Here is a secret, shameful fact. Despite all of my bluster, I am not a big drinker. Now, immediately I have to qualify that by saying that law school increased my alcohol consumption exponentially. But to me, getting rowdy is having two glasses of wine, and probably not finishing the second one. I’m a lightweight, I’m pretty sensitive to alcohol physically, and I do not like being drunk. I know too many secrets to want to get my tongue unloosened.
So, it should come as no surprise to you that the liquor store was especially challenging for me.
I’ve been in the liquor store two times before – once to buy my dad some Beefeater or Johnny Walker Black or something else for Christmas or a birthday or something, and then once when I was picking up some Crown for a friend. Both of those times I had cash, I had a job to do, and I got in and out without looking around.
This time was a little different. I was going on a business trip, but instead of flying commercial like a regular asshole, I got to fly on the company jet like a PRINCESS! Here’s how the company jet makes you feel like a princess: the minute you walk in the hanger, the pilot greets you and takes your bag, saying, “Please don’t worry your pretty little head off. We’ll keep your things safe and sound for you.” Then, once your whole party is there, you just GO! You don’t have to follow boarding protocol or anything those sad bastards in the terminal have to follow. There are warm blankies, reclining leather chairs, all the Pringles and candy and healthful snacks you could want, and a real bathroom, like real people use. As long as the seatbelt sign is off, you can do whatever you want: trained animal shows, competitive Twister, sword swallowing – the sky’s the limit.
Here’s the problem though: no wet bar. At least not one that I saw. Normally when I fly, immediately after passing through security, I take myself to the nearest barstool and order a double vodka – to quell my horrible fear of flying. In a private jet, there IS no convenient bar, so I was forced to make my own damn cocktail, hence the trip to the liquor store.
Right after work, I drove to my trusty CVS to purchase some grapefruit juice. I like grapefruit juice - it’s tart enough that it feels like just a little bit of a punishment for pounding the booze. But a good punishment. From there, it was off to the liquor store, a mean-looking building with steel bars criss-crossing its windows despite the fact that it’s in, arguably, the safest part of town. I’m just saying that I don’t think Arlington moms are thinking of breaching the fortress if they find it closed. But, you never know. Arlington does have a lot of women who look and act drunk all the time. Like that Donatos lady. She totally looks like she might kick in the window of a closed liquor store.
In any event, that wasn’t a concern here, because the store sign clearly said “OPEN.” I had one mission: find one airplane-sized bottle of vodka so I could make one drink to brace my nerves before my flight. And to chase down the massive amounts of anti-anxiety medicine that went with it. Lo and behold, there is a WHOLE WALL of vodka in that joint!
I really only know three kinds of vodka: Absolut, which tastes like someone mixed ground pepper and cigarette ash, Grey Goose, which tastes like the kiss of the tiniest angel, and Stoli, which is what people give you if they hate you. However, at the liquor store, they had brands like Trotski’s Revenge, and Gulag’s Finest, and after that I started having a psychotic break, so I had to go find a person to help me.
Thankfully, the guy who worked there was coming out of wherever I’m sure he keeps the sawed-off shotgun and surveillance videos. I know for a fact that I was acting very suspicious, because I was basically turning around in circles, and then looking right, left, right, like a maniac.
“You need something?” he asked, because he was the James Earl Jones type. Not messing around. Air of authority. Played Darth Vader.
“Yes, um, sir, I do. I would like one airplane-sized bottle of vodka , please. And yet, I have searched the store, including the extensive vodka choices, and have been unable to locate such an item.”
“We keep them behind the counter,” he said, waving his arm toward an assortment of airplane-sized bottles of things.
“Oh, I just want one,” I said.
James Earl Jones gave me a look of patience. “Well, sadly, we only sell them in multiples,” he replied.
“Hmmmmm,” I said, flummoxed by this. He just looked at me, growing more and more entertained by my dilemma.
“I just…I really don’t need all of that,” I murmured.
“You don’t have to drink it all at once,” he whispered.
“Oh, yeah!” I brightened. Good point! “Okay, do you have multipacks of Grey Goose minis?” I asked him.
A sad look. “No, we only sell Grey Goose in regular-sized bottles.”
I looked above the airplane bottle and saw a slim, chic bottle of Grey Goose. Seventeen bucks.
“Let me see if I have the cash for that,” I said.
“We take credit cards,” James Earl Jones said. Okay, that was new. I must have looked at him suspiciously, because he calmly pointed to the credit card swipe machines.
Hmmmmm,” I said. “I’ll take the Grey Goose. To be purchased by credit card
“Okay,” he said, grabbing it off of the shelf and ringing it up. I waited patiently, card out, for the charge to appear on the card swiper thing. And waited. And waited. And waited. And finally…
“Sweetheart, I’m on this register,” James Earl Jones said gently from a totally different register than the one I’d been standing at for five minutes.
“Ah, there’s the problem,” I said, fully three times crazier-acting than when I’d entered the store.
“How about we just check your ID,” James suggested, not, I’m sure, because I looked young, but more likely to check me against the DO NOT SELL LIQUOR TO THIS WOMAN list behind the counter. I wasn’t on it! He completed the purchase and put the liquor in a bag. I stared at him, waiting for something to sign.
“There’s nothing more I can do for you,” James said correctly assuming that, at least in this store, I couldn’t make a move without checking with him first.
“No receipt to sign?”
“No,” he said. “You’re free to go.”
“Oh, okay,” I said, and ran as fast as I could.