Donald MacInnes: How my 21st went all wrong with non-stop B52s and bubbly

In The Red
  • @DonaldAMacInnes

I became aware of daylight trying to crowbar open my seemingly fused eyelids and of a distant, quizzical female voice talking (to me?) in Spanish.

I tried to open my eyes, but the stinging sunlight made that impossible. Also, a dustbin lid orchestra was performing inside my skull and I had a sharp pain in my back which wouldn't quit.

As the Spanish became more distinct, I opened one eye and got a sense of my situation.

I was lying outdoors. Well, my upper body was. My legs were in my motel room and the quizzical voice belonged to the cleaning lady, who was leaning over me, nudging my ribs with her foot.

The pain in my back was the metal threshold of the door. I groaned and the woman tutted, before pushing her trolley away.

I stood up, squinting from the sunlight bouncing off the surface of the motel pool. It was the morning of my 21st birthday and an examination of the events of the night before was overdue.

I dropped into the pool and sank to the bottom, looking up at the world like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate.

The last 12 hours shimmered into focus.

My mother, sister and brother-in-law (he of the table dancing) and I had gone out in Key West the night before.

We started out with dinner, before at 9pm heading for Sloppy Joe's, the bar in which Ernest Hemingway used to sit, being hairy.

But even though I was just three hours shy of being 21, I was refused entry.

We even went back to the motel and got my passport to prove my imminent adulthood, but the bouncer was immovable.

Striding away indignantly, we took our frustration out at the bar of the Holiday Inn, sinking B52s and champagne like it was the law.

Actually, being plastered in Key West pretty much is the law. The city crest features a martini glass with crossed straws and a barman juggling olives.

As midnight passed, we were all in a state of slurring semi-eloquence, so began the walk back to the motel, which took us past Sloppy Joe's.

As we passed, the bouncer recognised me and burst into Happy Birthday, unclipping the velvet rope for us.

My Glaswegian belligerence suitably emboldened with booze, I gave him the finger and the four of us strode away laughing, arm-in-arm.

Next thing I know, I have a cleaning lady passing judgment on my life choices. So be warned: if a bouncer ever refuses you entry to a bar, take the hint: go home.