S**t Faced by
(361 Stories)

Prompted By Drugs and Alcohol

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Does anyone remember the days when it was acceptable, even encouraged, to drink at lunch? This story takes place on June 4, 1976. It will later become evident how I remember the exact date. Dan and I both worked at our first jobs at SofTech – he as a programmer; I, a Program Librarian (glorified data inputter) in Waltham, MA, and lived a few miles away.

This day, a group of about six or seven of us went to lunch at Callahan’s, a large steak house, better known for the LARGE drinks they served, to celebrate a project completion. At the time, my drink was a gin and tonic, but I’ve never had a head for alcohol. Drinks at Callahan’s were served in large, 11 ounce plastic tumblers.

We placed our steak orders but the drinks came out first (I eat so little meat these days, I can’t imagine eating a steak for lunch, but that’s a different story). I weighed all of 90 pounds. It was a warm day and the others at the table encouraged me to drink quickly and order another. They were having fun with me.

I’d had one and half drinks before consuming any food. Boy, was I fun! John W. puffed away on his nasty cigar and they had me take a puff (meanwhile, my husband sat there, bemused, as the whole episode unfolded). Though I didn’t, it probably wouldn’t have taken much encouragement to have me dancing on the table. Yeah, it was that kind of party. I finally got some food into my stomach, the bill was paid, Dan and I started to drive back to the office (we had come together), but I felt terrible (big surprise). I asked him to pull off the road. He pulled into the parking lot of a church, I rolled down the window (no automatic windows on our cars back then) and puked out the window. Good lord, I was sick.

I asked Dan to take me home (at this point, we were closer to our apartment than the office). He did, then went back and told everyone that I was “shit-faced”, not untrue, but not how I might have characterized my condition. My car stayed parked at the office overnight.

I passed out at home. I drifted in and out of consciousness. I was truly sick. I threw up many more times. I don’t remember eating anything. I had no appetite.

Later that evening a friend came over and we turned on the TV to watch our beloved Celtics in the NBA finals against the Phoenix Suns (I became a big basketball fan at Brandeis and was now a full-time resident of Massachusetts; I had never watched professional basketball in Detroit, so had no allegiance to that team). I tried to watch but kept passing out. This was the 5th game of the finals, the famous triple overtime game. Every time I became conscious, that damn game was in overtime, a bit like “Ground Hog Day”. That’s why I know exactly what day it was. I really wanted to watch, but couldn’t stay awake. The Celtics persevered and won 128-126 and won their 13th championship two nights later.

I was sick throughout the night. It was clear that I had alcohol poisoning. I have not been able to tolerate the smell of gin since. I actually have a sense aversion to it. And I’ve learned to not be the “party girl”, but watch my intake. In fact, I haven’t had any hard liquor since, just a little wine. I really cannot hold my alcohol.




Profile photo of Betsy Pfau Betsy Pfau
Retired from software sales long ago, two grown children. Theater major in college. Singer still, arts lover, involved in art museums locally (Greater Boston area). Originally from Detroit area.

Characterizations: right on!


  1. John Shutkin says:

    A terrifically told story of a terrible time, Betsy. And I loved how you tied it in with the Celtics’ game — and Groundhog Day. I lived in New York then and everything was about the Knicks, so I was oblivious to the whole multiple overtime situation.

    So sorry about your aversion to hard liquor, but, frankly, it may be easier than it is for me, who really likes the stuff, but chooses to watch his intake despite that. And, dare I admit, in the summer I am very much a G & T guy. Ironically, I’ve always considered gin to be virtually odorless and think that any scent comes just from the tonic and lime, but what do I know? Even sober.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      The story is better in the retelling than living it the first time, that’s for sure, John.

      You may be correct about the smell of gin. Perhaps it’s the tonic and lime that emit the order. I’ve never tried it since. I know lots of people enjoy the drink in the summer. I’m not not one of them.

      • John Shutkin says:

        It really sounds like a horrible experience, Betsy. That said, I must admit to having had a G & T last night when we went out to a family dinner — the restaurant is known for making its own tonic with juniper berries. But, in your honor, I felt guilty about enjoying it. (And I only had one, and there was very little gin in it.)

  2. Wow Betsy, poor girl! But you learned your limits!

    I’m reminded of getting sick to my stomach at the very elegant wedding reception of the son of Danny’s boss. I don’t remember if it was food or drink, but I felt so bad I told Danny I had to leave.

    I took a cab home, vomited, and immediately felt better. I wanted to hop in a cab and go back – but I had already sent the babysitter home!

  3. Suzy says:

    Wow, what a story! Funny (now) about trying to watch the Celtics game, but I’m sure at the time it wasn’t funny at all.

    Like John, I’m a G&T drinker in the summertime, learned that at Harvard. But the two times I have gotten really drunk and sick it has been on martinis, both times in the last ten years. So now I’m a little cautious about gin.

