Coming Back To The College Bar

College Bars are dive bars that are cheap, fun, and get you really drunk after you're 21

Nothing can make a mediocre man with a steady job feel like he's living large than coming back to a college bar he once frequented in his heyday. "2 dollar beers? Get me thirty. 3 dollar shots? 2 for everyone at the bar. It's okay, I make 5 figures."

Rich Fish In A Thrift Pond

He’s found himself at a hole-in-the-wall where very few people have an income above the poverty line. A perfect storm if there ever was one in post-academic life. Surrounded by packs of dudes and groups of women that don’t even know what direct deposit is.

What’s a guy to do but blow his wallet wad blasting through cheap booze on a night like this? He’s gonna be the Robin Hood of the bar, the hero of the night, and the person that makes opportune college kids go “Who is that guy? I have no idea... but I don’t care, let's have another!” Whether or not he might look like a young Rick Moranis has nothing to do with it. 

This place was a little steep when he was in college, but now the prices seem too good to be true. Almost as if the drinks have been premixed with underground rave drugs. It takes some time to absorb how surreal it is, and then think about how in the hell it actually became surreal. It's really unlike the many negative financial scenarios he's become accustomed to in post-college bar life. A night that'll require only one ATM withdrawal. A Monday statement that will show only one surcharge. It'll be the first time he hasn't winced at his statement since his bank went online. Quite possibly the second coming of Christ.

But You Forgot Your I.D.

Going through your wallet out of built-in instinct the next day leads you to realize that you don’t have your I.D. or your credit card. You're a little hungover, and thinking is a little harder. But you eventually and groggily recall the round of rail Kamikazes you purchased, and how you put down the plastic and really flexed your financial generosity. But whatever, you were going to tip them 15% anyway. You call the bar, find out they open around 2pm, and since you woke up at 1, you get dressed and then head over.

Most college bars at 2 o’clock in the afternoon pretty much look like the inside of your Uncle’s ice shanty. They're usually a little more spacious, but they handle the light of day just about the same. Nothing but wood and mirrors, and the stale smell of twice-heaved vomit.

You enter the bar without being addressed by a bouncer, which seems weird, and you open the door yourself. Even though you're still hungover, you immediately cock your head back due to the pungent smell of what is probably the vomit of 30 strangers. You don't even touch the stair railing on your way down. Forget taking time to get prematurely nostalgic, just get your card and get out.  And maybe mutter "huh, I'll be damned," when you first notice that this bar has actually had windows the whole time.

But You Didn’t Notice This Last Night

The aroma that blitzkrieged your nostrils the day after usually goes unnoticed the night before. Unnoticed during times of high traffic, low light, and the prospect of great intoxication. Any odorous remainder is likely masked by the vapor of hard liquor shocking the air. You would think that your shoes sticking to the floor as if you were a human fly would have cued you in immediately, but the sensory diversion doesn’t allow you to distill the nasty byproducts inhabiting the bar. It's a smoke screen. A smoke screen that the afternoon Bartender doesn't acknowledge as he thumbs his rolodex retrieving your cards. A smell so uniformly revolting that you wonder 'how can he possibly get used to that?'   

The convoluted explanation behind the economy of a bar aimed at college-aged and college wage earning clientele has finally come full-circle. The clarity of cheap. And it's the justification you put together by showing up to the bar sober and outside of peak hours. Turns out, you truly do end up getting what you pay for - when you take the plunge into a dive bar.