“HOOOOONNNNKKK!” blared the horn of the gigantic ship bearing down on me. Terrified in my fragile, rubber raft, I began to row like hell to get out of the way. Sweating in spite of the frigid temperatures, I squeezed my eyes tighter and braced my ears for another irritating blast that would further tick me off. Cautiously, I eased one eyelid open to assess this horrific situation.
To my surprise, there was no ship. Coming to my senses, I woke up and slowly opened my bloodshot eyes to realize that the “raft” was my bedroom, and that the rude intruder was my alarm clock, which sounded like a rusty buzz saw. It brazenly shimmied around on my nightstand, impatiently waiting for me to gently tap the off button. Instead, I grabbed it and hurled it across the room into the wall, satisfied when it smashed into hundreds of tiny unrecoverable pieces. Contented but still groggy, I plopped back down in bed, gently closed the lids of my severely sleep-deprived eyes, and snuggled underneath my covers to catch more sleep.
My condition was not pretty. Last night, an impromptu party, which had lasted longer than expected, had generated a hangover bigger than Paris Hilton’s ego. Foolishly, I thought I could hang, forgetting that for me, lack of sufficient sleep always results in next-day sluggishness. It was only Wednesday - over-the-hump day. I prayed that I had miscalculated and that today was actually Saturday. But such desperate, idle prayers usually went unanswered, because God always lets me reap what I sow.
I turned over again, burying my head beneath my pillow. Mere seconds had passed before my eyes snapped open with the realization of one grim fact: No work, no pay. Easing myself into a sitting position, I scratched my head and squinted my tired, red eyes as I glanced around to reorient myself and focus on just what to do next. After stretching, I slowly swung out of bed and shuffled to the bathroom for morning rituals.
After getting dressed, I did a visual sweep of my bedroom, a practice I have adopted after several embarrassing episodes of leaving office keys and other necessities behind. Pitifully armed with only a few hours of slumber, I headed for work with no clue as to how this lack of sleep would affect my day.
I spent the entire morning at my computer, yawning and crankier than a baby who had just gotten an immunization shot. The day dragged on without much productive work, but relief finally rolled around: lunchtime.
Friends, Mindi and Payne, came by to pick me up. Both grinned when they saw my face, but Mindi gleefully flashed that scornful ‘I told you not to drink so much’ look. She had EVERY RIGHT--Last night, I ignored her warnings to slow down. I was having such a good time. The ‘joy juice,’ a precise mix of Jim Beam and Mountain Dew with two stuffed Spanish olives and some cocktail onions thrown in, tasted so damn good. And because I downed gallons of it, I was still weaving, saddled with bloodshot eyes, and suffering from a Niagara Falls hangover headache, which made it painfully hard for me to even move an eyelid.
Payne helped me from my desk, and I wobbled out the door to head to our favorite all-you-can-eat spot. After finding a table, we recapped last night’s antics of other inebriated friends. Jackson and Sarah, both in a drunken stupor, argued and nearly came to blows over which show was more popular: Dobie Gillis or My Mother the Car. Who the hell remembers these bombs? Robert, the karaoke junkie, turned lime green and threw up over the balcony after downing six slices of pizza loaded with anchovies, jalapenos and guacamole dip. Hector, my hunky Puerto Rican compadre, and his able-bodied sidekick, Stubby the Knife, kept the rowdy bunch in check by threatening to cut their tongues out, an idle threat, which worked because he backed the threat up with his nearly perfect, hunky physique and his trademark, menacing stare like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.
Today, the place was packed with hungry diners because of the special surf and turf menu. Even after finishing my meal, I was still sluggish. But a mini-crisis arose: I needed something to dislodge an annoying sliver of chicken stuck between my teeth. Since the toothpick dispenser was closer to Mindi, I asked her to pass it to me. As she handed it to me, I reached over to retrieve it from her without realizing the severity of my condition or the slipperiness of that shiny, silver toothpick dispenser.
As Murphy’s Law would have it, the toothpick dispenser decided to slip helplessly from my fingers. I pawed at it erratically, a move which launched it straight up into the air. I tried to catch it before it hit the floor, but unfortunately, the dispenser and those sharp little sticks had other plans. As I grabbed at it on its way down, a million tiny sticks spewed out into the air around me like confetti thrown from a French Quarter balcony during Mardi Gras. In a split second, I looked at Mindi, who was wide-eyed and frozen in place, waiting for this bizarre scene to end. I also noticed that she had clamped both hands over her mouth, probably to keep from laughing out loud. But like a slick Super Bowl quarterback, I caught the dispenser easily between my right forearm and my thigh before it hit the floor. Given my condition, I still haven’t figured that move out. But by then, the million toothpicks I had inadvertently thrust into the air had settled into sprawling piles on the table, on the floor around the table, all over and underneath my chair where the heaviest concentration of those little sticks landed.
Payne, who witnessed this calamity, sat in stoic silence throughout my whole ordeal. At the end, he got up from his side of the table, walked around to gaze at the mess, laughed like a hyena, picked up his tray and left me to fend for myself. I knew Mindi wanted to leave me too, but being the good friend that she is, she stayed. Her bravery to stay by my side helped lessen my embarrassment. Red-faced, teary eyed and doing her best to stifle her giggles, Mindi came over to my side of the table to retrieve the shiny, silver dispenser still wedged between my right forearm and thigh.
I looked down and saw that a small pile of toothpicks on my thigh had survived the fall. Mindi, still grappling with the giggles, didn’t say a word. She removed the dispenser, placed it back on the table and said, “C’mon, lady, let’s go before you do any more damage.” As I got up, the small pile of toothpicks on my thigh immediately joined their friends on the floor. I grabbed my tray and followed Mindi towards the tray deposit area at the rear of the restaurant, ignoring the stares from other amused diners. Normally, I would have stopped to get some fruit or a bag of chips on the way out, but considering the day’s mishap, I didn’t want to risk another scene.
And the sliver of chicken? It would have to wait until I could get my hands on some floss. Moral of this story, toothpick days are much worse than bad-hair days. But if you have friends like Mindi, you will survive the best and worst of times.