As I stared at my last piece of not-quite-crispy breakfast buffet bacon, dread began to set in. Outside the doors of my hotel lobby tornado winds were howling, rain fell as if it were in a hurry to get somewhere, and the opening round of the U.S. Open at Merion Golf Club seemed as if it were completely ruined. Roughly an hour earlier, around 8:30 a.m., the USGA had suspended play, leaving my dad and I stranded in our downtown Philadelphia hotel without the slightest clue what to do other than challenging the breakfast buffet in a duel to the death. But you can only eat so many omelets, pieces of toast, strips of bacon, bagels, fruit, and bowls of Froot Loops before your body tells you to go fuck yourself.
With no restart in sight, a forecast that resembled a scene from Jumanji and the hotel bar not open until 11 a.m., I decided to drink an entire pot of coffee. Soon enough my entire body twitched with a familiar ferocity and my dad and I had run out of all seven father-son conversation topics. So we did what every bored duo always does: split up to be more comfortable with the silence. I was all hopped up on caffeine and decided to return to my room, only to find the cleaning lady beat me to it. Lost and alone, I started worrying about my health in a way only a full pot of coffee can make you do, and decided to walk in clockwise circles around the lobby. Turns out it takes roughly 20 laps around a large hotel lobby and three trips to the bathroom to feel like a human again.
And just when it appeared to be getting a bit less gloomy in my rainy, golf-less grave, I made the most rookie mistake of my life — I accidentally made eye contact with a stranger. The tan 20-something with a mullet-era Cristiano Ronaldo haircut immediately tried to engage me in conversation. I thought I could escape, but I was wrong.
“Hey bro, you looking for someone?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“Okay, cool, where you from?”
“New Jersey, you?”
“I’m from California. Do you have an accent and call it New Joisey? Like on the Jersey Shore? … I remember an episode of South Park where they acted like people on the show… I told people I was from ‘Joisey’ once.”
“Oh yeah? Did they believe you because of the accent?”
“Yeah, by the way, do you want smoke some weed?”
It was 10:50 a.m.
I left my best friend and practiced putting on a random green in the middle of the lobby, then sidled up to the bar as it was opening like any good alcoholic/mediocre writer. I watched as the bartender made what appeared to be a Makers Mark Manhattan and secretly thought it looked delicious while actually saying “wow, that’s pretty aggressive” aloud.
I was scared my strange pothead friend would find me. I needed golf to start. I had somehow lost my dad in a hotel lobby. So naturally, I ordered a Bloody Mary – routinely the most disappointing drink of all time.
But as my bartender dumped a third of a Tabasco bottle on top of a slab of horseradish and just the right amount of ground black pepper, something amazing happened. I noticed the sun weakly peeking through the glass door on my right. Two sips into my Bloody Mary the television flashed that the U.S. Open would resume at 12:10 p.m. This forced me to drink what I was gradually discovering was the Mona Lisa of Bloody Marys quicker than I wanted.
I complimented the bartender him on the drink, and thanked him for rescuing my sanity. Like any great bartender he told me it was his pleasure, and then he said something that will remain lodged in my memory long after I leave Philadelphia.
He’s never tasted a Bloody Mary. He’s allergic to tomatoes.
As I grabbed my poncho from my room and walked with my dad to the train station I thought about the past three pessimistic hours, which had felt more like four traumatic days, and I realized something profound: at least I hadn’t been in an airport.