Saturday, March 31, 2007

The Most Anticlimactic Keg Party Ever (Post-Uni)

My roommates and I were feeling pretty good about ourselves. I had just been interviewed by the organization that I am currently with and told that my prospects were excellent, and they were on the verge of completing their college programs, and already had some decent jobs secured. So we knew that we'd have to start acting grown up. Eventually.

But first, it was decided, that we would have THE KEG PARTY TO END ALL KEG PARTIES. The ultimate blow-off to our adolescence. After all, we were all in our mid-twenties, it was time to take that step forward. We invited all of our childhood friends, people we went to school with, acquaintances from around town, anyone who we thought would be interested.

Anyone who has planned a keg party knows that logistics are very important. Where the kegs are placed, how many of them you have to buy, how much to charge each person, etc. Serve too little food and everyone gets too drunk too fast and the party sucks. Serve too much, and everyone gets full and no one drinks the beer. The type of beer is also important. And there are few things worse that sitting around on a Sunday afternoon trying desperately to get your money's worth by sitting around that last three-quarters full keg and passing the nozzle around between four bloated, desparate drinkers.

So, logistics experts that we were, we decided on three 20L kegs (which are a bit smaller than the large round ones) with three different kinds of beer. The keg party was to take place on a Saturday, allowing us to pick up the kegs on Friday night, leave them on the balcony packed in snow, and they'd certainly be ice-cold by the time Saturday evening rolled around. One of the guys volunteered to pay for the kegs by credit card, and he would be the one collecting money on Saturday, and just pocket the cash.

We had everything planned out. The brewery across town carried the kegs, and closed at 6. My buddies were usually home from school at around 3:30, and I got home from work at around 4:15. That gave us an hour and 45 minutes to make a trip that usually took about 40. And we had never actually ever been to this brewery, and the directions were a tad odd. And because I'm volunteering all of this precise information, I'm sure you can guess that something went horribly awry.

At around 3:30, I was starting to pack up my shit at work - I usually worked until 4:00, but I had forfeited a break to get to leave a bit early and make sure that I wasn't holding anything up. I looked outside and I saw some snow starting to fall. At 3:35, it was a total whiteout. A freak snowstorm was coming through.

Now, driving in snowstorms never bothered us. We grew up in the country, and we had seen more snow and slush and ice than Toronto ever would. The problem was that no one else in the city knew how to drive in the snow. Most people never bothered to put winter tires on their cars. Even half an inch on the roads meant hundreds of fender-benders around the city. And I had watched half an inch fall in five minutes.

I got home at 4:00, and I was the first to arrive. Already, a bad sign. The guys came in about 20 minutes later, as a drive back from college that should have taken 8 minutes took 35. The snow was already up over our shoetops. But we decided to press on, even after we checked the news and heard that the worst was yet to come.

Onto the expressway, and we were just praying that we wouldn't see a tractor-trailer on its side in front of us. After a few minutes, the wind picked up and we didn't have to worry about that, because we couldn't see anything at all. We were crawling along, the only thing visible were the outlines of brake lights in front of us. We heard tires spin, brakes screeching, and every time, we prayed that we weren't driving straight into a multi-car pile up. Then, everything stopped.

In the best of times, Toronto's expressways are pretty slow going. They are, after all, the most used sections of road in North America. That's right, North America. Busier than New York City, busier than LA. Look it up. Add a freak end-of-season snowstorm to the mix, and you've got total gridlock.

We sat idling in the car, still nowhere close to our destination point, which we weren't even confident we'd be able to find in good weather conditions, and our window of opportunity was steadily closing. We were stuck on the expressway for over an hour, and we knew that we couldn't continue like this. It was 5:30, and we still hadn't done half the trip. Defeat started to set in.

"I don't think we're going to make it, we might as well find a place to stop and wait out the storm."

"Yeah, it would be kind of lame to die searching for beer kegs. Imagine our tombstones?"

