That Time I Tried to Scale a Wall in Atlantic City
There is nothing impressive about what I’m about to tell you. Perhaps a younger me would disagree. There was a tendency among the youth of my generation and decades past to laud stupidity—especially of the inebriated variety—as a sort of seditious virtue, if not a full demonstration of the depths of our masculinity.
The tendency seems to have subsided among today’s under-30 crowd. For better or for worse, the kids of our current era seem hyper-aware of the well-documented mistakes of preceding generations, and in response, have made a conscious decision to exit the parade of boorish chest-beaters who actively test the survivability of the species for sport. Either that, or they’re just too distracted by their phones to have any fun. But that’s for another article—or maybe a Ted Talk. Suffice it to say that the self-destructive idiocy once ubiquitous in youth culture is now largely relegated to parts of North and Central Florida. Or at least, that’s what I read in a meme.
But there is a dichotomy here—and that is this: While there is nothing impressive about the jackassery of the Jackass Generation, there is indisputable comedic value in slapstick as well as an educational function in stories highlighting the stupidity of others. As such, this tale is my gift to you.
I had to catch the rail as I stepped through the side door of the pub that led into the alley. As I paused to catch my balance, Payton stepped out behind me, walking forward while looking back to thank the server for holding the door.
In hindsight, I’m not entirely sure whether the service she provided was a courtesy or an overt hint bordering on mild coercion, but a “thank you” was appropriate either way. I just wish he hadn’t looked backward to say it. He turned his head forward just in time to—in his unmistakable Carolina drawl—spit an exaggerated “f——–k!!” as he slammed into the back of me like a distracted driver at a stoplight.
The rail hit my gut with the all the rigidity of steel anchored in concrete, and pushed the same expletive from my mouth that had exited his the moment before, impressively, with the same timber and cadence. We sputtered out “f–ks” like 16th notes in a club remix.
Were I of weaker constitution, I would have likely spewed the contents of the day’s antics on the asphalt beneath me, but I was no amateur.
Once again, impressive isn’t the correct word, but the fact that I was standing upright at all at that point was—well—impressive. It was a Sunday night in Atlantic City. We had arrived on the redeye that morning, after a near-sleepless night. The few winks that I did manage to grab were on the plane, somewhere between our initial takeoff in Kansas City and our connector in Atlanta. My first drink of the day was a bloody mary consumed midair between Atlanta and Atlantic City, as were my second and third.
Sleep wasn’t an option when we arrived. It was the original plan, but I’m easily distracted by bright shiny things, and we were staying on the Boardwalk—which is approximately 92% bright shiny things. Add to that, my flustered nerves revolving around the new venture we were set to launch at CHAMPS East the following Tuesday.
Already three deep, the only option was to keep going; one more bloody mary at the hotel bar (the accompanying celery and olive served as breakfast—win/win), a celebratory mimosa with the team, then sushi for lunch, which of course, included sake, then a Miller Lite (or four) at the Blackjack tables, followed by a boat drink by the water, and so on and forth.
It was Monday at 3AM when Payton and I stumbled out of that kitschy, back alley Irish pub together. We were set to be at the convention center for setup in eight hours and I was no longer able to use visible appendages to count the drinks I had consumed, despite wearing flip flops. Payton wasn’t far behind—or maybe ahead.
“Shyyyitt! Sorry, maaayan,” Payton drawled as he steadied himself against my doubled-over form. “C’mon! Let’s catch wunna them rickshaws back to the hotel.”
“This isn’t Japan, dude,” I replied, still hunched over the rail, catching my breath. “They’re called rolling chairs.” Payton rolled his eyes.
“Whatever, asshole. Let’s just get a ride. I’m not walkin’ all the way back.” I agreed and we began zig-zagging through the alley toward the Boardwalk.
We weren’t but a few feet from the side street exit. I was staring at my feet, trying to avoid literally kicking rocks in flip-flops when Payton abruptly stopped in his tracks. With 45lbs and approximately eight inches of extra vertical on me, Payton was about as unyielding as the rail had been, though fortunately a lot more forgiving.
As I stumbled backward, I looked up to see him pointing at the adjacent building, mouth agape.
“Duuuuuuuude!” It was one of those “dudes” that seemed to never end, the kind that has heralded every act of drunken stupidity since man began walking upright—or at least since people started using “dude” to reference individuals other than ranch hands. Affixed to the five-story building, approximately 15-20’ from the ground, was a fire escape ladder that went all the way to the roof.
“Let’s use that ladder to get up to the top! We could walk the whole Boardwalk on the roofs!”
I didn’t blink.
Let’s just take a moment to reassess the situation.
Both of us had basically pickled our livers twice over by that point. Despite this reality, only moments before, we had demonstrated a relative clarity of mind when we agreed we were in no state to walk all the way back to our hotel. Yet, here we were, ready to try our hand at prancing across rooftops like Neo in the Matrix. Meanwhile, our entryway to this new adventure was a fire escape ladder that was out of reach by approximately 7-12.’
What could go wrong? Everything, that’s what. All the things could go wrong.
Without another word, Payton hastily lumbered to the wall, positioned himself directly under the ladder, dropped into a squat, and interlaced his fingers to provide a foothold.
“C’mon, maaayan!” Payton beckoned. “I’ll hoist y’up to the ladder. Then you can climb up thar and drop it down for me!”
