All of my childhood heroes turned into douchebags. Kirby Puckett was a great baseball player and a magnificent public urination hobbyist, but he was also a wife beater. Pee Wee Herman was funny and charming, but his choice to splooge in a public theater was less so. Fred Rogers, the late host of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, was murdered by seven men in a Kmart parking lot when a Pokemon trade went sour.
He wanted a Bunnelby for a Magicarp. That is some ignorant bullshit.
The list of failed heroes is endless. Former Twins pitcher Frankie “Sweet Music” Viola was arrested at a Chuck E Cheese restaurant for pooping in the ball pit. Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton leaked five episodes of Game of Thrones this past weekend. Newsie Brian Williams beat a Muppet to death with a rotary telephone. It wasn’t a popular Muppet, but it’s still a crime.
I stopped believing in heroes for a while. I had tried idolizing nearly every vapid celebrity in the world, but they all left me disappointed. Without a mentor, my life had lost all purpose. If Lindsay Lohan (drugs) and columnist Ann Landers (cannibalism) are douchebags, then why should I strive to be a better person? Those people are rich despite their stupidity. Why shouldn’t I stupid myself down a bit as well? Seriously, please tell me. There’s a guy in my laundry room who sells dope, but he’s only there until 4pm. Time’s running out if I want to half-ass the rest of this week.
I never thought I’d idolize a normal person. We “normies” aren’t very impressive. We don’t have private jets, enormous mansions or Chicago sunroofs. We’re not fancy folk. The best we can hope for is to be happy and content. Nobody’s going to film a reality show about someone who’s content. Have you even seen the internet? I mean, Jesus.
Then last weekend I found myself on a plane, where the unlikeliest of heroes emerged: An adorable elderly couple from Sante Fe, NM. They weren’t famous. I had never heard of them before. They didn’t have their own TV show, nor did they seem particularly interested in such things. They were just normal, middle-class elderly people downing beers as if it were their job. Since they were retired, it pretty much was their job.
Drinking is not an easy hobby. Most people stop at a certain age. They get married, have kids, buy a donkey. Suddenly, stumbling around the house while laughing hysterically is no longer in their best interests. It takes a true champion to keep drinking into one’s elderly years. Dedication. A strong liver. The ability to not whiz on your own pants while using the restroom. These are the three pillars of drinking for sport.
This elderly couple was quite skilled in them. The flight from Albuquerque to Los Angeles was just under two hours, but in that time they drank four beers each. With each drink, the woman’s thick Latin American accent became ever more adorable.
“I do not like the roller coaster,” she said to me as the plane hit turbulence. “Blahhh, that is me.”
She then turned to her husband.
“It is like roller coaster.”
“The plane, it is moving.”
They were bombed on Fat Tire and Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy, were ridiculously sweet and kind to everyone around them, and they didn’t give two shits that the flight attendant was giving them dirty looks. Each time the woman asked for another round of beers, she would giggle to the flight attendant and say, “Thank you! You are so very nice to us!” She would then turn to her husband and say, “Isn’t he nice? He is so very nice to us.” The husband would reply, “Very nice.”
Retired, living in the middle of nowhere and drunk as balls, they were living my dream. My biggest career goal has always been to do nothing all day. Perhaps I’d get run over by a car driven by a rich person, or have a botched surgery where the hospital paid me millions to keep quiet, or maybe I’d walk into the bathroom at a KFC and find a big bag of money.
As soon as I saw this old couple, I abandoned these ridiculous goals and began saving for my retirement. If I could retire at age 70, that would leave me a good 10 to 20 years of uninterrupted professional drinking. How much would I need to save to remain drunk on Fat Tire until I was dead? The old woman was too tipsy to be helpful.
“Where are we now?” she asked her husband in an unreasonably loud voice. “Look out the window and see where we are.”
Her husband knew he had to acknowledge her having spoken, so he’d either grunt approvingly or say “Very nice.” She didn’t seem to mind. As the plane made its shaky approach to the runway, the wind shaking the cabin a bit more than usual, the woman made the sign of the cross and prayed in Spanish. She then turned to me.
“You do not mind that I pray? It’s okay. It is in Spanish.”
When it was clear that the plane’s wheels were safely on the ground, the woman cheered and clapped. She was the only person on the plane doing so. Her husband continued reading his book, oblivious.
Their life – this completely average couple happily drinking themselves into oblivion – made me sick with envy. They had spent the majority of their lives dealing with all the unnecessary drama people invent for themselves: stress, hatred, jealousy, lusting after goals and ambitions that would only make their lives more complicated and stressful. Now those things meant nothing to them. It was inspiring.
“The plane landed!” exclaimed the ordinary woman to her ordinary husband.
He grunted in approval before downing his entire bag of complimentary peanuts in one drunken gulp, smiling and winking at his wife after he was done. Perhaps being a nobody isn’t so rough after all.