I have one mantra in life: Keep it cute, keep it classy. So when I felt the urge to vomit in Cloister a few weeks ago, I knew exactly what I had to do. I strolled to the bathroom, calm but purposeful.
I had done this twice before in my life — once at the tender age of 14, when I grabbed a popcorn bucket from an unsuspecting couple sitting next to me in a movie theater to tastefully regurgitate while watching, ironically, "The Hangover," and again on my first night of a study abroad program in Spain when I tactically chundered to avoid going to sleep with the spins. As I staked out my spot in the only handicap bathroom stall in Cloister, I thought back to my previous experiences and decided they had prepared me well for drinking in college.
I took care of business before sitting down on the ground to compose myself. A few minutes later, some well-intentioned soul barged into the stall, informed me that I was not okay and called Public Safety to get me to McCosh. I figured a trip to McCosh wasn’t an awful idea, so I waited in the bathroom stall and forced myself to vomit one last time upon Public Safety's arrival to avoid any embarrassing accidents on the car ride over.
Little did I know, I had just activated a protocol under which the P-Safe officers waiting for me had to call an ambulance to haul me over to PMC. The ambulance was just arriving when I walked outside. The EMTs asked the officers if they needed a stretcher to carry me out. I eagerly volunteered to use the stretcher — after all, I wanted my first ambulance ride to be a truly authentic experience — but everyone ignored my plea as the officers explained I wasn’t that drunk.
I climbed into the business end of the ambulance, where a girl strapped me into the seat and asked if she could record my vitals. As she wrapped the cuff of a blood pressure monitor around my arm, I found out she was an undergrad at Princeton, too. We chatted about classes. We had both taken Orgo: She was premed, I was just a masochist. We pulled up to the hospital, and she assured me everything would be okay with an admission I would hear constantly over the next few hours: “You aren’t 'that' drunk."
I left my new friend at the check-in desk, where I begrudgingly handed over my driver’s license and insurance card before a nurse led me to a private room. She told me to take off my clothes and put on a hospital gown, but repeatedly — vehemently, even — warned me not to remove my underwear, as if her only experience with Princetonians involved students scandalously dropping trou. She took three vials of blood, found my BAC was a mere .13 and immediately called Public Safety to pick me up. She also assured me I was not that drunk, certainly not drunk enough to stay overnight. I finally asked what qualified as that drunk, and she led me past a room with an unconscious boy. The hospital staff had just pumped his stomach. The nurse returned my clothes, applauded my ability to keep my briefs on and walked me to the door.
A new Public Safety officer arrived to drive me back to McCosh. She escorted me into the elevator and left me on the second floor at the infirmary. I joked with the receptionist that I had taken the roundabout way to the health center, stopping by PMC first just for kicks. After I blew a .08, she asked the head of the staff if I really had to stay the night. The answer, apparently, was yes, despite the fact I wasn’t that drunk. I played with the controls on the hospital bed for a few minutes before quickly falling asleep. I was quite tuckered out after the excitement of the day.
I awoke to the divine sound of a nurse asking what I wanted for breakfast. I surveyed my options and decided on a bowl of Rice Krispies and some red Gatorade. The first item seemed just bland enough to calm my stomach; the second just felt right. As I munched on my cereal, a doctor came into the room to discuss my behavior. She explained the misunderstanding that lead to my PMC adventure, listed the various alcohol-related services available to help me navigate the college drinking scene and created a plan with me to ensure I wouldn’t end up back at McCosh. Two shots an hour, then a bottle of water — doctor’s orders. Eventually, though, I had to leave the sterile paradise of McCosh, so the doctor called one last Public Safety officer to drive me back to Forbes.
I stumbled back into my room early in the afternoon. My roommate, still dozing, glanced up and congratulated me on a successful night out on the Street. “Someone got lucky,” he said. “The Maneater strikes again.” And I did get lucky. Not in the usual sense of success on the Street, but in a much broader sense.
In the next few weeks, I had several meetings: one with my director of student life in Forbes College, and two more with the BASICS program run by the University. I expected lectures on the dangers of alcohol. I expected them to criticize my behavior. I expected them to call me dumb. But instead I encountered one of the most supportive groups I had ever met.
We didn’t focus on that one night; we didn’t even really focus on the question of whether I had a problem with alcohol. We talked about my life, our lives, about how I couldn’t decide on an engineering discipline, if I even wanted to stay in engineering at all. Along the way, I learned a little about alcohol and the resources on campus related to it. The mentors seemed genuinely engaged. They always seemed to care. So maybe I wasn’t that drunk this time, but I feel lucky to go to a school that cares this much if I ever am.