Alcohol issues are subjective, of course, and in reality most of the Western world could be deemed to have “an alcohol problem”. This is what I thought when I read about drinking problems in some daily paper or the internet or something.
The man in the high visibility vest wonders down the empty vehicle picking up newspapers and rubbish, fast food containers and all sorts of clutter. Methodically, he uses a large set of tongs to transfer society’s waste into a large polythene bag. He finally arrives at the end of the upper deck and finds what he has found several nights this month, me. I am vaguely aware of someone talking, telling me to move on, words about end of the line ring somewhere in my subconscious. Then he pokes me a couple of times in the face with the tongs. Those fetid tongs, they reek of chewing gum and piss, the rinsed kidneys of a thousand tramps. It is a smell that can wake the dead. This is my alarm call, this is Walthamstow bus depot and this is a drinking problem.
With drunkenness that knows no bounds I have consumed most of a bottle of cheap Scotch on the bus home. My favourite is High Commissioner; I like it because it is very cheap. Jovial work drinks end when everyone feels a stoic duty to return home to see some people other than those you share a job with. It is an uneasy social imbalance that is one of London’s defining characteristics. By this point I am already drunk. I drink beer fast and the others cannot keep up. This is why I hate the round system. I like to sneak off to the bogs and get a couple of drinks at the other side of the saloon bar where no one can see me. The barman is the same guy, however, and he knows what I am doing as well as what I am. He is just waiting, counting the days until I get my own special stool by the bar. Soon I will turn a greyish hue, surrounded by the rest of the barflies, gaining nutrition from stout and pork scratchings. I will adhere to the strict timetable of the Licensing Act 2003. Yes, this is all still to come but not yet.
Alcohol issues are subjective, of course, and in reality most of the Western world could be deemed to have “an alcohol problem”. This is what I thought when I read about drinking problems in some daily paper or the internet or something. I forget where exactly because I was already drunk at the time, alone listening to Van Halen and drinking beer. I only stopped in order to go to work. When work sent me home for being too drunk I continued where I had left off earlier. The thing I get pissed off about with regards to people waxing lyrical about their drink problems is the fucking whininess of the whole thing. Why can’t we have a good time while consistently drunk?
So I think back to the bus depot. I have met the guy a few times now, I think his name is Mike. He turfs me out into the street with aplomb and lets me get on with it. Ironically I have got on a bus that doesn’t really go towards my house. I have some strange affinity with Walthamstow terminus when I am reamed. I assume this is simply because the buses come more frequently than others rather than any blind providence. Occasionally I get the last tube here too, so there must be something about the E17 postcode. When you are fucked all the time, cognitive ability goes down the pan. You exist in a simplified world where transport equates to home and money equates to more drinking. You don’t need to go any further than that.
Despite countless attempts to await the bus’s return leg, Mike won’t let me stay in my usual suite and I wander into the freezing night to search for an alternative form of transport. By now I will board any transport going anywhere, purely because it is warm. I am too fucked to read the maps anyhow. I know that in about 5 hours I have to be back at work so I can while away my time on the bus to nowhere. I board the service westbound. Short of jumping onto a coal train, this is the London equivalent of riding boxcars I suppose.
An indefinite amount of time passes until I am again woken up, this time by a crippling need to void my bowels. I descend the Routemaster’s stairs and push the button like an arcade game. The doors mercifully open and I fly into the street, pull down my pants and crap all over the pavement. I am feeling fine about this because though I have already shat myself a little, it could have been a lot worse. This is damage limitation par excellence. As I squat on the High Street I notice the serried ranks of late night revellers take a scenic route to avoid me at all costs. I don’t really blame them. There is nothing like a taking a shit on the pavement to put you well beyond the constricting bonds of society. Nobody will touch you, literally. So I take off my soiled boxers and cast them aside in a manner that I have done many times before and set out to buy some beer.
London is a civilised place, festooned with 24 hour off licenses who will unscrupulously sell liquor to even the drunkest gutter trash. I notice there is a bit of shit on my hand as I hand over a crinkled fiver. I don’t wait for the change.
Time moves in mysterious ways when you are under the influence of booze and it appears that a whole evening has passed, almost without incident. The percussive ping of my alarm alerts me to the imminent prospect of work. I can take the tube now, which is good. The rush hour is just heating up so I don’t get a seat, which is a shame. All these cunts in suits looking at me, looking at what they don’t understand.
Collectively I tell them to fuck off. They can lick the salt off my cock. Eloquence like that is my speciality.
At this point some TM Lewin vigilante tries to do the honourable thing and confront this display of rude vagrancy. Obviously I have forgotten his exact words but the phrase “stop making a scene” was part of it.
A scene? Never call the bluff of an unstable drunk. I will give him a scene. I stand over him trying to maintain eye contact and then let him have it. I piss myself. Warm piss floods my trousers like a hot tide of retribution, my grey flannels augment its effect magnificently. I don’t know why I thought this was the correct course of action but the suits fled as one. There is nothing like a dribbling piss to get people moving in the right direction. After this the carriage was pretty much empty and I got a seat. I was much happier. Despite being half and hour early for my shift, work sent me home pretty much immediately which was fair enough. The trip home was fine. I had to leave the train three times to puke but we got there in the end. I drank a can of lager and fell into a deep sleep.
Whilst the rest of the world flits around manically I can sit in bed until the opportune moment to drink again comes around.
Do I feel remorse or a desire to sort my life out? I most certainly don’t.
Do I want to change? I most certainly don’t. It’s costing me a fortune in undergarments but that’s par for the course now.