As I walk through the liquor department, I spot an eight-year-old boy gazing into the big display box filled with hundreds of honey and whiskey-based Yukon Gold 100% alcohol miniatures. His eyes are lit with interest. He can’t hold back temptation any longer and reaches his hands into the box. Mm-m, sweet honey taste. Warm colors. Shiny playthings. Perhaps he remembers the last time he was at the mall and jumped into the play pit containing thousands of soft, plastic, multicolored balls and how much fun it was to be totally surrounded by them!
“Hey! Get yer hands out of there,” the boy’s father exclaimed. “What are you doing playing with those?”
The boy’s testy papa continues to shop, walking the last aisle near the back of the department as a manly silhouette against a wall of alcohol ads and signs. His son meanders other aisles, enjoying the three-dimensional liquor store world of amazing colors and shapes.
Looking at a beer poster of young males socializing with brews in hand, I think back to the first time I had a drink. I didn’t have it until after I’d graduated college. I lasted that long because of how incredibly stupid and violent people became after they drank. Their changed behaviors made me wonder if I, too, might go into a similar la-la land after drinking. (Read more about my college temptation and ultimate abstinence from drinking in “Excerpts” and the passage in Chapter 1, “Competition,” from my memoir, Maybe Boomer.)
Then, after I graduated college and went on to teach high school in the 80’s and 90’s, I heard stories about my young student’s crazed, self-destructive weekend behavior from drinking. Their tales sounded much like what I saw in my college dorms. In fact, I heard hushed accounts about how many of my students started drinking in middle school, even earlier.
My hazy recollections are interrupted by the PA system: “Assistance needed in the toy department, aisle nine.” Uh-oh, has the boy gotten into trouble over there?
I notice the father round the corner toward the checkout desk, arms filled with his chosen liquor fare, when I see the boy gazing into the colorful Yukon Jack display yet again. I can tell he’d like to have one of those toy miniatures as a souvenir, but knows better than to ask.
As the two walk out the department past the ten-foot tall beer displays, I imagine a scene of the boy driving home past billboards, many plastered with images of movie stars, celebrities, pretty women – even the boy’s favorite sports stars – all enjoying their favorite alcoholic drink. He’ll see them again on TV and in the magazines lying around the house when he gets home.
The little boy couldn’t be more surrounded by alcohol temptation than swimming in the case of Yukon Jack miniatures themselves.