Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Modest Last Hurrah

There were seven of them, all in their 20s they said, though two looked older. The youngest wore a silver plastic tiara that read Bachelorette and she was going to be married within a week. All seven were headed to Ft. Lauderdale in Florida for one last partying weekend, a farewell to their friend’s single status and an opportunity to spend 72 hours away from familiar eyes. I was on the plane, an aisle seat, two young women to my right and three to my left. “Lucky you,” said the one seated next to me, smiling. They were sweet, bubbly, excited, and voluble. “I was warned by three friends not to get arrested,” said the one with short brown hair. “No climbing over the bar to refill my own drinks, which I did once, and then got escorted out.” “I’m  not getting arrested, either,” said the talkative one. “At least four people told me I shouldn’t.”

They had plans. They were going to be on the beach, drink in hand, within a half-an-hour of landing.  They had 72 hours and two said they did not plan to sleep at all, though a third claimed just the opposite. She worked nights back in Virginia and wanted uninterrupted slumber but was sure she wouldn’t get it. Seven young women, two hotel rooms on the beach--the likelihood of much sleep was slim.

The plane was full of young people on spring break, and by the time we landed the women already had met several men and exchanged phone numbers. There would be a lot of texting and tweeting and exchanging of information.  One of the seven had been to Ft. Lauderdale several times before and claimed to know all the best bars, and all the places where young women might drink almost free to lure the young men in.

One, seated furthest from me, had doubts. When her seatmates went to use the bathroom, she scooted over and said, “Really, I think I’m a little too old for this… I mean, I really don’t want to drink and black out.  I had a friend who got drunk on the beach, and she fell asleep and woke up with third degree sunburn. She had to be hospitalized. That doesn’t sound like much fun at all.”  Plus, she said, she had a boyfriend. “He didn’t really want me to go,” she shrugged. “I can understand that. I’m not sure I’d want him to go on a weekend with his crazy friends.”

Two of the women wanted to start drinking on the plane but the uniformed attendant said no alcohol would be served on the flight.  One rummaged through the bag under her seat, brought out a couple of miniature bottles like those found in hotel minibars.  She cracked one open, dumped half the content into the plastic cup that came with the soft drink offered by the airline, stirred it with a finger and drank it down.   Her neighbor drank the rest the little bottle empty. They smiled and exchanged a furtive high five.

When the plane landed they gathered their stuff from the overhead racks and headed straight for the airport exit, then thought better of it, stopped at a bar on the concourse and ordered drinks. The future bride waved at me as I walked by. It was 9:45 in the morning and the bartender, a woman hardly older than her customers, didn’t seem surprised at all.

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