Keep Happy Hour Happy!

By Terry Sweeney
You know winter is our time to get down with some spicy, heart-warming, berry-bustin’ reds that make us want to throw another log on the fire and kick back with some sultry French jazz, letting our minds wistfully drift off to Paris.  Beaufort, South Carolina?  We’re familiar with it. We used to live there once, an hour ago; before we moved here to the Left Bank …
“Darn it. I forgot to turn off the cell phone!”
“How many times is it gonna ring?! Don’t they know it’s 5 o’clock in Beaufort?!”
“Oh my god, they’re calling back! It could be an emergency!”
Lanier violently shakes his head “no” and bugs his eyes out with his best don’t-you-dare look. “You know our rule,” he says.
Indeed I do. It’s “NEVER answer the phone during Happy Hour.”
How many times have we been  happily floating down a soothing river of red, nuzzling a bottle of, say, Chateauneuf du Pape (Feraud-Brunel makes one of our favorites — French Rhone red 2005 — 92pts … OK, OK, so we only had a bottle of it once and somebody else paid for it, just using a little artistic license here, friends!) So what if it was a bottle of some lesser known French red under $12 that the “Count de Costco” was hawking from his super-sized superstore wine cellar? The point is, we were in a beautiful boozy bliss …
What gives?  Has my godforsaken cell phone lost its take-a-message feature?  Verizon shall hear of this …
I look down and see it’s my friend Rhonda. I love Rhonda. She’s one of the funniest women I know. Actress, playwright, comedienne.  No doubt she’s calling to tell me her latest hilarious New York misadventure! Surely I can talk to her during Happy Hour. I take a nice long mellow sip and pick up the phone.
“Finally!!” she barks irately.  (Uh oh, not a good beginning.) She launches into a bitter take-no-prisoners tirade:  “The deaf old lady in the apartment next door falls asleep with the TV blasting and I’m gonna kill her! Remember that guy I was dating? Guess what?? Turns out he’s married! Why always me?! Why??! Why??” she wails tragically into my poor ear. “I’m getting old and I’m broke! And I live in a dump! God, I hate my life!”
Once again, The Curse of the Happy Hour Haranguer is upon me.  One hour later and I hate her life too and myself for being stupid enough to pick up the phone. Upstairs, I can hear Lanier happily tapping his foot to the angelic voices of ABBA.  “You can dance! You can dance! Having the time of your life!”  Downstairs, my friend’s still on the rant from Hell.  My empty wine glass glares accusingly back at me: “How could you?!  This was supposed to be our time!”
Now this is not just a fluke.  I’ve had people call me during other Happy Hours to tell me in sad, hushed tones things like, “Estelle Getty just died.”
“Who?” I ask.
“The oldest Golden Girl from the TV series.”
“And you felt the need to call and tell me this morbid little tidbit during my only happy hour of the day?” I ask flatly.
Or here’s another: “You’ll never guess who’s got cancer of the prostate.”
I don’t wanna guess. I just want to drink my South Australian Shiraz in peace looking at the beautiful sunset from my porch trying desperately to affirm “Life IS beautiful.” Instead, this unwelcome medical messenger of doom and gloom is babbling in my ear: “He’s only 60 and he had absolutely no symptoms — it was a total shock!”
I think, “Hey, I’m 60 and I don’t have any symptoms. This very minute I could be riddled with prostate cancer and not know it. Good God!” My Happy Hour comes to a screeching halt as I run to my computer to Google “latest cures for prostate cancer.” (Fortunately I find that red wine is listed as a preventative!)
I know, I know, death, destruction, depression are a part of life. We know they’re out there. But for at least one hour (OK, maybe two) we would like to drink a luscious Argentinian Malbec and revel in the miracle of the “little red grape that could” now doing a delightful tango on our taste buds. Is that too much to ask? No TV news. No opening bills.  And absolutely no calls! Happy Hour is a sacred space in which we must see the glass of life as half full, to be served with a side of witty repartee, laughter and music. Aaahhh…
Oh no you don’t, whoever you are! Lanier, turn up the ABBA!

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