Where’s the Waterbed

There is something unnerving yet spell-binding about the non-complacency of people when they are drunk, particularly in a group.

Back in my East Lansing days, Mikey, Jim and I would occasionally sojourn up to the Windy City and stay at Grady’s palatial 3rd floor flat (we are talking 3,000 square feet, 4 BR, 4 bathrooms in an indestructible grand building). On one of those trips, we joined a Christmas party I remember well.

Two guys at the party who were proud of their wrestling pedigree (and a bit drunk) got into a well meaning wrestling match, feeling the need to represent their high school names (to the entertainment of a few others.) They slammed into Grady’s king sized waterbed at one point, creating a small rupture. Not a big tear, so not a big problem; literally a contained one, as the mattress sat in a liner that sat in a wooden frame. But 50+ lubricated onlookers simply could not ignore this. It needed a “NOW” answer.

  • “let’s just staple it, I mean, they do that for people”
  • “tape it to seal it up, then drain it”
  • “how about we connect a hose, and sit on it to make it go faster”
  • “you got any of that glue for flat tires? we can spray it on the hole”
  • “I say let’s drink now and do something about it tomorrow”

Someone did actually attach a hose to the mattress’ main drain hole, hang it out the window and let the water siphon out using gravity. A simple, dry answer, brilliant given the situation, but slow. Hard to demonstrate progress to all the people watching. Drunks want action, now.

After 10 minutes the hose had steadily drained perhaps 2 gallons of 1,000 out the window but the onlookers had drank another 25 beers and arrived at a clear conclusions: slow answers are not good enough. No way.

A “tiger team” of savants had a better idea: pass the mattress out one of the 3rd floor windows to the driveway below. It will: more visually show success; use the energy of at least 15 people; and “solve the problem” in a few minutes, right? A much better idea. Disregard the weight a king size waterbed, the collateral damage to the carpeting, the difficulty in just getting it out of the frame, or the cost of fixing vs replacing a king size mattress they were not paying for anyway. ACTION = SMART.

Even before the team of Einsteins had pulled the mattress out of the frame, Mikey in all his insouciance said, “hey mush head, let’s get a good view from the next window , this is amazing!” And it was. Weird visions came to mind: here were 15 people hell-bent on teaching a baby blob to walk. Initially, getting the mattress up and thru the window’s opening was tough going. But it became less resistant as it’s own gravity drew it out into the frigid winter night, slithering out on its own weight.

Unfortunately, no one had “looked down” from the window for anything below. So it was with horror that we watched as this large creature hurtled downward, indiscriminately ripping out the power and telephone lines for the 1st and 2nd floor flats. At each level the mattress met with a burst of electricity as cables were ripped from the building. Building lights flashed dead on the 2nd, then the 1st floor. Finally, the mattress sprawled on the floor, a dead blobbish creature, while the electrical cables writhed around, momentarily arcing electricity and then going dead. (To make matters worse, the 2nd floor unit’s new owner had just moved in that day).

"Oh shit, you guys, oh shit" was the basic reaction three floors up.

People’s true character shines thru in times of conflict. And clearly, the party goers were seasoned pros. “Hide the evidence” was the call to action. "Hey let’s just chop it up and throw it in the different dumpsters, all that’s left is a bunch of water in the morning." Without any more discussion a dozen single minded partiers raced to the kitchen, then brandishing the knife of choice but without waiting to don coats for the numbing January air they thundered down the stairs, out to the alleyway and hacked the mattress and its patent-pending “wave-neutralizer” filler into pieces. It was a bizarre scene. At the time impressive for their speed and pragmatic approach. But now looking back it’s more chilling memory. The tossed the mattress’s “remains” into dumpsters across the nearby buildings, and the came back in with proud grins for solving things so fast. And the water, well it blended into the snow and ice. What people don’t find cannot cause problems, right?

A few mins after the party has resumed a knock emerged from the door. Brian was summoned as one of the hosts, the music was muted. "Hi I just moved to the 2nd floor and my power just died – any idea why?" came the question from the new tenant. "Hmmm, gosh I wish I could help, would like you like to join us for some food or beer?" replied Brian in his trademark helpful manner. His gambit worked, the tenant declined as it was late for either but used the phone to contact CIPS.

I came away with two observations: perhaps what had transpired is a version of what must occur more often than we care to believe in terms of impatience and alcohol; in this case, the drunk cohort iterated two different solutions, from a better, slower one to a faster, much much dumber one.

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