So, what do you do when you find your skivvies are thrown across a room that doesn’t look at all familiar? When your tongue is cemented to the roof of your mouth and nothing short of chisel will be able to pry it away from it’s perch? When your eyes blink open and neither the ceiling that you’re staring at or the person you’re sleeping next to you seem somehow strange at best?

When you finally find your pants and every dollar that you have to your name is wadded up and crumbled into little balls like some deep dark secret that you need to keep to yourself? When gravity is your enemy and the only friend in the world you seem to have just happens to be the cool feel of the porcelain as you rest your aching head in a failed attempt to find a little relief and to get your bearings? When you tiptoe around the strange surroundings and say something to yourself along the lines of “What the hell did I get myself into?” and try to make what feels like The Great Escape only to discover that the car you thought you drove to your final destination is nothing more than a cruel rumor?

When you try and deconstruct the foggy snippets of the evening before and they seem like they were taken from the cutting room floor of a Fellini film and that you were nothing more than an extra?

I wish I could offer some advice to those who might have found themselves in just such a state but as for me, I was home, sleeping alone and in bed by somewhere around 11:00.

On the day after New Years, I woke up fresh, but bored. It seemed that there was something lacking and with nothing to do but sit around by myself and watch the avalanche of bowl games and snack on whatever goodies I had stashed in the depths of the fridge, I decided to return to the scene of my many crimes. Like a trooper, I decided the best course of action was to march down to the local watering hole and hear the war stories of those who decided to take part in a night of revelry and to maybe envy and pity them at the same time.

Yes, it was time to let the crock pot do all the work and pay a visit to my second home. If memory serves, I guess it was around somewhere between 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. I figured that by then, most of the folks had shaken off the cobwebs of the evening before would be looking to see the regular faces doing the regular things.

Upon my arrival, I found the place to be deserted. Oh, there was a bartender, a server and a cook and they were all huddled around the end of the bar playing games of euchre and rummy. There was the odd dude who never talks to anybody but spends what seems to be an infinite amount of time pumping quarters into the video crack machine at the other end of the bar and there was the guy we call “Rain Man” sitting at his usual table asking for constant refills of his bottomless glass of iced tea. The jukebox was as silent as the night and the televisions, while on, seemed muted as if to pay homage to those who might come in and nurse away their hangovers.

”This “effin” sucks” whispers the young lady who had been called upon to take what seems to be the bartenders equivalent of the graveyard shift. The heads of her compadres nod in silent agreement.

Here I am, fresh as a daisy, looking to or for something that I can’t quite put my finger on but I’m sure this isn’t it. I settle in and nurse away the afternoon in the form of beers and bowl games. My mind begins to wander. There are thousands upon thousands who met an unfortunate end in the wake of the tsunami. There’s a good kid packing his bags and being sent off to a war and not knowing if or when he’s coming back. There’s suicide bombers and unfortunate fires that take more lives than I care to count. I sip my beer and think to myself “God bless America.”

The bartender was getting ready to end her shift, her duty done for the day and her replacement ready to man the taps. Being as it was so slow, she decided to sit at the end of the bar and have one or two for herself. A small personal reward for a dead day in which there was little or no money made and the only story she had to tell was one of boredom and how bad her feet ached.. And then, that’s when I heard it…

The laugh

It was pure, it was simple, and it was uncluttered by the problems that life throws at most of us, herself included. It came from the heart and it spread its way across the gap that separates the bottles from the trash. In retrospect, I don’t know what even caused it.

Maybe it was a comment made by one of her partners or maybe it was a thought that dashed through her mind but the sound that escaped, that laugh, sounded like the most beautiful music that I’d heard in a long, long time. It took me away to places that I hadn’t had the chances to visit for quite the while.

It’s funny how a little thing like that that takes less than a minute can have an impact on you’re whole day. I guess you take comfort where you can find it but somehow that was the sound I needed to hear. Whatever I was “searching” for throughout the day, whatever seemed to be “missing” now seemed somehow to be gone. Instead, the feeling was now replaced by my own smile of contentment and whatever was left to the day seemed to take on a new direction. Even stranger, I don’t even know what that direction was but I know it’s better than the one I walked through the door with.

I slept a little better than usual that night. The pillow seemed somehow a little softer, the dreams seemed somehow a little sweeter and the morning seemed somehow a whole lot brighter.

Before I went off to bed, I made a little note to myself…

I gotta tip more…