Balancing Act

“But I’m not so think as you drunk I am.” – J. C. Squire, from the Ballade of Soporific Absorption

Manny B. was my first boss. He was always good to me. I learned years later that he would give me full credit for things we had done together, setting me up nicely for the next steps in my career. He was a bit rough around the edges, though, and, as such, not everyone’s cup of tea. He looked like Brezhnev, heavy set with bushy eyebrows and slicked back hair. He was a gruff and manly thing and would come out with rather ghastly expressions like “well, it’s better than bear shit in the buckwheat!” He accused his boss of changing his mind more often than a whore changes pants. Once, when he was swamped, he exclaimed, “why don’t they stick a broom up my butt and I could sweep the floor at the same time!” He did not abide Mondays and, most annoying, he had the ability to postpone eating until he was through at least two martinis. I’ve personally seen him break two teeth on olive pits. He was with martinis a bit like Winston Churchill was with whiskey; through diligent effort, he learned to like it.

He teetered and tottered, falling this way and that.

So when, at the end of a long afternoon, he was seen lurching to his car in the parking lot, the assumption was that he was drunk. A colleague helped steady him and texted me to get over there right away. Which I did.

I’ve seen Manny after a few too many. He was always a happy drunk, laughing easily if a tad too loud. But Manny was not laughing now. On the contrary, he was clearly distressed. He teetered and tottered, falling this way and that. I piled him into my car and took him home. It was an effort for me and his wife to get him down the walk and into the safety of his living room.

When I got back to the office the next day, there was a buzz about Manny, that he was falling down drunk at work and that we practically had to scrape him off the parking lot. At the Small Office, being drunk on the job is cause for dismissal.

Manny didn’t show up that day. Late in the afternoon, his wife Claire phoned me to say that he was in the hospital. It turns out that he had a viral infection of the vestibular nerve in his inner ear. The result was severe vertigo. Drink had nothing to do with any of it.

Dean Martin was quoted as saying you’re not drunk if you can lie on the floor without holding on. Turns out he was almost right.

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