Monthly Archives: October 2013

In the end, it all evens out.

Few things give me more anxiety than trying to hold on to the empty seat beside me during the 20 minutes it takes the rest of the passengers to board a Greyhound. A half second of eye contact with a passerby can easily be mistaken for an invitation to take the aisle seat, turning my La-Z-Boy into a church pew.

Luckily on this particular trip my anxiety was curbed by that fact that I would be seeing nearly all of my best friends when the bus stopped seven hours later and I stepped out into the familiar streets of downtown Pittsburgh.

We planned weeks ahead to have a reunion, and it was all I could think about since. I’d been counting down to this moment – waiting in line for the overnight bus from New York to Pittsburgh. I chose the overnight bus because tickets were only $10 and I love waking up with back problems from using a metal bar as a mattress and a vibrating window as a pillow.

As the first person to board the bus, I enacted my five-step strategy to get both seats to myself:

  1. Pick a seat in the first four rows.
  2. Pile luggage haphazardly on the empty seat beside me.
  3. Put headphones in ears (music optional).
  4. Open a magazine (reading optional).
  5. Look as pissed off as possible (emotions optional).

The bus was fuller than I expected it to be. With each new passenger my nerves escalated. I looked out the window. Three people left. Although I was curious, I didn’t dare compromise my operation by sitting up and looking back to see how many seats were still open.

One person passed. Then the second. I felt the bus move as the third and final person walked up the steps. I faced away from the aisle and looked as angry as possible. He stopped by my seat. My stomach dropped. I felt him looking at me, contemplating his next move. I didn’t budge. Five seconds of stillness. Then I heard his footsteps shuffling down the aisle.

When we started moving, I looked back. Just one other person had both seats to herself.

I nodded a “job well done” to my silent companion and settled in for the night.

There are certain people who are extremely important in your life. People who have shaped your views and personality nearly as much as your family has. People who you can go months without seeing only to pick up exactly where you left off when you’re back together.

These people remember everything – good and bad. That time you pooped your pants in the car? They’ll remind you about it. Or when you barfed on Forbes Avenue like nobody’s business. They remember that awful haircut you had in 9th grade and that one night at the casino where you became a chain-smoking Blackjack fiend. They remember the water bottle of theirs that you lost 4 years ago and didn’t replace. And that dreadfully ugly person you hooked up with on more than one occasion.

They also stick with you when things are crazy. And when you are crazy. They’re the people who know when you’re happy, when you’re sad, and how to deal with it. They disagree with you, but support you anyway. They’re the people whom you never owe money, because “in the long run, it all evens out.” They carry you through break ups, hangovers, and lost basketball games.

Few things in life feel better than sitting around and collectively doing nothing with them, because even though you’re doing nothing, you’re doing it together.

Friends. Amigos. Assholes. Whatever you call them, they’re irreplaceable.

I settled into my seat for the long trip. Ten hours this time – via Philly – until I’d be back in New York. I used my five-step strategy as the bus filled. The familiar anxiety returned. Passengers scuttled by, taking seats alone, then with the people who took seats by themselves. The last person to enter the bus – a huge, 6’6” man – did not look the ideal bus buddy. I concentrated as hard as I could on the magazine I was pretending to read.

“Can I – “ he points to the seat beside me.

“Oh. Yea sure.” I fumbled my things, placing my enormous book bag at my feet and my pillow and jacket on my lap. He took the aisle seat and made himself comfortable.

His left leg protruded into my space, giving me approximately two thirds of a bus seat to call home. Once situated, he immediately fell asleep. Two minutes later, I had to pee.

In this situation, I’d normally get angrier than a Texan outside an abortion clinic. Today, though, it didn’t bother me. Instead, I got lost in thought looking out the window as we cruised through the rolling hills of Central Pennsylvania.

I reflected on the weekend and felt a pinch of sadness that it was over. The time, although only a short three days, was exactly what I needed. I began thinking about my friends – not just the ones I’d seen this weekend, but all of them. The ones I don’t live near or see as often as I’d like. College friends. High school friends. And the ones I see everyday. New friends. I felt a ball of emotion well up inside me that I hadn’t felt in a long time.

It was there, squished against the window, that I realized the emotion I was feeling was blessed. Blessed to have some of the best friends I could have ever asked for.

——

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“Ok, just ONE more.”

Oh dear God. What’s happening. What is that noise. Help.

I reached for my nightstand and turned off my alarm, nearly knocking over the full cup of lukewarm water I had apparently placed there the night before.

How can it already be 8. This is a joke.

I stumbled into the bathroom. The idea of getting ready for work was overwhelming, let alone being in the office for the next nine hours. I looked at the toilet and decided it would be in my best interest to sit down to pee.

Holding my head I my hands, I closed my eyes and tried to remember. “Yea sure, I’ll grab a beer with you. I can’t stay out too late, but I’ve always wanted to check out that bar.” The oh-so familiar scenario ran through my mind.

The night started at happy hour. It was Thursday and the week had already been long, so we grabbed a corner booth and decided to curb the stress with a beer

“Do you mind if my friend comes?” asked my happy hour partner.

“Sure man, why not? The more the merrier. Should we just get a pitcher then?”

Seven more friends and 10 pitchers later, we’re singing “Don’t Stop Believin’” out loud for the third time. It’s not karaoke night.

This happens every time. I never learn. I stood up, flushed, and looked at myself in the mirror. Other than the typical bags under my eyes, I looked OK. I could manage to pass as “just tired” when I got to work. I began to vigorously brush away the sins of last night from my teeth when I felt a jolt of pain on my lower lip. I looked closer.

Great. Black lip. How… Then I remembered. I was in the middle seat of a cab with two friends. For reasons only higher powers can decipher, I had my head through the opening in the barrier between us and the driver. Suddenly – BAM – he slammed on the breaks and my head flew forward. Unable to stop myself, my lip smashed into the barrier. And now I have a bruise resembling a Hitler ‘stache on my lower lip.

Wonderful.

Realizing I was late, I sprinted to my room and threw on the first pieces of clothing I could find. I grabbed my bag, wallet, phone, keys, and headphones, and headed for the door. Wait. I turned around and filled up the largest water bottle I could find with ice cubes and the elixir of life itself.

As I fumbled to the train station I held down the queasy feeling in my stomach. If you puke I’ll kill you. I kept my sunglasses on as I entered the subway and hopped on the train.

Sorry pregnant women and the elderly, today Dan gets the last seat. Twenty minutes later I attempted to compose myself as I opened the office door.

“Good morning!” my coworker cheerily exclaimed as I walked in. “Happy Friday!”

“Morning,” I grumbled as I took my seat and logged on.

My coworker walked over and I shot her a look. With a single glance, she understood. “I’ll get you some water.”

“Got some, but coffee would be great. Thanks.”

“Sure thing.” She began to leave but quickly turned back.

“Whoa,” she said, intensely staring at me. “What happened to your lip?”

Surviving a hangover at work is of art. It is not easy. And it is not fun. But too often, it is necessary.

Whether a friend is in town, you got a promotion, or you found $20 on the subway, there’s always going to be a reason to celebrate. And normally, one of two things happens:

  1. You meet up with your friends, grab two or three beers, have good conversation about your life, work, and what you’ve got going on, and make it home by nine. Or,
  2. You meet up with your friends, grab two or three beers, start getting obnoxious, more friends come, shots of Fireball make an appearance, and you rage face until 3:00am before passing out with your clothes on.

Let’s be honest. Normally it’s the latter.

And when it’s not the latter, you secretly kind of wish it would have been the latter.

However, gone are the days when we can skip class without telling anyone and lay around all day. Now, if we “skip work” without telling anyone we “get fired”.

So, what’s a fun-loving yet career-driven 20-something to do?

Prepare and revive.

