All I wanted was another Fat Tire.
I was already seven or eight in at this wedding. I hadn’t stopped drinking them since finding out this was an open bar. Between sips, I tried and failed to out-weird the weird guy (he wore his chair cover as a sash, how did you expect me to top that?!), made members of the bride’s family uncomfortable with aimless conversation, and generally made my wife regret bringing me.
It had been a very productive evening, but I’m the opposite of fuel-efficient. If I was to keep this up, I needed a fresh Fat Tire.
The bride and groom both played hockey in high school, and both are recreational athletes now. A sizable slice of their bridal party, and thick packs of their friends, also skated with sticks and such. I overheard them reminiscing about their All-Conference high school glory days and their ice time in D-1, but it was always about who they played with. They rarely had exploits of their own to share.
I really needed a Fat Tire.
The bar’s immediate vicinity was a mosh pit of suits and tight dresses. This environment was straight out of a soap opera; a 10-tier art sculpture of a cake that lit up, filet mignon for dinner, servers pacing the room with hors d’eurve trays, and a candy bar (not like a Snickers, like a taco bar except candy). It’s one of those settings I had spent much of my life believing I wasn’t good enough to be in.
To prove myself wrong, I brazenly abused an open bar and came oh-so-close to “guy in khaki shorts and a chair cover tied around his waist” level of crazy. I was about to inch closer to my coveted Fat Tire when I heard this very Abercrombie voice behind me.
“What’s up with your hair?”
To be any closer to my ear, this sap would have to be standing in my (quite formidable) right pinna. If I stand correctly, my satellite-sized ears can pick up AM radio stations; instead, this whimper was coming in too loud and too clear. He said it precisely the way you picture Sidney Crosby protesting a penalty.
This remark had to be for me: I was in my Look Like Peter Gallagher or Jack White If I Muck it Up hair phase, the one I abandoned for my new Look Like Ryan Gosling Except Less Attractive Everything Else hair phase. Nobody else, not even Sash Guy, had this risky of hair.
Sure enough, I turned to meet a face straight off a Future Stars hockey card (estimated value: $0.01).
“Dude, you HAIR is … like …”
First, I love hockey and am not knocking hockey players as a greater global community. I’m knocking one particular (presumed) hockey player.
Now, what had I in this confrontation? Three options:
1. Pretend this square-faced meathead bro wasn’t talking to me and slink back into the bar line like a pussy cat.
2. Get all chesty with him, which would look super alpha until he called over faux-hawked, peach-fuzzy-faced army.
3. Man him up with a mind trick.
“It’s my hockey hair,” I replied. “I keep it long for the season.” It flipped his expression upside-down.
I was on a slippery slope here. I have a hard time telling you I ate four slices of pizza when I only ate three and keeping my story straight … but when I’m drunk, I can ad lib a tall tale the way Bob Ross used to paint trees. He didn’t seem to be in a discerning state, if you dig, but I began by putting myself someplace obscure. This was key.
“Well, I’m in the Blue Jackets’ farm system right now.” I smiled and laughed out my nose. “So, it’s not like I’m an actual pro.”
What, you’ve never heard of the Columbus Blue Jackets? Neither has anyone else. Acting like it wasn’t a big deal because the Blue Jackets always stink was key, because it stonewalled him from asking any specific questions. Also, notice how I reeled him in by name-dropping an NHL team without overplaying my hand and acting like he should know me from a highlight reel. The farm system note was key, as it set up this little dandy …
“I’ve only suited up for Columbus a couple of times.”
This bro’s face twisted like a lemon peel and I was cool as Korbel on ice, and I still hadn’t given him anything to call me on. Ambiguity is key: Permafrat here might’ve been on his seventh Coors Light or whatever, but believe he remembers every goal from every SportsCenter since the show’s creation.
Now, the mention of NHL minutes was a blunder because this was in November and the NHL (not on lockout that fall) had only played a few games. A clear-headed person might have had the presence to ask why I couldn’t go into more detail about games I had just played. Luckily, Coors Light was helping me out with this guy.
I looked up from my empty Tire to a small crowd of people around him. I was a novelty now, a true treasure, a name to drop, but there were all manner of minds here now. This many eyes and ears could make me, but the next step was key: I Let my new minion tell my story for me.
And he did, with unwavering zeal. People will question a random guy in the bar line, but no hockey people will question their hockey friends. Hell, I just let my little blonde thrall make up stories for me while my turn in the bar queue finally came. I stepped back into the circle, shook a few hands, and got the best ending I could ask for:
“I’m sorry I made a joke about your hair,” the guy said. “I … I actually really respect that.”
The last step was key. As Frank Sinatra said, “Subtlety, baby. Subtlety.”
“It happens,” I said as I got ready to step away. “It’s not like I came in here wearing my jersey.”