, they both survived to tell the tale (what they remember of it).
Sometimes I think us mariners should be forced to come with some sort of warning.
“Warning: Drunk as a sailor”
Or has that already been done?