St. Catharines Standard (ON)
Spectrum, Tuesday, December 26, 2006, p. C1
Tales of drunken folly
When people get drunk, they often do silly things. Two young authors have collected stories from around the world of pickled people rising to the occasion with feats of utter foolishness.
Coffee grounds or a dead man’s ashes? There’s potential for confusion.
Especially if you’re drunk. Or recovering from a hangover and in desperate need of a jolt of caffeine to awaken your numbed senses.
So, perhaps it’s not a complete surprise that when a group of hung-over teenagers found an innocuous enough looking container on a fireplace mantel, they made certain misguided assumptions about its contents.
Sure looked like coffee grounds.
So, without so much of a second all-important probing thought that likely could have avoided the whole unfortunate incident, they spooned the granules into mugs, submerged them in hot water and drank up.
Maybe they thought it tasted a bit odd but probably reasoned its flavour came from being past its expiration date.
Later that day, reality struck when a relative returned and informed them: “You idiots, you’ve drunk my grandfather’s remains!” Whoops.
Then there’s the man who tried to feed beer to a rattlesnake and got bit. The drunken guy who dashed across a racetrack to get a better look at some pretty women and got smacked by a galloping racehorse. And the drunk, British comedian who jumped naked into a shark and stingray-infested tank on a bet.
The moral of the story? When people get drunk, they often do stupid things.
And if their encounter with stupidity makes it into the morning press, then it’s not just stupidity – it’s entertainment.
After all, who won’t admit to enjoying a good laugh at the misfortune of others?
That’s pretty much the rationale behind the debut book by a couple of friends and former college buddies, Noel Boivin and Christopher Lombardo. The Man who Scared a Shark to Death and Other True Tales of Drunken Debauchery (Penguin Canada, $18), is a collection of newspaper stories from around the world of pickled people rising to the occasion with feats of utter foolishness and assorted hare-brained exploits.
The pair met in the journalism program at Humber College. Noel, 28, grew up in St. Catharines, went to Holy Cross and St. Catharines Collegiate high schools and works as an editor of a daily English newspaper in Bangkok, Thailand. Christopher, 32, lives in Toronto and works at Bowdens, a media monitoring company.
The idea was concocted a few years back. Noel was talking with his uncle who mentioned tongue-in-cheek that he’d never seen a book that would offer up a dose of compassion for those morning-after-the-night-before folks on the mend.
“To have something to read to comfort yourself that at least you weren’t THAT guy,” says Noel, laughing.
The pair (who say they’ve never done anything stupid enough to be included in their own book) submitted their idea to Penguin Canada and began a search of stories that would spur readers to shake their collective heads in disbelief. They plodded through newspaper databases and the Internet, searching key words like drunk, embarrassed, shame and remorse.
They cut anything too offensive and kept the more unusual and funny escapades of the inebriated.
“They’re human stories,” says Noel. “We’re laughing at the misfortune of others,” he says, then adding after a short pause, “but not in an evil way.”
There are about 180 stories in all, ranging from people who get drunk then decide to interact with animals to plastered high-profile professionals who make the mistake of performing high-profile public acts of stupidity, to some hilarious excuses offered up by the intoxicated.
Take the story of the guy from Toronto who passed out on the table during a chess tournament, only to be startled back into consciousness by his ringing cell phone. At this point, “he unzips his fly and pees on the board,” says Christopher.
And subsequently makes it into the Toronto Star.
Then there’s the guy from Edmonton who was drunk when he went out on to the 20th-storey balcony of his apartment building to adjust a satellite TV wire. He lost his balance (while standing on a wobbly chair, no less) and fell over the edge.
Sounding not too funny?
Well, rest assured, the guy survived. “Ironically, his fall was broken by cable (TV) wires,” says Noel.
While he did break some bones during his descent, he said his motivation for getting better reception was a Judas Priest concert later that month, explaining “that’s not music you can sit down to.”
Or how about the German guy who was stopped by a cop for driving drunk and subsequently decided to impersonate a friend to avoid being charged himself. When the police searched his friend’s name, they found a unique piece of information.
His friend had a glass eye.
As the drunken man’s story was quickly unravelling, he told police that his glass eye had somehow turned into the real thing.
“It was a miracle of medical science,” says Christopher.
And finally, how about the drunken man who was sidelined with a flat tire. He thought he was calling roadside assistance, but instead dialed the number for the local police station. He shared the fact that he was drunk, had no licence and implored a mechanic to come soon before the cops happened upon him.
The police officer commented, “He wanted us to come quickly, so we did.”
And while the pair wrote the book to poke fun at the half-baked stunts of the sloshed, they reserve a small amount of respect for them in an oddball sort of way.
“You have to admire some of these people a little bit for the sheer gall for what they did,” says Noel.
Adds Christopher: “They’re not the kind of people you’d want at your barbecue or at your daughter’s communion.
“But at least they’re not dull people.”
Says Noel: “They have a certain panache. A joie de vivre.”
The Man Who Scared a Shark to Death and Other True Tales of Drunken Debauchery (Penguin Canada, $18) can be found at the local Chapters and Coles bookstores, Chapters.ca and Amazon.ca. The pair is planning other books on human misadventure.