Earlier this year I was incredibly lucky to get to fly out to Los Angeles and attend E3, a massive video convention that attracts tens of thousands of people from around the world. I had an absolute blast and got to meet a ton of cool people and try out a bunch of new games, but there’s one thing that happened during my trip that I’ll never be able to forget. It’s a moment that I’ll forever remember as the most awkward experience of my life.
I actually flew to LA a few days ahead of the convention. There were a lot of sights I wanted to see and places I wanted to visit, and I was determined to make the most of my trip. By a string of weird coincidences, while I was staying with relatives, we ended up making plans to meet a friend of theirs at a bar for drinks. Let’s call this friend Mike, for Mike’s Hard Lemonade (you’ll get why it’s funny in a minute).
When we got to the bar the parking lot was pretty crowded, and since Mike was already by the entrance waiting, I volunteered to get out of the car early to meet him while my relatives found a spot. He was a big, beefy man, much older than me, with a strict, no-nonsense glint in his eyes. He was also a very successful businessman, as my relatives had explained to me in the car, achieving some impressive feats throughout his career. Now, as I walked towards him, he was on the phone, screaming at whoever was unlucky enough to be on the receiving end. Spit was flying out of his mouth and Mike’s face was turning progressively redder. He was looking a bit like the Kool-Aid Man. When he finally finished his call he approached me, cocked his head back, and stuck out his hand like he was pulling a revolver. He shook what felt like my entire arm with an iron grip.
I was suddenly regretting my decision.
A text from my relatives informed me that they would still be a few more minutes. Rather than wait outside, Mike invited me into the bar, saying we could share a drink or two in the meantime. My head down, I agreed and followed him.
It was pretty crowded inside. There were a bunch of television sets loudly playing different games, and the strong scent of cigarette smoke permeated the air. My eyes blinking rapidly, I could make out a small cluster of cushy armchairs in the corner of the bar, on one of which a couple was getting handsy with each other. Mike steered me through the crowd to the bar and slabbed a meaty hand on the table. Making a finger gun with his thumb and pointer finger, his back arched forward onto the tabletop of the bar, he pointed at an innocent bartender polishing a glass.
“Barkeep,” Mike barked, “get me a screwdriver.” Then he turns his head and the finger gun to me. “What are you drinking?”
Now, at this point, I feel it’s fitting to mention that I’m not much of a drinker. I mean, sure, I may enjoy the occasional sip of wine at dinner, or, if I’m feeling dangerous enough, I might indulge in some hard apple cider (it makes my tummy feel warm). But as a whole my drinking days can basically be summed up by a sad half-shot of caramel vodka. I think I drank once in college, granted I don’t remember much from then, having passed out as soon as the liquid touched my tongue.
Anyway, standing there, in that moment, I stupidly realized that I had no idea of the names of any drinks. Mike was looking at me expectantly, and the stress of the moment made me hesitate. My mind was racing and unfortunately saw safety in the loving embrace of one of my favorite TV shows: Scrubs. I remembered how the main character, JD, loves to drink a particular alcoholic beverage, and its name came to me quickly. What my mind neglected to also remember is that JD is frequently mocked for it being his beverage of choice.
I looked past Mike at the bartender and said those fateful words, “I’ll have an appletini.”
I’ll never forget the look Mike gave me. It was a look I had never before seen in an adult’s eyes. It was a look of hope. A look that said, “Oh, I heard him wrong and he definitely just ordered himself a bucket of beer.”
But he hadn’t and I didn’t.
Then, in order to bring the awkwardness full circle, to add the final nail in the coffin of me never being able to speak to Mike again, I continued to foolishly parrot out Scrubs quotes and said to the bartender, “Can you make it easy on the tini?”
Mike didn’t say another word to me once my relatives finally joined us, but the appletini ended up coming with a succulent pineapple wedge, so who’s really the loser here?
As an aside, I did actually end up learning something about myself that night: I learned the meaning of the word lightweight. As I made my way through two appletinis (it was pretty out of control), progressively becoming more and more happy as I did, everything suddenly seemed so much more vibrant. The lights were bright, the music so acute and rhythmic, the table nice and smooth. I’m pretty sure I discovered a new color during this time. The crazy thing is only fifteen minutes had passed since we walked into the bar.
At some point over the course of the evening in the bar with Mike, who was refusing to make eye contact with me even though we were sitting across from each other (maybe it was because he saw me gnawing on the pineapple wedge like a squirrel), through my dazed stupor, I came to the unfortunate realization that I had to use the restroom pretty badly. It hit me like a train. All of a sudden it was an emergency situation.
Now here was a dilemma.
I could see the bathroom doors a short distance off, but I knew if I tried to stand up in my state I would inevitably collapse into the arms of the poor busboy nearby who was just trying to get his work done and probably had a family back home. Still, I had to take the risk. Using both hands to push off from the table, I managed to stand up and waddle off, making a break for it. I made it through the bathroom doors before promptly mistaking empty air for a wall to lean on and collapsing to the ground. Two appletinis clearly had done me in.
When I was finished doing my business and returned to the table, my relatives and Mike blessedly decided to call it an early night and head out. As we said our goodbyes and Mike walked off, I couldn’t help feeling like I missed out on making a good first impression with him, that I had somehow soured what could have been a lasting and meaningful friendship. But then I remembered the appletinis and it all made sense again.
And that was the most awkward experience of my life.
So readers, I leave you with these words of wisdom to learn from my experience: when you order appletinis for the first time, always get them extra easy on the tini. Oh, and never order a peachtini. If you do, you’ve gone too far.