Many times, depending on my intoxication level, as I made my way home each afternoon, I might decide to stop by one of my favorite watering holes for a few more drinks. I loved going to bars. In bars, you could be who you wanted to be, you could make friends quickly, and just as importantly, you could drop them quickly if you needed to do so. Besides, I was often in no hurry to get home only to greet Angela’s inevitable, and likely understandable, tight-lipped frown.
When I stopped somewhere for a “few” drinks was when I tended to get into trouble. One afternoon I was sitting with a friend at a bar, and we were watching some people parasailing on the beach. I thought that was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I said to my friend Ted, “Let’s go down there. I’ve got to do that.”
We left the bar and walked down to the beach where the speedboat was moored. As they were hooking another person to the parachute, I told them I wanted to be next. My friend Ted said, “How in the hell are you going to do that? You’re wearing a suit. It will get ruined.”
“No it won’t, I won’t even get wet.” It made perfect sense while I was saying it, but alcohol often colored my reasoning.
When it was my turn, the man who hooked everyone up asked if I was sure I wanted to do this. I told him I did, and I gave him double the fee for the ride. Smiling, he hooked me up in a four-point harness that locked with one latch across the center of my chest. He said I would take off, fly a while, and then land safely on the beach.
It was a good plan, but I didn’t follow his instructions as closely as I should have. The takeoff and flying parts were great. I felt wonderful. I must have looked like a drunken orangutan soaring over the water. As I was coming in for the landing, I became convinced I was going to crash into the beach. When I was about thirty yards from shore, I unfastened the harness latch and plunged straight down into the water submerging myself. I came to the surface soaking wet and rode a small wave back to shore. As I walked back near the boat and stood there, I realized that I was wearing my brand new Eagle suit and thought it probably would be worthless after this. After all, a silk and wool blend doesn’t react favorably to salt water.
Ted came up to me and said, “Damn, that was stupid. What are you going to do?”
“Well, I can’t go home like this. Angela will kill me.”
Ted smiled and said, “When she hears what happened she’ll understand.”
“No she won’t. Every day when I come home, she gets mad and says I look like a drunk asshole. Now she’ll say I look like a wet and stupid, drunk asshole.”
Ted said, “I know what we can do. There is a one-hour laundromat just a few blocks down the street. We’ll get your clothes cleaned and you can go home then.”
We drove in Ted’s car to the laundry, but it only had washers and dryers, and no one was staffing the desk. “Shit,” I said. “Fuck it. Gimme a hand.”
I took off all my clothes and handed them to Ted who threw them in a washer and started it up. Someone had left a newspaper in one of the chairs, so I covered myself up with that since I was now completely naked. I thought there was probably some law I was breaking and I hoped no one reported me. Explaining my salinized, tumbling suit to a cop might be hard, but explaining my naked body and my intoxication would be almost impossible.
“Hey,” said Ted, “We don’t have any soap so I selected the hot water setting. You wanna get all of that salt water out.”
“Good idea,” I said, having never washed any clothes myself.
Since we had to wait a while, Ted went to his car and got a quart of bourbon from his trunk. The air conditioner wasn’t working in Ted’s car, so we decided we would stay cool in the laundromat. As we waited, we passed the bottle back and forth drinking until it was empty. Soon the wash was done, and Ted threw the clothes in a dryer.
“I had to turn the heat on the highest selection because I don’t have any more quarters,” he said.
Now, we waited until the clothes were dry. When finished, Ted took everything out and piled the clothes in the chair next to me. I slipped on my socks, underwear, and shirt. So far, so good. Ted handed me my shoes, but I couldn’t put them on because while they were sitting on top of the hot dryer vent, the toes had curled up and they now looked like elf shoes. When I lifted up the trousers to put them on, I was shocked. I thought I was holding up a pair of pants made for a twelve-year old boy. They had shrunk to about three-fourths their original size. The jacket had shrunk the same way.
“Maybe I shouldn’t have used the highest heat settings,” said Ted.
“Shit, I’ll never be able to get my pants and coat on now.” As we stood up and walked out, Ted and I tried to move across the laundry parking lot as inconspicuously as possible. We didn’t want to draw attention to ourselves since I wasn’t wearing any pants. Ted dropped me off at my car, but before I left he said, “Can I follow you home? I gotta see this.”
“Go to hell, Ted. Go home and wash your suits. Use hot water.”
I drove home and parked my car. As I sat there, I thought about how I might explain this to Angela. I concluded that I had better tell her the truth because the reality of this situation was just too stupid to make up. I quietly walked to the front door, softly eased the key in the lock, and when I opened the door Angela came around the corner and saw me. Her eyes grew very big and it looked like she staggered a bit. She was trying to speak but nothing was coming out of her mouth.
“Look, lemme explain,” I said.
“I don’t wanna hear it. I don’t wanna hear it,” Angela hissed.
“No, listen, it’s actually kind of funny. On the way home…”
“Stop. Just come in,” Angela said, as her whole face drooped as if it was trying to settle in her chin. “Eat something and go to bed. Don’t tell me anything, ‘cause I won’t believe it.”
“Okay, but you’re missing a great story,” I said, hoping to take some of the sting out of the situation. I walked back to the bedroom, took my brand new, hand-tailored, Eagle suit, and stuffed it in the trashcan in the bathroom. It still smelled like the beach. Then I went to the kitchen, took a twenty-ounce tumbler off the shelf, and made myself one of four more quadruple-giant-jumbo-deluxe martinis, and sat down on the couch and relaxed. It was just another day in paradise.