I want to set the record straight: I did not knuckle under to corporate pressure -- at least not without trying to get a kickback at the same time.
We headed to Chopper's Sports Grill (80 South Madison Street) the other night to watch the Timberwolves continue their dominance of the NBA. Within seconds of our arrival, young blond women attempted to ply us with alcohol. Obviously, we members of the Institute of Drinking Studies don't need any encouragement to drink -- but I'm embarrassed to admit that our choice of booze was swayed by these women.
One pair was promoting Labatt's, which, on the scale of Canadian beers, compares favorably with the American Shaeffer's.
80 South Madison Street
"Where's the bear?" I asked. The women responded with the kind of nervous laughs a guy gets if he asks an attractive almost-stranger to hop into his van for a ride home. They clearly had no idea what I was talking about, even though the bear is Labatt's most effective marketing tool. I, for one, find the bear highly compelling, because if a relatively unattractive black bear can score with beautiful women (that's the implication, anyway), it means there's hope for all of us burdened by back hair.
Interestingly, there's been little outcry about those commercials. I've heard endless bitching about the Coors Twins and the Miller Lite Wrestlers, but nothing about Labatt's blatant advocacy of bestiality. John Ashcroft should use one of the many loopholes in the Patriot Act to justify ordering an immediate thermo-nuclear strike on Canada, or at least have Labatt's marketing department quarantined in Guantanamo Bay.
With no bear in sight, I asked the Labatt's women for a Moosehead.
Another pair was hawking Southern Comfort, a liquor with hints of orange, bourbon and sardines that's used in many major hospitals as a powerful emetic. Despite this, SoCo had the advantage, since these women were handing out Mardi Gras beads. The Institute's head of research soon earned the most garish string, and after donning the ten-pound necklace, the extremely white Irish Catholic was transformed into Jam Master McG. He put up no further defense and promptly ordered SoCo and Mountain Dew.
I was tempted, but I also remembered in graphic detail the last time I drank Southern Comfort. Since my stomach still turns over at the mere smell of it, I decided it would take more than just beads to persuade me to regret my drink of choice the next day. I formulated my most persuasive pitch and flung it at both sets of women.
"How about the four of you lather up and go toe to toe," I said, "and whoever wins the fight, I'll drink that for the rest of the night." This suggestion was met with a roar of alcoholic approval from our table and a group of guys nearby; it also earned a lot of dirty looks from people who obviously considered me a psychopath. So I swiftly ordered a Black and Tan. My advice to both SoCo and Labatt's: If you want me to drink your products, you need to find employees who are willing to go the extra mile. This lack of dedication to the job is part of what's wrong with America.
We, on the other hand, were so dedicated to our work that, once lubricated, we did what all guys do with colleagues: talk shop. I didn't get along with many of my contemporaries in my previous life because too many other Air Force pilots still think it's cool to act like their mission is to act out Top Gun. Once, when a few of these guys actually started singing "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," I seriously considered breaking my near-full beer bottle and using the shards to slash my wrists.
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But as it turns out, physicians are even worse -- and this time, I joined in. At Choppers, between watching the game and painful replays of Katie Hnida missing a field goal again and again and again, we found ourselves steeped in discussion of surgical screws and plates. Meanwhile, the head of research's uncle took the opportunity to put down twice as many drinks as the rest of us combined, probably hoping to induce unconsciousness so that he wouldn't die of boredom. We're no doubt legally culpable for any hangover or liver damage he may have suffered as a result.
With that evening as motivation, I made my resolution for Lent: to give up shop talk except on Sundays. But I won't keep it. The only Lenten sacrifice I've ever been able to stick with was my vow not to go to church. Besides, shop talk can provide a public service for the careful eavesdropper. As we left Choppers, we offered a helpful hint on how to deal with impending bed spins when you have too many SoCo and Dews in your guts: Hang your foot over the edge of the bed and reorient yourself to the earth's rotation.
Trust me. I was pre-med.