Bridges burned

For some time now, we’ve been hanging out with some of the neighbors every Saturday night we’re available. Some of them will start out fairly early in the afternoon and often drink beer until well after midnight. It’s a nice opportunity to maintain friendship with the locals and a nice time to relax mid-weekend. Jenni and I usually turn in fairly early from our Saturday activities, so having a beer with the neighbors is usually quite convenient for us. Granted, we turn in before the younger ones are ready to call it quits, and we don’t start nearly as early as some. But, the time that we spend with them is fun and valuable. It’s been interesting to get to know these people and discover that my preconceived notions of each one of them have been completely wrong. In getting to know them, one in particular has raised… not alarm exactly, but wariness.

This particular individual is a drunk. Many people like to drink, but this guy is a textbook alcoholic. When he’s not working, he’s drinking. He doesn’t remember what he said or did when he was drinking. Often, in his drunken stupor, he doesn’t remember what he said or did only minutes earlier. He likes to push the envelope and say inflammatory things when he’s been drinking. Drunk. I personally don’t like to drink excessively, as I don’t like the feeling of loss of control. I’d make a terrible druggy. When I drink, I like to kind of maintain the buzzed level and not really push it into ‘drunk’ zone at all. Even so, I don’t mind when people get drunk just as long as they can keep something of their wits. In other words, I don’t like people who get drunk and stupid like this guy does.

A few weeks ago, we were invited to a backyard cook out at the drunk’s house. Things seemed to be going well until the drunk started spouting disparaging vitriol about women and how his view on them. As if to prove a point, he started drunk-dialing his girlfriends each in turn and commanding them to bring him a can of Skoal and a bottle of Crown Royal. Each conversation ended with him screaming through the phone that he didn’t need the other party and they would have to ‘learn their place’. He had about four or five phone calls that were exactly in this format. Needless to say, he wound up with no Skoal and no Crown Royal. Jenni gets combative with this guy. She informed him that his girls were damaged. Thankfully, they weren’t so damaged as to comply with his drunken demands that night. Truthfully, I think the drunk is damaged himself. I believe he grew up without a mom and his dad didn’t really have any idea how to raise a kid. I don’t say that as an insult to him – he just seems to be lacking some of the fundamental character traits that more traditional upbringing instills.

A couple weeks ago, Jenni and I found ourselves on a Friday night throwing a bunch of meat on the smoker as we often like to do. We’d gone to the store and had wound up with way more food than we’d be able to eat ourselves. This isn’t usually a problem as we love our leftovers! And, my philosophy on the smoker is this: If I’m going to bother to light the fire and make the heat and smoke, I’m going to fill that thing up with food. No sense wasting the energy otherwise. Right? Jenni suggested that we should invite the couple from down the street to enjoy the food with us. I thought that sounded like a fine idea so she texted the other woman. Moments later, they were coming around our house with a cooler of beer and a sack of potatoes. And, they were followed by the drunk.

*sigh.*

I didn’t want the drunk to come over. We didn’t invite him. We invited the other couple. I’ve gotten to the point that I would prefer that he just go and do his own thing. I hate the thought that he’s mistreating women over there, but that’s preferable to him being a wild element in my life. In all fairness, Jenni’s text message was likely an ambiguous invitation to “you guys” and he was likely standing in their yard when the invitation went through. So, even though we didn’t intend to invite him, he was here now. Unless someone does something to necessitate it immediately, I don’t make it a habit to run people away from my home. In retrospect, I may need to work on that.

In all honesty, the five of us were having a great time on the back deck, enjoying the food and the fire. There was much joking and conversation and just general good times. Then the drunk did his thing again. This time his tirade was racial. He started by railing against ‘the blacks’ and then moved on to the statement, “You ain’t right if you ain’t white.” You know, a lot of people have had a little much to drink and said something stupid. I have at one time or another – perhaps not a bombshell like that, but still. I attempt to live my life as per James 1:19, quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. You know when you get mad at something someone said and it turns out that you misheard them and now you look stupid? Yeah. I hate that.

It’s not like I exactly tolerate racial hate speech in my home, but I thought that maybe the drunk could be put down gently. I’m married to a quarter Filipino and my best male friend is black after all. But, when you are the guy who reacts to a situation like this calmly, it doesn’t go the way you would have planned for it to. Jenni got in the drunk’s face and explained to him that her grandfather immigrated from the Philippines and she isn’t exactly ‘white.’ Then the guy who is the other half of the aforementioned couple jumped into the action. He and the drunk got face to face and yelled at each other for a minute. That’s about when the drunk stormed back to his house in a huff. At this point, I’m pretty sure I was still standing on the porch with a finger in the air, mouth open to deliver my calm words, since I was determined to settle this like civilized people. Again, I may need to work on that.

Anyway, we haven’t seen or heard from the drunk since then, and apparently neither has the couple down the street. He’s not missed. I sincerely hope that he eventually gets the help that he needs, but I’m not holding my breath either. Frankly, if I never see him again, that will be fine. I don’t think I was wrong to not get in the drunk’s face when he started his bullshit, and I don’t think that it would have been appropriate to throw him out by his coattails when he showed up in the first place, but I wonder if I could have done something differently. One thing is certain – there’s a line that has been drawn and he is absolutely no longer welcome here. At this point, if he showed up, I would certainly have him leave. Still, there’s a broad, gray line in the middle there.

7 thoughts on “Bridges burned

  1. I’ve read a lot of RAH. I don’t specifically remember the book or the character, but I remember talk of killing, or actual killing of someone just for being rude. (Was it a Jubal Harshaw quote?)

    I’d like to know that in some alternate universe your drunk is getting beaten on for being a rude idiot.

    • That was Heinlein in “The Cat Who Walks Thorugh Walls”.

      “It is my business. Schultz or whatever his name is was killed while he was a guest at my table. That’s intolerably rude. I won’t put up with it. Gwen my love, if one tolerates bad manners, they grow worse. Our pleasant habitat could decay into the sort of slum Ell-Five is, with crowding and unmannerly behavior and unnecessary noise and impolite language. I must find the oaf who did this thing, explain to him his offense, give him a chance to apologize, and kill him.”

  2. Hmmm. Sticky situation indeed! Honestly, I’d say someone needs to have a good ole heart-to-heart (ie….rip his heart out of his chest, make sure the arteries are stretched nice and tight but not completely disconnected) while he’s sober. Lay it on the line. “Dude, get your act together, because as of right now, you’re no longer welcome at our house.” Give him some time to see if it sinks in…if his habits don’t change, then wash your hands of the whole situation. You don’t need the stress, your kids don’t need to be around that sort of thing. If he seems to be sincerely regretful of his actions, you may recommend he join an AA program, to see if he’s serious about it. And, if nothing else, there’s always prayer.

  3. I had a pal who was the nicest most considerate person until he had that first drink. Then he became Mr. Hyde and total asshat. I started videotaping him and his antics. I had about a months worth of material and one day when he was suffering miserably from a hangover, i popped the tape in the VCR and let him see himself in action. He was appalled by what he saw. Checked himself in for rahab and never drank again.

  4. If the drunk were to sincerely apologize, I would accept it and move on. Until then, I have no problem with him being both shamed and shunned by our friends in the neighborhood.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *