There exists a holiday tradition in my hometown. Lighting the Christmas tree in the town square, you may ask? An outdoor concert where carols are sang, you may inquire? No. This tradition is not so much focused on the Christmas season, as it is focused on drinking. It is referred to as the "12 Bars of Christmas". I know similar events exist in other cities and towns, but I must say that Owatonna typically has an impressive turnout - considering it is a small town in southern Minnesota.
Each year, on the Friday before Christmas, people come out of the woodwork for this festive event. Outfits - most including some sort of head piece, tinsel or lighting - are planned with the utmost care. Trying to figure out how much clothing you can wear to remain somewhat warm for the outdoor walk/run between bars, while not roasting to death once you are in the packed confines of each establishment is the most time-consuming step of the preparation process. The "rules", if such a term can be used, are to have one drink at each bar. The event starts at 6pm, and you spend 1/2 hour at each location. I am assuming you have already deduced that there are 12 bars/locations. See....I know you guys are smart!
The first couple of bars are tricky. You are sober, and geared up for the entertainment that awaits - so many do not stick to the "one drink" suggestion. Needless to say, by about the 5th bar, most people are starting to feel it. The hugs come out to play. Much cheers-ing can be witnessed. The sheer volume tends to become more deafening the further along the route you get. And the later you get into the evening, the faster time moves. The issues of the world are typically all solved by the end of the evening.
Now normally, none of this is an issue. I am amongst the intoxicated. All of the items listed above are just the cost of doing business! This year was a little different. I am, and have been, off booze for a while now. I decided I would do my civic duty, and be the sober cab for my family and friends. Being one of only a hand full of sober people, at an event that has between 150-300 participants, provides quite a different perspective. Time does not speed up. In fact, it is amazing how long 30 minutes can seem. Ear plugs may not be a bad idea, in the event that I decide to do this, again. The volume is ridiculous. And most importantly - it is OK to take a break. Sometimes you just can't think that last bar is a good idea. Drop your charges at the door, and come back for them. I thought the people that didn't finish this event were crazy. Now I understand. It can just be too much, and sometimes you need a break.
Much of the evening was very entertaining, and it was interesting to take a look at it from another perspective. It was also nice to get to drive the car from bar to bar, instead of having to walk outside in the frigid temps. Now I just need to decide if I can make it through this event sober each year, or if this might have to be a "drinking" night for me. Right now I am leaning toward the latter.....