The Associated Press
Updated: 5:44 p.m. ET May 23, 2005
LONDON – Beer-swilling Britons face a sobering prospect: an unhappy hour.
A group representing about half the countryâ€™s pubs and bars said Monday it is curbing Happy Hour offers and other deals that encourage irresponsible drinking, a British pastime that has come under increasing attack from the government.
(read the full story at MSNBC).
I was fine through the first four pints. It wasnâ€™t until after the fifth, well on my way into the sixth, that I stumbled into the toilet stall of a student bar at Salford University and immediately had my legs give out from under me. I sat on the floor a while, among the bits of toilet paper and cigarette ashes. Just before I decided to take a nap, I vaguely remember uttering two choice words-â€”the first, of course, a profanity; the second was â€œcider.â€
My naivete should be forgiven. I was only twenty at the time, and was about six weeks into a semester abroad program in Salford (itâ€™s next to Manchester; picture a British version of Newark). Being young, and American, Iâ€™d never tasted hard cider before, and in the brief time Iâ€™d been in the UKâ€”much of which Iâ€™d spent in pubs, looking for my education in the bottom of a pint glassâ€”the two things Iâ€™d learned about cider were: 1) all pubs serve it; and 2) only girls and weak-kneed adolescents ever ordered it. But this night was Bonfire Night, one of those old quasi-holidays that the British observe by drinking massive amounts of cider and setting off fireworks. To help the student population celebrate the holiday in full spirit, the university-owned pub ran a promotion that night: a full pint of hard cider for only 50p (about a dollar in the exchange rate at the time), for the first two hours the bar was open.
A mob of around 400 people developed before the club opened, but fortunately my friend, Steve, and I had positioned ourselves in front of the support posts immediately in front of the front door; as a result, we were among the very first to get inside. Knowing the bar would be five-deep within minutes, we plonked down our money and each walked away balancing four pint glassesâ€”a full gallon of hard cider between us. As I mentioned, Iâ€™d never had cider before, and as I guzzled the first pint, drinking fast so it wouldnâ€™t have a chance to get warm, I said to Steve (and, as these belong in the category of â€œfamous last words,â€ I remember them quite clearly): â€œIt tastes like soda pop. Thereâ€™s no way this is as strong as beer.â€
Moron. I finished my four pints in just over an hour, and had the kind of clueless drunkenness you get the first time you drink a certain kind of alcohol to the point of inebriation. Itâ€™s akin to driving through a strange city, relying on your wits rather than a map to get you around, becoming increasingly lost and confused while insisting that the street you’re looking for is right…up…here…somewhere…..
About a half-hour before the promotion ended, I fought my way to the bar again, and fetched another two pints back to the table. At that point it gets really vagueâ€”somebody burning an empty cigarette box, laughing; my â€œtastes like sodaâ€ remark being incessantly parroted back at me by Steve and another friend, Daniel; and me, an admitted danceophobe, swaying back and forth beneath the mirror ball while Joy Division played over the sound system, finally culminating in the nap in the menâ€™s room.
How long I was on the floor, I have no idea, but I came to when someone as wrecked as I was began slamming into the door with his body, trying to get in. I didnâ€™t bother going back the bar–instead I stumbled back to my shared house, taking a couple of hard dives into the grass along the way. Fortunately I always wound up back on my feet, and made it safely to my room before I had to retch.
Would I have drank that much if there hadnâ€™t been a promotion? Of courseâ€”I was young and indestructible. Would I have drank five pints (aiming for six) in under two hours? No fucking way.