In typical Oktoberfest
fashion, a stein holding contest
is a remarkable combination of endurance
, and hubris
. Boys versus boys, girls versus girls, arms extended, one litre
mugs filled full with dark, rich beer
It seems simple, but do this: fill a mason jar with water and hold it at arm's length away from you. As you do this, take into consideration that your average beer stein is much heavier than your average mason jar. As you do this, take into consideration that you are using two sets of muscles that aren't typically forced to operate in this position. Your biceps and triceps are working against each other, triceps keeping your arm straight, biceps fighting to keep your arm from shifting on the roll axis. As you do this, take into consideration that there are, likely, twenty to fifty other people around you doing the exact same thing, determined to be the last man holding.
Jimmy has problems with holding on. You watch him with his dogs, the way he will grab one end of a knotted rope, taunt them to bite and play a canine form of tug-o-war. You look into his dogs' eyes and you see this fierce determination and then you look into his eyes and you see something deeper, prideful, as if letting go to an animal would mean he's less than a man. It's a notch past stubborn. There's more than just an animal effect to it: this is in everything he does, from hailing a taxi to his personal relationships. Nothing is over, nothing is finished until Jimmy says it's finished. And, for Jimmy, nothing is ever finished.
There's a most spectacular effect near the end of many stein holding contests. The early losers bow out gracefully, set the mugs back on the table and rub their sore arms and egos. The more resilient men and women grind their jaws, push all of their strength into their one extended arm. Eventually they, grudgingly, set their steins down as well, and the contest will be down to just a couple of people who refuse to let such a simple task defeat them. The muscles in one of these men or women will give out, give up, let go. The stein drops, spinning sometimes, spilling its contents, giving in to gravity. If it is made of ceramic, contact with the floor means an almost instantaneous shatter, a dance of shards across hard tile or wood.
"Jimmy hurts a beer stein," I sometimes say. Jimmy has problems with letting go.