But I never lost hope that we would find a way. If for no other reason, that if we managed to pick up the kegs, it would make for one of the greatest shared experiences that we've ever had, and we've had quite a few.

"Fuck that guys, we're not giving up."

"We'll, what do you suggest? We've got 25 minutes left before the brewery closes, and I guarantee they're not going to wait for us in this weather."

"First thing's first, we have to get off the expressway."

"WHAT? ARE YOU CRAZY? We don't even know this part of town at all, and even following the proper route, we don't know whether we can find this place."

"Hey, all I know is that we're never going to make it while snails are passing us at the side of the road. We know that we have to go west, and all of Toronto's roads split off of Yonge St. into East and West. So we just have to find a road that goes west, and make sure that the numbers keep going up, that way we know we're headed west."

"Then what?"

"Then we stop at a gas station and ask for directions."

An audible gasp was heard in the car at the thought of asking for directions. I didn't like the idea myself. We were all guys, after all.

"And you think that some gas jockey is going to know how to find this brewery?"

"How couldn't he? He's a gas jockey. He probably knows every place to purchase alcohol, and whatever else you want, within 20 square kilometers."

"Can't argue with that logic."

So we took the next exit off the expressway.

5:40 pm. The wind died down somewhat, so we could see a bit further in front of us. Unfortunately, solidly a foot of snow had fallen since we left home, and nothing was plowed. We weren't even sure what side of the road we were driving on, or whether we were on a road at all. The traffic had subsided a bit as people were starting to get home, but there were still a lot of people stuck in their cars.

5:44 pm. I start to get shit on for my decision to veer off the expressway, as it seems that all hope is lost. Toronto has a gas station on every street corner, but we've gone 7 blocks without hitting one. Goddammit. We try to read the street signs to find out where we are, and they're all caked with snow and illegible. Goddammit.

5:47 pm. We find a gas station and my buddy whips in and gets the directions. The guy starts giving him street names. "Fuck that, we can't read shit out there. We need landmarks and stuff to go by". True to form, the gas jockey draws him a detailed map with little pictures and such. We invite him to the party.

5:51 pm. According to the map, we're about 5 blocks away. But then, the guy tells us to turn right on a one-way street...that goes left. Goddammit. We double back and get all turned in circles. The driver pulls over to the side of the road, defeated.

"Fuck! We were so close!"

Just then, the sky cleared just enough that we could see, three stop lights away, the brewery. With 9 minutes to go. Of course, we hit every red light, and pulled into the parking lot at 5:58 pm. Doing about 90.

5:58 pm. The lights are starting to go out at the brewery, and we see the guy fiddling with his keys to lock the door. We knew there was no hope...unless...

The driver hammers the gas and heads straight for the door. He pulls the emergency brake and goes into a fishtail, bringing the passenger side door in line with the entrance to the brewery. Shotgun flings open the door, undoes his seatbelt and leaps out, on a dead run before he hits the ground. He stops running about 15 meters before he gets to the door, and slides the rest of the way, slamming his face into the door at 5:59.


After completing the 360 fishtail and stopping, the other three of us slammed into the door right behind him. The store clerk looked at us and kept going to lock the door.


"The three kegs?"


"Oh well, alright then."

So he let us in. We got the kegs, the pumps, and everything.

"So, how are you guys going to pay for this?"


"Ok. No, wait. We've already shut down the visa and Interac thing. I hope you guys have cash on you."

The four of us look at each other in panic. Fortunately, I had already gotten to the point where I had shunned debit cards and paid for everything in cash, so I had about $180 on me. Problem was, the other guys had to find about another $100 between them. We were down to toonies and loonies, but we just managed. I think that the four of us combined had $4 to spare.

And we walked out, kegs in hand, savouring the sweetness of victory. It was all we could do to not start drinking them that night, for all that we went through.

Now the party.

You know what? The party wasn't even all that great. I can't even remember a thing about it.


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