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One drink, two drink, three drink, floor

An indiscriminate 23-year-old wrestles the physiological effects of alcohol

by and


With this barhopping guide in hand, you finally can meet new and interesting people who might respect you in the morning. Hooray.

However, since nothing dissuades a cute stranger faster than alcohol-laden projectile vomiting, it's probably best to understand your limitations before you alienate everyone on Tejon Street.

Alcohol is a depressant with predictable side effects, including impaired motor coordination and the distribution of your phone number to stalkers who smell like cheese in weird places. Most people can physically eliminate one drink an hour, but the more a person weighs (think muscle, not fat), the more he or she can drink.

Administer equal portions of liquor to a woman and a man weighing the same amount, and the woman will have higher blood-alcohol content (BAC). The older you are, the faster you get drunk, so tell Grandma not to match her young lumberjack boyfriend shot for shot. She'll be ralphing on his flannel before she can say "Jagermeister."

Since no two drinkers are exactly alike, let's pretend to follow a healthy, 140-pound, 23-year-old through a night of barhopping. While it's impossible to pinpoint exactly what will happen to a given person through a given night of debauchery, what follows is a best-guess scenario, courtesy of hard science and softer sociology.

She'll begin with a plate of cheese fries. Only 20 percent of the alcohol she'll drink will enter her bloodstream through her stomach; the rest will enter through her small intestine. When she eats, her pyloric valve closes, trapping everything for digestion, thereby slowing absorption. If she skips dinner, she'll become inebriated faster, and inevitably dance on a table with dirty toilet paper stuck to her shoe while her friends cringe in the corner. There's nothing sexier than that.

Round 1 (7 p.m.): Her lipstick is intact. Add one Screwdriver. Her cerebral cortex responds by slightly increasing her euphoria and making her a little less shy. BAC rises to .012. She has no problems walking or talking, so she steps to the bar and orders another.

Round 2 (7:30): Lipstick is mostly on the glass. BAC rises to .039. If she tries to fly a commercial airliner, the FAA will have her removed from the airport, especially if she isn't a pilot. She has to pee, since the production of anti-diuretic hormones in her kidneys is depressed. Life is good.

Round 3 (8 p.m.): Lipstick is buried in her purse. Lint gets wedged under her nails when she tries to find it. BAC rises to .058. She has officially lost her job as a commercial pilot, which is fine, because that lint could get into the controls and short-circuit something important. She feels all warm and fuzzy, so she throws caution to the wind and gives Quasimodo the Bartender her number.

Round 4 (8:30): She still can't find the lipstick, so she borrows her friend's, unconcerned about the cold sore. She pushes the hair out of her face, trapping the aforementioned nail lint in her bangs. She needs to pee again. BAC rises to .077. She's on the brink of a potential DUI, but stumbles to the bar anyway. Since her limbic system affects her memory, she gives Quasimodo her number again, laughing too loudly at her own adorable wit.

Round 5 (8:45): Dropped the lipstick on the bathroom floor and can't find it. BAC rises to .11. If she gets behind the wheel, she can kiss her license goodbye. She leans suggestively across the bar to flirt with Quasimodo but loses her balance, depositing the ubiquitous purse/nail/hair lint in his olive tray. "Stupid bitch," he says. "Yeah, I love to fish," she replies, her hearing slightly impaired. "You should call me!"

Round 6 (9 p.m.): After this Screwdriver, everything will be blurry and unbalanced due to her impaired cerebellum. Next time she goes to pee, she'll trip on the lipstick, bust her shin, and then miss the seat while examining her bloody leg. BAC rises to .138. Her hypothalamus is depressed now, which loosens her sexual inhibitions. "The bartender wants to take me fishing! I can't wait to see his rod," she slurs erotically to Quasimodo's girlfriend, who promptly starts throwing lint-befouled olives and screaming.

Round 7 (9:15): It's a good thing someone else got this round, because the floor is treacherously garnish-laden and spinning to boot. Quasimodo is suddenly single. BAC rises to .162. Her stomach is starting to churn, but she's suppressing the technicolor yawn, because some chick missed the toilet seat and urinated on the floor.

Rounds 8 and 9 (9:30 and 9:45): Her stomach lining is irritated and more stomach acid is being secreted. That's it; she's hurling all over the screaming ex-girlfriend's shoes. BAC rises to .215. Maybe a White Russian will settle her stomach, but it's doubtful.

Round 10 (10 p.m.): She won't be going anywhere without someone helping her walk or carrying her. BAC is dangerously high at .242, and her medulla is rebelling. If she keeps drinking, her blood pressure and breathing rates will fall, and she'll lose consciousness completely. She might even die. The ex-girlfriend punches her in the nose, but it's OK; she won't remember it tomorrow.

The hangover cometh (8 a.m.): There are socks on her teeth and chunks of dried yak in her hair. The strange man in her bed smells like Asiago. "Let's go fishing," he says, but all she hears is the dull, painful thudding of her own heartbeat in her ears. Vitamins B-6 and C, fluids, more vomiting, more bed rest and an understanding employer comprise her only hope. Next time, maybe she'll slow it down.

Drink responsibly.

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