A Naval Yarn
Long back, sometime in the late 1970s, we were young officers just introduced to the pleasures of alcohol, and in thoroughly enjoyed our newly found freedom by topping up to the hilt in the bar every evening.
In order to curb our excesses, the PMC set a daily limit of 3 large pegs of Rum for each individual (Well, those days we drank only large pegs and three large pegs total about 180 ml of liquor – less than a quarter of a bottle which has almost 13 large pegs). Now, for tough young men in their 20’s, three pegs were just too little, especially for an ardent drinker like me.
So I devised a simple strategy.
I caught hold of my course-mate “X” who was a strict teetotaller (and “X” was quite a money-minded miser to boot!).
“Look here,” I made him a proposition, “I will pay your entire wine bill, including whatever soft drinks and snacks you have, if you let me have your rum quota.”
“X” readily agreed (in fact, I am sure that in his heart he jumped with joy).
So we instructed the bar steward accordingly.
He would put my first three pegs in X’s bar book and the subsequent pegs I drank would be entered in my bar book
(Yes, those days we had bar books which we had to sign at the end of the evening or by next morning).
So every evening as I sat down to drink, my first three pegs of rum would be written in X’s bar book and in case I drank a fourth or fifth peg, the steward would write them in my bar book (I seldom drank more than four or five large pegs except on rare occasions when I sometimes had six pegs too).
“X” was delighted with this arrangement.
He sat down with us in the evenings, downing soft drink after soft drink, knowing that I was paying for them.
I am sure in his mind he was wondering what a sucker I was.
A couple of months passed happily.
One morning the PMC suddenly entered the training hall and thundered, “Who the bloody hell is X ?”
He shouted X’s name and looked around the hall.
“X” meekly stood up.
The PMC strode up to “X” brandishing his bar book and shouted at him, “You want to become a bloody alcoholic? You have been religiously drinking three pegs of rum every day for the last two months. I am stopping your booze. No more drinking. You better sober up.”
And then, as suddenly as he had come, the PMC stormed out of the hall, rendering a hapless “X” dumbstruck and speechless.
His reputation as a “drinker” spread pretty fast. At parties, when “X” had his usual glass of cola in his hand, the PMC would suspect it was spiked with rum. So “X” started drinking lime juice, but even then the PMC was sure it was spiked with Gin or Vodka. The PMC kept telling the Training Officer that he suspected that “X” was still drinking heavily and the Training Officer kept warning “X” to stop drinking.
Lest his report be ruined, one day “X” told the Training Officer the whole story. The Training Officer told the PMC all about it and soon I found myself being marched up to the PMC.
The PMC had two bar books in his hand – X’s and mine. He was turning page after page.
“Is it true?” the PMC asked, “You seem to drinking 4-5 pegs every evening.”
“Yes, Sir,” I meekly said, trembling inside, expecting to be logged, or admonished, and surely my booze was going to be stopped.
“And what about this guy?” the PMC asked me pointing at the bar book of “X”.
“Sir, he is an alcoholic teetotaller,” I blurted out.
“Alcoholic teetotaller?” the PMC looked at me curiously and then he burst out laughing and said, “Come over for a drink this evening. You seem to be an interesting chap.”
Maybe I reminded him of his youthful days.
For in the evening, as we imbibed peg after peg of the best rum, he was overcome by the Auld Lang Syne Complex and he harked back to his youth and excitedly told me about his glorious drinking escapades in his halcyon days.
Cheers. That calls for a drink!
And I hope my good friend the “alcoholic teetotaller” is reading this.