• Richard Murff

The Drinking Man's Timetable

Drinking is an inherently social exercise, or at least it is supposed to be. One of the first questions they ask a suspected alcoholic is “Do you drink alone?” I had a friend who used the spiritually dubious “God is always with us” argument but I was never brave enough to hang the fate of my soul on that one.

When I was at the University of Alabama, the rule of thumb was that when you started to take a drink into the shower with you ­– and it wasn’t game day ­– it was time to pump the brakes. Even in those days we knew that drinking was a social affair and — no disrespect to the Romans — bathing less so.

Southerners are very social and the Southern gent is supposed to be able to hold his liquor — which is a strange prerequisite for a culture so occupied with the appearance of sin. These interesting days it would be idiotic to suggest not drinking, but a fella needs to know the when and where to imbibe. If you are going to drink heavily, it helps to be the right kind of drunk.

Fortunately, there is literally a proper drink for every minute of the day. Only a raging soak would drink a martini before lunch. Only a redneck or an undergraduate a beer for breakfast — those wee hours are the domain of the bloody mary or mimosa. The logic has something to do with cutting your booze with something a sane person might have for breakfast somehow makes it healthier. To wit:

Common sense: Seen here in vivid color

Common sense: seen here in vivid color

The timetable explained…

If you’ve managed to go public before breakfast, then it’s expected that you’ll be drinking whiskey out of the bottle or flask. The presumption here is that if you are up at that God-awful hour, then you are hunting. If that’s the case then you are trying to keep your extremities warm. You are also well-armed so you can pretty much do whatever the hell you want.

A clever observer will notice that the proper drink for the 4:00 — 7:00 am time slot is the same whiskey from the bottle as the 2:00 — 4:00 am time slot. This is because the ladies who invent these rules generally avoid their husbands after they’ve been up all night drinking and cleaning their guns.

After breakfast, the fairer sex will take charge, and you had better stand out of the way when they do. The only thing more terrifying that a Southern Belle who has had her brunch wrecked, is one who has had brunch wrecked by you. She will serve mimosa and bloody marys because that’s what her momma did. That will be the only reason she will give, and it will be the only one she needs.

At lunch you’ve got more latitude, but you don’t want to go drinking beer all afternoon if you’re headed back to the office. While on the clock, keep it to cocktails because a) that’s what your grandfather did and b) all that beer will make you bloated. Stick to liquor and you’ll be able to button that suit jacket. If you wear golf shirts to work…then stop.

Late afternoon is a perfect time for the return of beer. Shortly thereafter, uncork the wine. After that you enter the “Freeplay” time when anything goes. It’s prudent to switch to something innocuous like beer after passing the threshold of good and evil at midnight. Generally the downshift in tempo will usually put the reveler to sleep. This is nature’s way of telling us that nothing good happens after midnight. Fun, sure, but nary a thing you’d call a positive, life affirming experience.

If you aren’t coasting into the quiet by 2 am, there is no saving you at that point. Just start drinking whiskey from the bottle and start cleaning your gun.

Of course, life is more than drinking. You’ve got to be productive. The South has always been notorious for being land-rich and cash poor, and it is tough to appear caviler about money when you haven’t got any.

Now the Gentleman Farmer who used to look at the sky every time he walked out the front door now checks his smartphone for financial information. Don’t do this. For one thing after drinking all day, those tiny, fake keys are difficult to negotiate. The other reason is more metaphysical — the economy sucks.