When I opened my mailbox I saw a letter from grandmother buried underneath Bed Bath and Beyond coupons. It was the first letter I received in college.
I opened the letter. It was a Halloween card that said,
“Happy Halloween Michael…I love you very very much…take this money and do something fun with it. Love Grandma Elma.”
Enclosed was a $20 bill. Now you have to understand, at the time, getting $20 was very exciting. I mean, I didn’t have a job. I was a poor broke college kid. With that kind of money I could buy…here comes the cliche…60 packets of ramen. Wow funny. But then I remembered what my grandma said, and you should always listen to your elders, “do something fun with it.”
Mind you, I still hadn’t attended a party in college or drank alcohol for that matter. My dad had promised me this wonderful experience on the car ride down and it still hadn’t come to fruition. While driving me to college he said, ”Just make sure you wear a raincoat.” FYI, this has nothing to do with the protecting yourself from the rain in the PNW.
I owned raincoats but didn’t put any on. All I had done was go to class, eat chicken fingers, and look at porn. All the girls in the dorms went to the frats to drink alcohol and have fun. I wanted to get mine. My grandmas $20 was the ticket to adventure. I was going to buy some booze and have some girls over, but how?
Now my roommate, Adrian, was 21 years old and could buy us booze if we needed him to. He was from mainland China and was obsessed with Americana. He would ask me questions like,
“Do you like Michael Jackson?” And “What did you think of 9/11?” He was an interesting, yet, well intentioned fellow.
Well to my dismay, Adrian was out of town. He was probably hanging out in Chinatown dining on some chicken feet with our unofficial 4th roommate, his girlfriend Lisa.
So it was up to me and my own wits to find out how to procure some alcohol. I decided to hit the Ave with my partner in crime Chris to figure this out. We were both socially awkward so I anticipated we wouldn’t get very far. Optimism was always hard for me to figure out.
We began walking down the Ave and decided that we would hang out in the Safeway parking lot. There was plenty of opportunities to ask young college kids to buy booze for us. But neither Chris and I were able to make the first move. We were terrible with eye contact and introducing ourselves. So we hoped someone would approach us, just like nervous boys at a school dance.
Then while standing in the dark alley behind the Safeway parking lock, a homeless man approached us. I immediately thought we were going to get pistol whipped, mugged, and shot. I braced for impact.
But instead he smiled at us and said, “Hi brothers, my name is Stoney. It looks like you boys are trying to buy some booze.” My opinion quickly changed and a smile lit up across my face…I was ready to engage a homeless man…college was really changing me!
I incredulously said, “Yes, yes we are! We are trying to buy a six pack of beer…we want something nice so we’re thinking about getting some Heineken? All I have is this $20 bucks. Do you think you could grab us some? You can keep the change.”
It felt like an honor to help the homeless community and get alcohol, all while breaking the law at the same time. I was a humanitarian who was also lawless. College was really making me edgy. I noticed a girl with her boyfriend staring at me in the parking lot. I stood up a little straighter and gave a half smile. Awkward as fuck.
Stoney looked at me and said…”I got you brother! Just wait here and I’ll be right back” As he walked away I felt a sense of achievement. What a time to be alive!
Chris looked at me said, “Fuck yeah.”
Then we waited. Shouldn’t be more than 5 minutes to get that I thought.
I looked down at my Razer phone, 5 minutes went by. I could feel myself getting antsy but kept my cool. I looked at Chris and assured him,
“Lines are probably long…it’s a Husky game tomorrow…people probably want beer”
“The Husky game is on Saturday not Friday.” Chris said.
Another 5 minutes went by, I started pacing,
“Where the fuck is he? Maybe he got arrested.”
“Arrested for what…buying beer?” Chris said.
Another 5 minutes went by. I started pacing more aggressively. It had been 15 minutes. I was pissed.
“This is why I don’t help homeless people! I think that guy totally took our money and probably bought drugs with it.”
Chris laughed and upped the stakes, “Well what if he bought a lotto ticket…and won. Maybe he’ll become a secret millionaire”
“Well, then he can thank my grandma…Happy Halloween asshole.”
Stoney never came back. Stoney was not an honest man. That’s why I don’t help these people. Chris and I couldn’t help but to laugh for how stupid we were and how hoodwinked we got. This was probably his daily job, finding dumb college kids to take money from all under the charming pseudonym “Stoney”. Oh righteous he does pot! That’s cool, here is my money! What a dick.
We started walking back to the dorm and watched as attractive young females wobbled like doe down the street in their 6 inch heels. Their outfits were revealing. If their mothers had seen, they’d be upset. But like Bambi, there was no mothers around to care.
We arrived back at the dorm and walked up the concrete stairs of the fire escape to the 2nd floor. As we rounded the corner we noticed my room door was ajar and inside my roommate and his girlfriend were talking as we heard glasses clinking together.
Adrian stood in the room, wearing a Chicago bulls Jersey and smiled at us.
“Michael! What do you think of gin? Do Americans like Gin?”, as he held up a London Beefeater bottle.
I wasn’t sure how to answer. What was gin? It smelled like Pine Needles.
That night Chris and finished an entire bottle of gin. Our night included running into the street with in our bathrobes and vomiting in a urinal. Even though I didn’t get to personally spend my Grandma’s $20, I still like to say I had fun. Thanks Grandma Elma.