I’m dating myself. Does anyone remember Bartles and Jaymes “wine coolers?” I think it was the first time alcohol companies started aggressively marketing to young women.
My first job back in the day was at a grocery store chain. I worked in the meat department. No, I wasn’t a 16 year old butcher. I was the kid who steam cleaned all the equipment after the butchers had gone home. A good job if you are trying to quit eating meat. I’m not going to tell you how bad the meat grinder smelled after just one day of use. They gave me that particular job because I worked well without supervision. As I go on you will realize I probably needed more supervision.
Okay, back to the sickly sweet, fruity tasting wine coolers. Not only did they come in a nice 4 pack of glass bottles, they also sold them in plastic 2 liter bottles! This is where I came in.
I had the run of the store and nobody questioned anything I did. I got a good idea. (In my 16 year old brain.) I went out onto the floor and grabbed 2 two liter bottles of 7-UP and carried them back to the small walk in refrigerator at the end of the butcher shop. Then I went to the warehouse part of the store and stealthily took 2 two liter bottles of wine coolers.
The walking fridge had a drain in the floor into which I emptied the soda bottles. I carefully transferred the wine from the 2 liter bottles into the 2 liter bottles of 7-UP. At the end of my shift I would carry it down to the front of the store and pay the cashier 99 cents for two liters of wine coolers because that was the price of the 7-UP.
Looking back, I think it was a pretty ingenious way to start my alcoholic career driving home and chugging my pilfered wine.
I only lasted about a year at that job. It’s another funny story. I got fired but not for stealing wine coolers. I knew a kid who worked alone in the dairy department and our freezers were next to each other. We spent a lot of time talking. But this kid was a real wise ass. To the point annoying as fuck. He said something to me and I impulsively wrapped his head with the strapping tape I had in my hands. He tried to get it out but it was hopelessly stuck in his long hair. As he started to freak out the store manager walked through the swinging doors and wanted to know what happened. That was the end of my butcher career but not the end of my drinking. I guess I was pretty determined there.
Not my first drink. My first drunk. I was 6, that made my cousin about 9. It was the high school kids across the street. They scored a bottle and thought it would be funny to get a couple of the neighborhood kids drunk. They called us in the front door of the split level ranch. When we saw the bottle we knew exactly what it was. We were excited about what was about to happen.
The first sip burned but in a good way. It made me warm and soothed me. The high school kids were right, it was funny; to them. I think there were 4 of them. I don’t know, it was so long ago and I was drunk. They stood in a circle around us and laughed their asses off as my cousin and I rolled on the floor fighting over the last sip. That’s how much we liked it. We were on the floor, both clutching the bottle, laughing. There was about one shot left in the bottle. I was smaller than my cousin but I won and claimed my prize.
Our parents were calling for us to come home because it was after dark. The older kids threw us out the bedroom window telling us not to say where we had been. We rolled across the grass laughing, got up and ran around the house and across the street.
This is when I experienced my first blackout. This is another story our family never talks about with our excellent communications skills. My cousin and I pieced it together through the years. We were at the bottom of the steps laughing our asses off; obviously drunk. Our parents were yelling at us asking where we were. We never ratted any of the older kids out, even though we owed them no allegiance. I made it to the second floor deck and fell backwards through the railing. The story goes I just missed hitting the pavement and landed on the edge of the grassy marshland, unhurt. My cousin got into the house and puked all over the kitchen floor.
We got into a lot of trouble. I remember my cousin having to stand in the corner supporting a broomstick across his outstretched arms. I got off easy and only had to stay in my room for a few days. Maybe they felt bad for me because I almost died. I don’t know why we were punished. It’s not like we went and bought the booze ourselves.
My cousin and I turned out to be the biggest drinkers of all the kids in our family. That was probably the start of our careers. Not that we didn’t have plenty of opportunities to drink other than that. There was a game in our house where the first kid to bring an adult a fresh beer was awarded with a big swig. Real bright.