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Turning 21

I was visiting Chicago on business and was excited to extend the trip to celebrate my son's 21st birthday with him. While tradition states that a 21st birthday should include significant drinking, sadly this is not something I'm very skilled at. Nevertheless, I felt like I had a responsibility to uphold.

He chose a French restaurant and invited 4 friends to join us. The waiter asked what we would like to drink and before any of the under 21 year olds could speak, I said, "Our 21 year old here would like a glass of red wine." Kevin didn't object and when the waiter asked what kind, Kevin gave a blank look. In fact the waiter saw 6 blank stares until I decided to fake it. "Why don't you bring him something sweet," I said. After a condescending pause, the waiter said, "this is a French restaurant, we don't have sweet wine. How about something fruity." I pretended that I had merely made a slip of the tongue, but did a miserable job of hiding my ignorance.

The waiter came back, delivered the wine and then stepped away. "Wait" I called after him. Don't you want to see proof that he's 21?" Another pause and a glance at Kevin and then back at me. "No, that's alright." Didn't this guy know that being able to prove his age was part of 21st birthday tradition?

I decided more alcohol was required the following day when I showed up at his fraternity house to tailgate before the football game. I brought a case of beer figuring that it was the perfect thing to bring to any fraternity house (By the way I was carded when I bought the beer!). Kevin was appreciative but didn't want to share his beers and the two of us each had a single beer before it was time to leave. That one beer was enough for me to hit my daily (if not monthly) limit, but as we boarded the shuttle bus to the stadium I heard the clink of glass bottles underneath Kevin's bulky warm coat. I later learned that he had four bottles hidden.

Once arriving near the stadium  we went to the student tailgate party, but the place was virtually empty. Kevin a couple of his student government friends were there but the students were boycotting new rules about alcohol in the tailgate area. Kevin was thrilled that no one was there because it meant he might have some negotiation leverage with the Dean who changed the rules. Kevin was downing his second beer when said Dean walked up to see the empty tailgate area. The Dean quickly acknowledged that changes to the policy were needed and Kevin seemed pleased.

Now it was game time. Kevin leans over to me and says, "I still have three bottles of beer on me." No beer is allowed in any college stadium. And there were plenty of yellow jacketed security guards to enforce that rule. I was a little shocked that Kevin hadn't planned better and yet he may have planned perfectly.

As the responsible adult, I considered my options about what to say to Kevin.

Option 1: "Kevin, why don't you and guzzle the three beers before we go in." Nope, I had had my one beer. I was done.

Option 2: "Kevin, why don't you either pour them out or better yet give them away to some of these people before we go inside." Nope, these were good beers and I'm too cheap for something that crazy.

I went with Option 3. "Ok, Kevin as we approach the student gate I'll go right up to the big security guard with a whole bunch of really stupid questions that only a parent could ask. I'll create a bottleneck that will force the other security guy to have to do all the checking." For his part Kevin put one beer in one arm pit and another in the other arm pit before stuffing the third down his pants. As it turns out, I'm quite skilled at asking stupid questions and creating a distraction. And Kevin was in with his beers.

With that accomplished, the next goal was to get me into the Student Section so we could watch together. There was an army of security guards designed to keep me out and the students in. Despite a virtually empty student section the guards stopped Kevin from walking across to see me. Kevin asked why and didn't like the answer he got. See as the Community Relations officer for the Student Government he not only knew the Dean real well (who by the way is in charge of punishing people who sneak beer into stadiums) but he is also friends with the Deputy Police Chief who was sitting just a few feet away. With beer stuffed in his crotch and doing everything possible not to "clink" during the conversation Kevin threatened to report the Security Guard to the Deputy Chief of Police and the Dean if he wasn't allowed to pass. He won.

There used to be a phrase called "big man on campus" and my first thought was that Kevin was indeed that, but the more I thought about it the more I concluded he would have been the "big idiot on campus" if had been caught.  Somehow I imagine that this wasn't Kevin's first rodeo when it comes to alcohol and that he's already turned out to be a better drinker than I ever was.

November 7, 2014

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