Reality Makes for Unrealistic Fiction

Guinness by tricky (rick harrison) from flickrThis past weekend was Saint Patrick’s’ Day. This is a day that isn’t really celebrated in Ireland, I’m told, but here in America it has become synonymous with wearing green and drinking Guinness and corned beef and drinking. It’s like a celebration of Irish stereotypes, which is fun because I like Guinness and corned beef. Man I really like corned beef.

Anyway, in New York it is an absolutely massive drinking day for those who partake. I actually was out at nine in the morning for a breakfast and beer buffet. Which was…interesting. I like going to bars and I like drinking, but it has occurred to me that maybe I like going to bars and the drinking is a secondary action that I also enjoy which follows from the first.

When I’m out, the drinking itself isn’t usually the absolute focus of all my mental prowess. On Saint Patrick’s Day, though, the streets are overrun with people for whom drinking is the primary goal. It’s like amateur hour all day long. I guess there are places that are more reigned in, though on Saint Patrick’s Day I’m not sure what that even means, but the places I wound up at were full of twenty year olds. Hell, there were definitely some seventeen-year-olds mixed in. So basically from nine o’clock on I was surrounded by kids who wanted to cram as much booze as possible into their pie holes as quickly as possible.

Usually when I go out, by the end of the night there are a few people at the bar who are obnoxious as shit; sometimes I’m one of them. You nod and you ignore it because it’s a small number of people in a large crowd and it goes with the territory and, again, sometimes the guy being ignored is you.

This weekend every bar was full of people like that by noon.

And, as always, some part of me was trying to figure out how I would go about capturing what I was seeing with words.

Basically I came up with nothing. Zero. No clue how to write anything I had seen.

By the next day I was forced to ponder the question: How often do scenes from reality exist that are simply unwritable?

I mean at one point someone threw up on the bar. Right on the bar. They disappeared, the vomit was cleaned up, and then the offender reappeared to get his credit card back like nobody would notice him.

At one bar the bathroom was filled with a bunch of teenage guys smoking cigarettes. They didn’t want to step outside to smoke because it was cold so they sat there smoking in the bathroom. They were too cool for the rules. They were shit-faced. They felt like they owned the bar, and the bathroom, and constantly tried to throw their weight around in ways that only teenagers can. For them it was a huge deal to be in a bar. They didn’t belong there, so every fucking thing they did was reeking of extraneous bad-assery.

I just wanted to use the bathroom.

At one point, one of the guys leaving the bathroom looked me up and down and then called me “four eyes.”

I actually got called “four eyes.”

I still don’t know what to make of that.

That’s the stupidest insult ever. I’m fucking floored that kids even still know it, and of course to toss that at someone at a bar is like…I mean Jesus I thought I was going to get challenged to a dance-off next or something. Apparently I had teleported to the set of Grease.

How do you write that? I couldn’t possibly work that into a work of fiction. The underage drinking? Okay. The attitude of all the underage drinkers? Sure. Some dude calling a guy wearing glasses “four eyes?”

There’s no way to pull that off unless the glasses wearer has three friends around, and they all take the rest of the scene to wonder what the hell was up with the guy who used the insult from the 1940’s. There is no way to use this very real scene without it becoming a major focal point of the characters nearby. It’s just too impossible an event.

But this was my Saturday! It happened! I was there. It should be writable!

And yet…no.

Reality isn’t stranger than fiction, it’s just really bad at writing it.