We call for the drinking age to be lowered on one hand, as we laugh about things we did drinking on the other. In the name of steering clear of moral panic, SALIENT Feature Writer Brannavan Gnanalingam talked to a number of people about the most stupid thing they ever did while under the influence. Because if there’s anything that binds a group of friends together it’s stories, and what’s the most common backdrop to a good story?
The classic drinking stories become a stuff of legend around groups of friends. They are also seen, rightly or wrongly, as a rite of passage. This article will endeavour to outline some of the classic drinking stories associated with people of the younger age – the very age that politicians like Jim Anderton are clamouring to protect. In fact, if Anderton is serious about drinking reform, he might need to acknowledge that New Zealand is, and always has been a drinking society. These inter-generational stories, often exaggerated and potentially only half-true (but none have been changed by this author), are evidence that we as a society expect young people to drink, and indeed, champion it.
The first comes from the 70s. One former student says drinking was “a lot more regular” back then. Cocktails were “cheaper than eating”, drinking would generally start around five (sometimes well earlier) and there was “a lot of driving drunk, a hell of a lot of driving drunk, that was kind of standard”. One story involved a parade float protesting the Vietnam War. And elephant shit. “We started drinking cider at nine o’clock in the morning and there were about six of us in the car probably and we just drank beer continuously until, I think, the parade was at 11 o’clock and so it finished by about midday. We headed off back towards the zoo to get rid of the elephant dung that they had allowed us to take and we got caught in a traffic jam on Adelaide road, and to amuse ourselves we were throwing elephant turds at other cars. A taxi took exception and turned around, turned around his car in a traffic jam and came back upset and he threw a piece of elephant shit at me. I threw one back thinking he was just entering into the swing of things. We went on our way and kept doing this. The police came and arrested me before we got back to the zoo and I was charged with disorderly behaviour.” Another involved a guy who got stitches without anaesthetic because the doctor told him “you don’t need it, you’re already full of anaesthetic.” “It was pretty unusual to be caught for underage drinking and so people, it was absolutely stock standard, 17, 18 or 19, just to go to the pub with your mates and you didn’t really think twice about it.”
The 1970 Capping parade resulted in close to 500 beer jugs and glasses broken, and a cash box, 26 pints of beer and two tables stolen from six bars.
An annual capping parade from 1910 until about 1970 (when feminist students’ objections were finally listened to) became known as the “Procesh”. It usually involved “drunkenness, transvestism, and more or less violent street battles with town youths.” It also involved guys dressing as harem women and strippers and hitting on Members of Parliament and wharfies. And women too. In the 1920s, the Procesh would involve running into Kirkcaldies and Stains and re-arranging the stock. A 1931 Procesh caused outrage when drunken students ran into the DIC department store and made “whoopee among the corsets, much to the obvious embarrassment of diverse elderly ladies.” The first Debating Society party of 1937 resulted in countless bottles forming a trail from what is now Vic House to the cemetary. Goodness knows what went on there. In 1952 the Cable Car was adorned with the words “Desire” by three Weir House students to commemorate the release of A Streetcar Named Desire. The 1953 Capping Day involved fake pedestrian crossings being painted on Willis Street, Lambton Quay getting shut down by a gas bomb, a game of marbles being played by drunken students in the middle of rush-hour Wellington Station and public toilets being adorned with papiermâché nipples. In the 60s, students put a For Sale’ sign on the Dominion building after the Dominion ran yet another article lambasting teenage drinking. One student pretended to murder another student in Pigeon Park, leading to an ambulance, the entire Wellington homicide squad and a lynch mob when the public realised they’d been had. Governor-General Sir Bernard Fergusson’s Bentley had a long string of tin cans attached to the rear, and pennies put in the hubcaps (holding him up considerably) when parked at Vic. The 1970 Capping parade resulted in close to 500 beer jugs and glasses broken, and a cash box, 26 pints of beer and two tables stolen from six bars. A car in 1976 was put on the bottom of the cable car tracks, continuing drunken students’ love of Wellington’s beloved icon.
