Wednesday, January 25, 2012
It's Time to Start
It was late night in Key West, and I was strolling along Duval Street, the main thoroughfare. Here, like in New York City, bars close at 4 AM. However, unlike New York City, selling alcohol and drinking is allowed on the streets. Kiosks dot Duval Street, where blended drinks can be had, made right on the spot. Late-night revelers spill into the streets from the bars, many of them infamous like Sloppy Joe's.
However, I do not drink, so my attention was drawn to other kiosks, particularly ones selling snorkeling day trips to the Great Florida Reef - the world's 3rd largest and only barrier reef in the continental United States. The reef extends 170 miles and is located a few miles offshore, just a short trip away from the chain of island keys themselves.
This wonderment is very alien to a New Yorker, and visiting the reef seemed like one of the best things to do in the Florida Keys - exploring the marine environment. Price competition was cutthroat for excursions to the reef - good news for the consumer. My companion and I chose and reserved space on a spanking clean catamaran for only $27. The fee included round trip fare to the reef, snorkeling equipment rental, instruction on the use of the equipment, and an unlimited open bar (alcohol only on the return trip).
And so we arrived to the dock the next day and boarded ship for what was one of the most memorable explorations of the natural world I have ever known. We were given our snorkeling and safety equipment, provided a lesson, arrived at our destination, and moored near the reef for several hours. We jumped into the clean, clear aquamarine ocean - a virtual aquarium brimming with sealife of every description.
On the return trip, the bar was open for alcoholic drinks, and I was not pleased with two of our travel companions - young guys, frat boy types. It was early afternoon, and they appeared to already be poised for the business of serious drinking. It is one of my personal irritants - people who feel that alcohol is a NECESSARY condition for fun and that parties, outings, and socializing without alcohol is boring, as are people who do not share their love.
It was only 4:30 PM, and the dialogue went something like this:
Boy 1: I'm going to the bar. Do you want anything?
Boy 2: What time is it?
Boy 1: 4:30.
Boy 2: Sure. It's time to start.
Time to start drinking, that is. Those are the words that ring in my head to this day, often when I see excessive drinking or bars. I see a guy on a catamaran making a smug, confident statement that the serious and necessary business of getting drunk was a job to be done without question and that apparently, 4:30 PM was the beginning of the work shift, when responsible workers know that It's Time To Start :)
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