It’s never a good sign when a party kicks off with the host saying “Anyone currently in high school needs to leave.” It’s an even worse sign when half of the crowd subsequently leaves the house. The party address had been posted on Instagram earlier. I was visiting home in California for the week I could get off of work from my job back in Chicago, and my friend’s high school band was playing a “reunion” show after the year and a half they’d spent apart (if that, they all ended up going to college in Southern California).
I grew up in Silicon Valley. Stanford is across the street from my high school. The founder of the now mostly defunct Quizlet spoke at my graduation (because who wants to pay a monthly subscription to create digital flashcards when they can just buy “analog” ones for a fraction of the price?). A consequence of being around so much monumentalism is that everyone is a high achiever and they have to remind you all the time. I’m guilty of inflating some details about my comedy career as well. It’s very easy to make performing at an open sound much more impressive than it actually is.
That encapsulates how much of the party went: conversation after conversation about how the past few years have been going, ignoring the fundamental truth that we are barely two years into our undergraduate education. Some friends and I ended up making a run to the liquor store because we decided we were bored.
A few hours later, the handle of vodka and the seltzers we bought were gone and a girl we came with had blacked out– normal for a party, and not unexpected of her to be drinking heavily: her mother was about halfway down the QAnon rabbit hole and they had been getting into arguments about vaccines (I’ve never been to her house because I’m not prepared to make small talk with her mother over the question “What vaccine did you get and why do you regret it?”). It’s not a terrible thing for someone to drink a little bit too much, but can get pretty bad if they’re swept away by the brigade of Future Doctors Without Borders.
It was a group of five Pre-Med students who’d had a little bit to drink, but not too much to interfere with their surgery hands if they ever needed to be on the clock. It was like someone saw this girl vomiting and said “Is there a doctor in the house?” to an answer of “No, but I have lifeguard training!”
The first thing they did was set up their medical tent: a lawn chair in an unlit corner of the backyard while they took her vitals. I think they gave up pretty quickly because I heard “She’s not responding!” and then a panicked chatter about what to do with their patient on the brink of death.
It sounded serious. I walked over and asked to call an ambulance. They waved me away. I get it. I must’ve sounded patronizing, doubting their medical knowledge like that.
It turns out that they meant “She’s not responding” in the sense that when they asked her a question, she wouldn’t be able to answer. Well, yes. That’s how alcohol works. Maybe I should change my major to Medicine.
A few minutes were spent searching for a spoon to hold under her nose to see if she fogged it up with her breath. I didn’t know how they were going to see it, given that the corner of the backyard was unlit (and I could’ve sworn that I heard breaths in between sessions of vomiting into the garbage bag that was being held up loosely, unenthusiastically to her mouth). Once again, I offered to call an ambulance from a quiet place so the operator wouldn’t have reason to send the police to a noisy party.
Once again, my offer went unheeded. I hadn’t taken Organic Chemistry. And they were busy doing chest compressions. “Ew, there’s vomit on my hands!” said the compressor. I left her to continue in peace. If that wasn’t enough of a sign that she was doing something very, very incorrect, I don’t know what would be.
A half hour later, the police came. A member of the Alcohol Poisoning Wing of My Friend’s Backyard Memorial Hospital had gone inside to call for an ambulance. I guess she wanted the operator to understand the seriousness of the situation. Or the fact that she was very mature for taking on such a noble role at a wild party. After a few minutes of exchange with the cops, they left the house and an ambulance arrived. My friend “on the brink of death” calmly walked to the gurney and laid down. Most of the alcohol had been vomited out of her system by this point in the night. Sorry, chest-compressed.
A life had been saved. It was celebrated in true afterparty fashion with a guitar circle. I left halfway through “Country Roads Take Me Home.”
The next morning my friend called me and asked what happened. I told her everything. She told me that her chest hurt.
Alcohol brings out some undesirable traits in people. Some people fight, some people cry, Pre Med majors network their abilities. Maybe it’s just Silicon Valley. Maybe it’s universal. All I know is that if these are the future doctors of America, I’m opting out of health insurance.