One of the more famous yardie stories involves former Australian prime minister, Bob Hawke, who as a Rhodes Scholar set a then world record of eleven seconds. Other people have mentioned fathers breaking into women’s prisons, presumably because women will be easy in there. Even law students have a weird tradition of getting drunk and running around the building at midnight before the clock finishes striking twelve. Another classic source of drinking stories involves the classic 21st speech scenario. Of course having drunken mates trying to embarrass mates in front of family can frequently result in disaster. Famous revelations (often in front of grandparents) have included threesomes, STDs, rare places in the family house where sex has not taken place and a birthday boy once calling his father “a fucking cunt”. Another involved a guy reading out a self-written, seedy love poem to a girl, then lament the fact he couldn’t get any because she was a lesbian. This was compounded by the fact the girl hadn’t come out to the majority of the family who was present. Another story involved the birthday girl’s best friend telling everyone how the birthday girl cheated on her boyfriend on a camping trip in the top bunk, while the boyfriend was asleep in the bottom bunk. Unfortunately, the same boyfriend was standing next to her, her parents, and 150 people and it was the first he’d heard about it. And, how many people haven’t seen a guy throw up into a yardie and keep drinking?
A Salient employee once drunkenly ordered ten dollars worth of rice only at an Indian restaurant and then tripped up the waiter. He also pissed into a video return slot. In fact, drinking seems to bring out the worst in bodily excretion. A common game that has gained some notoriety is the game “hide the shit”. Each person takes turns to take a dump in the worst possible place, and kudos is awarded for the one that is the hardest to find. Chimneys, wardrobes, shoes, underneath pillows and dryers have been some of the more memorable examples. However there are two classic stories, which have almost reached urban legend status. This has been confirmed as happening at a hall: one student froze his turd, grated it over the room of an enemy, and waited for it to thaw out. It was nigh on impossible to get rid of the smell. The second story was done by a New Zealand cricketer. The guy went into the fridge and grabbed the butter. He scooped out half the butter and put the turd in. He then put the rest of the butter back on top…
Another came from a science field trip as recounted by a student. “There was a drinking game (4 kings) which evolved into people touching, sipping and in one case gargling the contents of a bin that included the vomit of one girl and the urine of 5 or 6 guys. This seems extreme but at the time it was very funny. Not all of the participants had to go near the bin, only the person that drew the last two. The remaining fluid was actually bottled and left in the sun the next day. That same evening six students were threatened with expulsion from VUW for singing Twisted Sister at five in the morning at a holiday park full of school kids.” Another utterly horrible story involves a group of guys pissing, shitting and jerking off into a bathtub and then dunking a flatmate they didn’t like into it when he came home. Vomit is also well versed in legend. From the Hadi Gari storeroom to ashtrays in Jet, from own foreheads to own hands (to try and catch it because he was missing the cup apparently), to girlfriends’ beds (and doing a runner) and while giving a blow-job, vomiting has been as the all-too familiar price to pay for the over-consumption of alcohol.
Relationships and sex have also been common areas for legends. Failure to perform, drunken “I want to fuck you” texts accidently sent to mothers and games such as “Pig Hunt” (where a group of guys try to go home with the ugliest\\ person possible) are examples of alcohol resulting in some rather lamentable behaviour. Another involves a guy who had spent the whole night trying to chat up a girl. He thought he was doing fine, until a mate came in and managed to convince the girl to come home with him. Unfortunately for the mate, he ended up with the clap.
There is also something about alcohol that removes inhibitions and causes people to do totally stupid things. For example, the debater who jumped into a Sydney seal enclosure and while swimming, shouted “Team Victoria!!!!!” Or the person who went up to Jack Black and said “I loved you in Cider House Rules.” Mr. Black’s initial discomfort wasn’t helped by her friend apologising and then saying, “I totally loved you in Clerks.” Also pants have been lit on fire, cars have been dive rolled out of, people have done runners from taxis (that is until they ran into the path of an oncoming car), people have fallen asleep in a bar and restaurant toilets overnight, wrestling has taken place in spilt beer (resulting in dislocated shoulders), attempts have been made to swim to Somes Island, and nude runs have been conducted down the motorway. There is also some of the serious consequences such as crime, violence, injuries and tragically, death.
For people who are justifiably concerned with the serious consequences of alcohol, a simple increase in the drinking age is going to do much. Drinking has been a part of the lives of young people for as long as, well, people have been drinking in New Zealand. And that’s a very, very long time. So while older people hypocritically continue to lambast the drinking of young people while still reminiscing about their classic drinking stories, it’s going to be hard to actually achieve any change. For as long as we continue to re-tell and create new stories of people doing stupid things while drunk (such as this article has done), drinking will reamain ingrained in our collective consciousness.