The Drunk Tank

By Jan Creaser

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become less tolerant of the demon liquor. Okay, I’ve actually never been that tolerant. As a novice drinker some years ago I had the misfortune of taking a Bacardi holiday that didn’t quite live up to sun, surf and sand standards.

I’m talking about bars. I woke up behind bars. How I got there is irrelevant, although I don’t recommend passing out on a sidewalk in November after drinking excessively.

So there I was, curled in the fetal position, shivering uncontrollably on a tiny green plastic mattress. Right before I opened my eyes, a clear thought crossed my liquored brain: I’m in jail. Since I couldn’t remember most of the night before, it was quite a revolutionary thought. Despite blacking out and proceeding to an unconscious state, I still knew where I had ended up without needing to look. The idea disturbed me, until a rippling deep in my guts overrode my natural aversion to being locked in and unable to leave.

As my stomach heaved, presumably trying to escape my body, I no longer cared about bars. In fact, if they had brought me a blanket, I would’ve stayed all day. The thought of getting across the four-foot wide cell to the stainless steel toilet took more energy than actually doing it. The time it would take to sober up and recover enough to actually get in my car and drive home to Canmore seemed like an eternity. I would’ve happily stayed.

But soon my eight hours were up and a somewhat amused, yet stern Banff RCMP constable came to release me. As I unsteadily put my shoes back on, fumbling with the laces, he said, "So, had a good time last night, eh?"

I nodded, which was a mistake. I’m sure my skin was either the pale white of the walls or the deep green of the mattress on the chain-anchored slab in my cell. Either way, I wasn’t in the mood to be humoured.

After a lecture on the dangers of alcohol poisoning, I was free to go. Strangely, a giddy feeling rushed through me as I walked slowly down the stairs to the outside world again. I felt as though I had trespassed on a world closed to the average individual, except that I was average–a no more likely candidate for the tank than the person sitting next to you in class every day.

In fact, the friends I had been drinking with were appalled and felt guilty about letting me end up subjected to the "horrors" of jail. To them, I was the "good girl" in the group.

However, the tank carried a weird status in Banff and the guy across the hall in the chocolate shop even congratulated me when I went back to work.

"Hey," he yelled across the hall a couple of days later. "I heard you were in the tank the other night! Me too! It was my third time in two weeks."

Right… My overnight stay halted my drinking completely for six months, and when I resumed, it was back to the very casual rate of one or two drinks a week over a meal. As for status, time spent in jail for such a stupid reason makes a funny story, but I don’t really recommend it. The bars are the least of your problems when you’ve had that much to drink. The war your body wages against you for days afterward is far, far worse. Trust me.

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