  4. Marian says:

    Your story brought back memories of crazy office parties at lunch, Betsy. I feel terrible that you, weighing all of 90 pounds, put away that much alcohol, and I can totally understand your aversion to gin, even its smell. My first full-time job was in an ad agency (at the end of the Mad Men era), and there was alcohol for every celebration. I actually got to like Ouzo and Sambucca liqueurs served by my colleagues, which I could daintily sip. I drew the line at Guinness for St. Patrick’s Day, which I tasted and almost spat out. Can’t even stand the sight of the bottle to this day.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Those were wild times, Mare. And I totally get your feelings about Guinness (I feel that way about all beer). I worked at a fun company in Waltham from 1981-1984, made up of smart B-school types, a work hard-play hard environment (I wrote a few stories about them; one called “The DSS Twins”, the other was “Walt at MDS”). Almost every Friday late afternoon they’d order in pizza and beer and we’d all have a good time. I enjoyed that, even without personal alcohol consumption.

  5. Khati Hendry says:

    Glad you survived the alcohol poisoning—it does sound like more than just a run of the mill drunk. I had a bad experience with sangria my first year of college and that put me off it (and excess alcohol) for a long time. Then at a wedding I had too much Dom Perignon (someone was ordering it and I felt obliged to help it go down)—also a learning experience. Fortunately it’s pretty much impossible to kill yourself with marijuana, unlike alcohol!

  6. Fred Suffet says:

    Good lord, Betsy, it seems like a miracle you survived. And what a tough way to learn a lesson. The only time I got drunk was at a high-school graduation party back in 1956. The usual kids’ drink then was ‘7 and 7,’ Seven Up mixed with Seagram’s Seven Whiskey — a fairly powerful concoction. I never came close again. Nowadays, it’s a glass of ale with dinner, and an occasional glass of wine, or sometimes nothing for a month or two. Many people in my age group have told me that they’ve gradually lost their taste for alcohol. You simply got there more quickly than most of us, though I doubt it’s a way you’d recommend to anyone.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      Yes, tough way to learn that lesson, Fred. I got drunk at my All-Night graduation party on sloe gin (!), but not sick-drunk as I described in this story, just sort of disoriented. A bunch of girlfriends got the liquor (which tasted like cough syrup) and some drank it with Seven Up, but some just swigged it, which is what I did. I remember walking into the party, encountering parent chaperones, who I knew well and tried to have a pleasant conversation with them (did they know my condition…YIKES, I was valedictorian, headed for an Eastern university in the fall, I must keep cool; I’m from the Detroit area). EVERYONE was drunk, most much further gone than I was. The guy I’d gone to prom with threw up on my feet and tote bag. I didn’t even realize it, just knew my feet (in sandals) felt wet. A girlfriend took me into the bathroom to clean up. I kept muttering, “Gross”.

      We were at a party last Saturday night, with a full bar laid out. Almost no one drank (and everyone is now in their 70s). To your point, our hostess commented that 10 years ago, all the booze would have been gone.

  7. Susan Bennet says:

    Betsy, at 90 pounds everything will affect you more than the average bear. Women absorb 30% more alcohol in their bloodstream than men of the same weight – females are missing an essential enzyme. So your instinct not to revisit this experience is on the mark. Half a glass of wine and I’m blank-faced.

  8. Since I worked with kids in day care centers and after school programs all through the ’70s and into the early 80s–No, I cannot “remember” when people used to drink at lunch! As a matter of fact, most of us could not afford to get more than a burger and fries for lunch or the local souvlaki if we went out at all; more likely, we brought a couple sandwiches in a brown bag.
    This was a well told and very credible tale, letting. me know how the “other half” (i.e., the young professional class, in contrast to us low paid service workers) were living during those times. Wow, you ate steaks to celebrate a project completion. We would celebrate the completion of our projects during “circle time” by showing each other, for example, the books we had made. I still remember when one kid told a story about a rat in her apartment and I asked how many others had experienced encounters with rats–and it was almost all of them, so we made books about that and celebrated when they were finished. Please pass the raisins and graham crackers. And the rum and Coke with a twist of lime.

    • Betsy Pfau says:

      I didn’t get a teaching job out of college, Dale (I applied all over suburban Boston; I was certified to teach high school speech and English), so I tried to be in your shoes. And we lived in a cockroach infested apartment, so I wasn’t exactly living the high life. Dan was in grad school for the first two years of our marriage. The client paid for that steak. I remember one of our VPs drinking rum and Coke too. But I’m glad if I gave you some insights into the corporate world. Read my earlier story “Seven Double Chivases on the Rocks” if you want a real look into sexual discrimination/harassment in the work force in the 70s.

    • Yep Dale , I remember those teacher’s cafeteria lunches, and those cans of tuna at my desk.

      But I really can’t complain as I’ve been my husband’s date on many of his biz dinners where the wine tab alone could feed a family of four for a week. – while for my inner-city students a restaurant dinner is a trip to McDonalds at best – the inequality in this world of ours.

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