In a sober state, I would have recognized that never, at any point, did this plan have any chance of succeeding, in any possible way. But I was anything but sober. I lurched forward in the best imitation of a sprint that the blood in my alcohol system could enable.
Let’s take another moment, this time to discuss basic physics, specifically, Newton’s second and third laws of motion.
Newton’s Second Law of Motion: The acceleration of an object is directly proportional to the net force acting on it and inversely proportional to its mass. It can be mathematically stated as F = ma, where F represents the net force, m is the mass of the object, and a is the acceleration it experiences.
Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. When an object exerts a force on another object, the second object exerts a force of the same magnitude but in the opposite direction on the first object.
I am told that by applying these laws, along with mathematical tools such as calculus, people much smarter than me (especially a drunk me) can analyze the trajectories of objects in different scenarios. For example, projectile motion, which involves the motion of objects launched into the air and subject to gravity, can be analyzed using these laws to determine their paths.
Now, I don’t know how to do the calculus. But what I do know, is that when you sprint toward someone and step into their interlaced fingers and they then use all their strength to fling you upward at a 45-degree angle in the opposite direction, an arc of motion is created that doesn’t get you near, say a ladder 10 or so feet above that person’s head, but does, in fact send your body hurling a significant distance into the air before gravity kicks in and pulls you back down. That was a long sentence, but totally worth it.
Let’s briefly fast-forward to the next day, when Payton and I were having dinner with the rest of the crew after setting up our booth. It was then that he told me that for a moment after my attempt at being Spiderman, he thought he had killed me—and he wasn’t kidding.
“Maaaayan, your head bounced off the pavement. I about crapped m’drawers.” But that was the next day. His words in the moment were far less confessional.
They started with an “Oh, f—————-k!” which was screamed basically in unison with my own outburst. Once he pieced together that my ability to make sound confirmed I was still alive, he didn’t miss a beat in defining blame.
“Waaadjoodo, maayan? Y’diddit all wrong!”
“Me?!?!? I’m not the one that threw my ass in the wrong damn direction!” I was using one hand to try to push myself to my feet, while the other was instinctively clutching the back of my head, suddenly damp to the touch, which I assumed was sweat. Payton offered his hand and nearly stumbled backward as he pulled me to my feet.
We hailed a rolling chair, which now, I agreed to call a rickshaw.
“Escuse me, sir? You head, ees-a-bleeding. You should prolly go to hospital.”
We were halfway back to the hotel when the guy pushing the cart said it, and yes, I’m doing my best to phonetically capture the accent of someone speaking English as a second or third language. No, it’s not disrespect; merely an attempt to paint an accurate picture. He’s working and living in a second language. I pat myself on the back for saying “gracias” when I’m at a restaurant that serves tacos. We are not the same—and that is to his credit.
Anyway, as it turns out, the dampness wasn’t sweat. I should have figured as much. It was May—early morning hours in Atlantic City. That’s not the time or place that random sweat occurs.
I thanked our driver(?) for his input, but Payton and I both agreed that we should get a second opinion. I mean, this is America. You don’t just go to the emergency room and ring up a lifetime of debt just because one person tells you that you should.
We found a security guard near the craps tables in the hotel. Payton started into him first.
“Heyyy, you’re a good man. Can you help us out?”
I’m still not sure why exactly we thought he would be the right person to ask. I guess we pegged him for the adult in the room since he had a badge and a modicum of authority. Like the rolling chair driver before him, he didn’t hesitate.
“Uhhhh, yeah, man,” he replied, clearly confused, “You should definitely get that checked out.”
Naturally, we made a beeline for our room. Because, why not? What does that dude know anyway? Do you think a medical professional’s out there pulling graveyard shifts as a casino rent-a-cop? B—-, please.
By the time we reached the room, my head was throbbing. The bleeding had subsided, but still hadn’t completely stopped. Now, the thing about me you should know is while I like to think I’m Jack Bauer, I turn into Jack Brayer at the first sign of a hangnail. My memory of this part of the story is a bit patchy, but I have no doubt that Payton had a solid reason for handing me the pills.
“Here, maayan. Take these. They’ll make you feel better.”
I thought it was Advil. Payton has since assured me that he also thought it was Advil. But as I’ve firmly established, we were both too inebriated to discern our asses from a couple of holes in the ground. It was Xanax. Thinking it would help, I took a shower. I then woke up, still in the shower, somehow still standing up with my head against the tile wall, drool trickling down my chin and mingling with the rivulets streaming over my head from the still-running water. I slept like a baby that night, but not an actual baby—they typically don’t sleep for shit—but like a baby who was fed Xanax.
I don’t envy the hotel maid who had to change that bloody pillowcase the next morning. There are a few dozen ways that blood can end up on hotel linens and I’m truly sorry that she was left to blindly speculate. I should have left a note—and maybe a tip.
The good news in all of this is that I survived—and with surprising resilience, considering my remedy for a head injury was to pop a zany and hit the hay. And the company we launched that week? Well, it crashed and burned in a blaze of glory within two years. What are you gonna do?
There’s no witty punchline to effectively close out this tale. Best I can do is a moral. Don’t drink and climb? Do your physics homework? Ehh. Whatever. Just be less dumb than me . . . and Payton.