I wouldn’t be surprised if 95% of adult Americans have, at some point in their lives, been walking in a metropolitan or suburban or perhaps even rural area; minding their own business, talking to a friend, walking the dog; and they have encountered a drunk. The drunk could be a well-heeled souse attempting not to lurch after one too many Manhattans;
a down and out boozer reeling down the sidewalk shouting gibberish to no one listening, the drunkard could be right in your own kitchen shrieking nonsense and eating dinner with his hands. One rule remains the same when dealing with these people: try not to make eye contact. Pretend you can’t hear the boisterous shouts of the over-served or in the case of my kitchen last night, the overtired 4-year-old.
Perhaps you have been in a bar when a drunk falls off a bar stool; you jump in alarm, should I help him/her (don’t want to discriminate) up off the floor?! In the case of the punch drunk four-year-old, perched precariously at the edge of a tall kitchen stool eating his dinner and sloppily drinking chocolate milk from a sippy cup; I tried to focus on my conversation with the tiny drunk’s mother. “You’re going with hardwoods for the stairs? ohhh.” Whoa! Buddy, you gotta scootch back, you don’t want to tip over and bonk your head, right?
Just as I don’t want to stare at a grizzled old wino going through a garbage can looking for dinner or an empty, I avert my eyes from the toddler with his head lolling on his hand, waving around a baby carrot dipped in salad dressing and singing a song only he knows. Hold the eyes of another adult, continue to talk despite the ramblings and occasional inebriated guffaws coming from the little drunken sailor. Last night, although I thought I was paying attention to Stevie’s actions without him knowing I was watching; it took me a few minutes to realize he was slowly, overcarefully (as drunks are wont to do) sliding a tube of macaroni and cheese on to each tine of his fork before studiously steering the fork into his slack jawed mouth. Once the mac n cheese was in his mouth, he nodded vigorously and chewed and looked around to see if he had an audience. The singing gets louder, you know how it goes, you’ve seen these troubled souls.
Don’t look right at him.
Just as it always does after a good bender, the party came to a crashing halt. Stevie’s mother wiped his face and told him it was time for a bath and jammies. I watched her haul the protesting little man down the hall, as he flailed and shouted, “No! I want to stay up! I’m not tired!”
So sad, that’s what they all say.