Thinking about drinking

Most of us are familiar with the pain of a 2 p.m. awakening from what may feel like a near-death experience.

A mouth drier than the Sahara in the summer, a headache that feels like a monster truck rally in your skull and, of course, the inevitable silent oath to yourself that you will never, ever drink again.

That’s assuming you remember what stupid thing it was that you did this time, without having to be told by a witness, or worse, a recorded video that may or may not have been posted on YouTube.

The consequences of partying and heavy drinking are something that we all (for the most part) understand and accept. But is there a point when it goes too far?

Everyone loves going out and having a good time, but what happens when you yourself become “that one guy/girl” at the party?

As a community of alcohol enthusiasts, we’d love to think that drunken adventures are all in good fun, whether they be social, sexual, financial or physical.

But when it comes to this particular subject, there’s a fine line between funny and damaging. It’s about time to thicken the line a bit, and I could think of no better place to find the best horror stories Kingston has to offer than our very own boulevard of booze: Princess St.

Who better to speak to than someone who deals with drunken patrons as part of their job? Graham Fox, a bouncer at the Grizzly Grill, has been called every name in the book.

“I’ve had plenty of death threats too,” Fox told me. These usually occur when he’s had to turn people away for being too intoxicated.

Currently in his second year at St. Lawrence College, Fox has seen much more than you would expect in the four short months he’s worked at the Grill.

“There’s been plenty of fights on this street — me and all the other bouncers at all these other clubs have had to break up at least one fight,” he said.

Luckily, bouncers tend to be in fairly good shape.

“Most of us are athletes or just regular guys,” he said.

“A lot of the bouncers at The Ale House are like fourth-year Queen’s students or recent grads. We’ve got a few ex-army guys working around here too.”

I spent five minutes talking with Fox and already I had learned two invaluable pieces of information. First of all, if you’re in line at The Ale House, tell the bouncer he played great in his last game. It’s worth a shot at least. And second: don’t try to get past a bouncer, no matter how drunk you are. You never know who you may be picking a fight with.

“The non-violent ones are even worse though,” Fox added. “I once saw a girl fall down both the large flights of stairs inside.” Surprisingly, she was fine and walked it off, no problem.

I suppose superhuman strength is just one vote on the side of the pro-boozers, but what about that loose tongue syndrome?

“I’ve just heard a lot of drunk conversations from people coming out of this place. Some of them get pretty wild.” I could only imagine what he’s heard.

In just one night of walking around The Ale House, Grizzly Grill and Stages Nightclub, I heard countless stories from students that ranged from the bizarre to the disgusting.

Girls passing out in club lineups, roommates going to sleep naked in the wrong bed, housemates defecating on floors and even the destruction of $10,000 worth of hostel furniture within 30 seconds of stumbling recklessness were only a few stories told to me as I canvassed the area.

But I realized I could listen and record these stories for hours and I would still end up with the same problem: No one wants to have their name on stories like this, and I couldn’t help but see why.

Not only for personal reasons or to save face, but we as a community of university students have a stigma attached to binge-drinking that no one wants to admit to.

Do I think it’s fair? No. Do I think it’s accurate? Sometimes. Will it stop us from having a good time? Definitely not.

But the area around the drinking hub isn’t a complete and total den of inequity. There is a small, blue and yellow neon light at the end of the tunnel.

“We all care for the patrons because we are the patrons,” said Jillian Carter, a bartender at The Ale House & Canteen. “We all have a great time and everyone else has a great time.” I honestly couldn’t believe how highly Carter spoke of her job. Was there no lunch heaving or loud, inconsiderate name-calling? Not even on Tumbleweed Tuesday?

I asked if she at least experienced FOMO, the “fear of missing out,” while bartending to such a lively crowd every night.

Another waitress said the thought of FOMO had never crossed her mind.

“I don’t personally get that feeling just because I’m always having a lot of fun anyway,” Carter said. “Working this job is like free partying without the hangover.” She said most people don’t get too drunk when they come to Canteen anyways.

“Honestly, this is the kind of place where people come to share a big pitcher of beer with their friends — not fly off the handle,” she said.

Even the wait staff said they could hardly remember the last time they were forced to stop serving someone due to drunkenness.

The most recent memory was at the behest of someone who realized that her friend had drank enough for one night.

I was told that patrons at Canteen have a tendency to self-regulate quite well, and after speaking to the staff, I believed them.

“Ninety-five per cent of the people who work here went to Queen’s at one point,” Carter said. “I wanted to work here because I loved the atmosphere as a patron and coming here with friends. I’ve even worked in the club and everyone is very polite and respectful.”

If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought Carter was running for her second term as Student Council president — a more Canadian answer couldn’t possibly have been presented to me.

It’s refreshing to see there was still a place near campus that one could go to be in a friendly, lively environment and not feel the need to lose all inhibitions.

As someone who enjoys going out every now and then, I’ll admit there are times when I’ve both embraced and rebuffed my “college kid” stereotype. While it may be a part of the university experience and who we are now, it doesn’t and shouldn’t define us.

The point persists, though. There are a lot of stigmas attached to our age group and no one wants to be labeled as a binge-drinking student, which explains why no interviewees wanted to reveal their full names

In the end, we’ve all had the opportunity to play the fool, but there’s one thing I noticed while reporting and from my own personal experiences: it’s our friends that keep us safe.

Each of us, I believe, has played both roles at least once, as the babysitter and the drunkard. What matters most is having a good group of drinking buddies that’ll always look out for and get you home safe, no matter what the circumstances may be.

According to the staff at Canteen, they’ve seen nothing but that attitude so far, and even Fox said that he’s never had to send someone home alone.

If you want to have a good time with your friends and be safe while doing it, simply respect your drinking buddies.

They’re the best safety net you have.

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