Oh Shit Moments in History

Saturday was a lazy day. The weather was the stone wall gray of November, the COVID numbers were in the 20,000s, and it was Cheat Day. I had planned to meet my friend for a night of revelry, but COVID got in the way there, too. His daughter was quarantined and waiting on a test results. Plus, sitting in a bar didn’t exactly fill me with calm.

So no bar and no drinking that night and this was fine with me. It was 5:30 pm. I had just worked out and showered and was dozing in my armchair in front of my TV like a good 82 year old when my phone rang. It was my friend.

“Got the test, it’s negative.”

Though I had settled my mind on a quiet evening of movies and milk and cookies, I agreed to a called audible and a night of revelry. He would come to our flat. The plan: drink many beers, a bottle of Becherovka, whatever whiskey I had in the house, and eat wings.

All those things happened.

Which is why Sunday I lie prone on the couch staring at the ceiling and wishing for some heavily-armed people to come in and kill me. I have things to do, but these tasks are going to be difficult when the dual acts of breathing and not dying are taking up all of my mental acuity. My hangover exists on several levels. I have anxiety, I have heartburn, I have an upset stomach, I have a headache, I can’t focus, I can’t read, I can’t speak without punctuating every three words with “What was I talking about?” It’s rough.

As my tolerance to alcohol has diminished drastically in my forties, I am also now just getting glimpses of myself singing along to Postmodern Jukebox, to what I assume is the massive chagrin of my upstairs neighbor. It’s one of those “Oh shit” moments that tend to come after a  night of drinking your weight in liquor.

And it’s perhaps in this time of strife that I consider my history, for there have been far worse consequences and far worse “oh whit” moments to a night of drinking. Simply having a banger of a hangover isn’t that bad, the singing is worse, but I still possess my limbs and, upon last glance, there are no notes taped to my front door. And it’s in search of that succor that my mind drifts to William of Adelin.

In 1120, William had a binge drink-up that ended about as bad as a day of drinking could when he died in a boat wreck. Not only did he die, but so did about 300 of his drinking buddies, many of whom were his half-siblings. Evidently William’s dad, Henry I, was very fond of impregnating people he wasn’t married to and they could put together three sides of a rugby team. The ship’s captain, Thomas FitzStephen, was also shitfaced. Rowdy and drunk before disembarking, they all not only refused to let priests on board to bless the ship, which just seems like bad luck, but they made fun of the priests, which seems like fun, but just not that bright. The only person to bow out of the trip was Henry’s nephew Stephen of Blois, who had (apparently) a bad case of diarrhea and this also explains his bowing.

Thomas FitzStephen, the soon to be dead captain, bragged that he could beat William’s father’s boat to England. There is no historical record, but we’re guessing he slurred. They left Normandy for England and almost immediately crashed into the rocks. They were unable to lever off of them and everyone (but one humble baker) perished in the sea. Thomas FitzStephen wasn’t originally among them, but when he found out the king’s son was dead, he had his own personal “oh shit” moment and became one of them, preferring death to death after a decade of torture.

So as I wallow on my couch, embarrassed by my high-pitched renditions of Michael Jackson covers and bullfrog throated facsimiles of Natalie Dawn’s base, I think of Thomas FitzStephen and realize it’s not that bad. History is full of drunken “Oh shit” moments. Alexander the Great and his men once awoke to find that their drunken activities involved burning down Persepolis. In President Nixon’s last and increasingly unhinged days in the White House, he apparently came close to chasing his fourth scotch and his second antipsychotic pill with a carpet nuclear bombing of North Korea. Fortunately he passed out before his “oh shit” moment became the world’s “oh shit!” moment.

For the friends and countrymen of good old William of Adelin, it gets worse. William of Adelin was the grandson of William the Conqueror of Hastings/altering the course of history fame, and he was the son of King Henry I. This means that when William drowned, the English Crown was thrown into a succession crisis. In a few years England would be cast into a period of civil war, aggression, and chaos when Henry died and Stephen of Blois seized the throne. Apparently his diarrhea didn’t keep him from stealing thrones. England suffered through this period called The Anarchy for 18 years, thousands perished, the chaos wrought upon the English was terrible.

So, with this perspective, I figured – what’s a little hangover. And as I walked off to the bathroom for the fourth time that day, I think to myself: I would have missed that ship.  

Comments are closed.