In doing so, you can go out and ingest as many beers on a weeknight as you’d like while still maintaining your composure and succeeding at work the next day.

Step One: Prepare

  • Eat. This is a classic fix to the all too real “I haven’t eaten dinner so I got drunk fast but who cares because I’m having fun!!!” situation. You’re having fun now, but you won’t be tomorrow. Everyone knows that happy hour means cheap drinks. Happy hour also means cheap food. Order and eat up. Your body will thank you when your friend gets you a “SURPRISE PICKLE BACK!!”
  • Drink water. This sounds lame. Let me explain. When you go to the bar to order the next round, ask for a glass of water. Chug it while you close out. When the bartender returns your card, place your glass on the bar with your tip. Your friends won’t see you, and you’ll hydrate, eliminating that cactus-y hands feeling in the morning.

Step Two: Revive

  • Eat a small, bland breakfast. Remember those awful granola bars you bought last week? Eat one. This is a test to see how your body reacts. If you feel ok, then
  • Demolish some McDonald’s. Or any type of greasy, filling food, if McDonald’s isn’t your style. You will feel immediately better. However, if that granola bar isn’t sitting well, then
  • Slow it down. Sip water. Munch on crackers. Anything to make your stomach stop doing loops. Ease into your food until you can have something substantial.
  • Attach a water bottle to your hand and make sure it’s constantly full. If you want to step up your game, try Gatorade or Vitamin Water. Those electrolytes and sugars will do you wonders. If you want to forego the one million grams of sugar, try some alternatives. Smart Water anyone?
  • At work, be sure to stay 5 feet from all coworkers. You may have brushed twice and used mouthwash, but the smell doesn’t go away until it’s out of your system. So stand back. Way, way back.
  • In dire situations, a nap may be needed. If you drive to work, tell everyone you’re “going out for lunch” and then crank that seat back and sleep. If you don’t drive to work, things get tricky. Find an area of the office that you can sneak away to. Empty desks in nooks and crannies are best – the ones that get little to no foot traffic. Slide under the desk, making sure you’re out of view from your coworkers, and nap away.
    • Caution: if you snore, this might not be the best option.

Prepare and revive. It works. But it won’t curb your hangover anxiety. That’s a battle you’ll have to face alone.

“Cab. I’ll tell you later. I just need to sit here for a few hours and not move. Please please please will you get me that coffee?”

One empty cup of coffee later and I still felt like I was hit by a truck driven by Captain Morgan. I trudged through the day, fading in and out of focus. I tried to stay awake between the moments of misery and sheer pain as the day began to wind down.

4:15. So close. I can do this. Only a few minutes before I can go home and sleep and eat and not think anymore.

“Hey Dan, can you come in here?” My stomach dropped like a rock. It was my boss.

My mind was racing: This is it. He knows. He knows I’m hungover. I’m going to get scolded. Did I forget to do something today? Holy crap did I text him last night by accident? No. No way. I never do that. What did I forget to do today? Nothing. I made sure to get everything done. This is definitely about my hangover. Shit shit shit. Here we go. I’m screwed.

He looked up as I entered. “Take a seat.”

I broke out in a cold sweat as I sat on the couch across from his desk.

“So, I’ve been meaning to talk to you. I just wanted to let you know that you’ve been doing a great job recently. You’ve really been an asset to the team. I hope you’re liking it and that you want to grow in this company. I’d love to get you on some deeper projects so that you’re not working on so many mindless things all day. How does that sound?”

I paused, a little confused, but relieved. Thank God. “Oh, yea! That sounds great. Thanks so much I really appreciate it.”

“Is everything going ok?”

“Yea, I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of things. Just trying to iron out some of the details.”

“Great. Well keep it up.”

“Thanks so much.” I stood up and walked to the door. Relief poured over. I felt the joy that can only be felt by a claustrophobic person getting off the elevator. I reached for the door handle,

“Oh, by the way –“ my boss interjected, “what happened to your lip?”