Posted on October 22nd, 2012
I guess I can’t remember exactly how it all started. I’m pretty sure one of us suggested it as a joke, probably on some hot, bored Los Angeles day. (There were a lot of those, in our early twenties.) Someone joked about it and we laughed, but at some point we must have stopped laughing. Because someone eventually went out to buy the beer, and someone else collected the shot glasses from the kitchen.
There are four of us, at the core – me, my husband, and our best couple of friends – plus other members of one of our groups of friends from college (a group of people all somehow connected to our alma mater’s elite choral group, either directly or through our significant others – let’s be clear here about what kind of nerdy, conscientious, well-rounded people we are). We are people who enjoy good beer, I swear. We go to microbreweries! European-style beer gardens! We buy growlers and order tasting flights, like beer lovers are supposed to do, as part of our responsibilities as good Beer Connoisseurs. We lead fairly quiet, responsible lives, enjoy intellectual conversation, and read good books. Many of us are married or are in steady long-term relationships, and many of us plan to have children. We have fully accepted the weightiness of adulthood, I assure you, and we generally act accordingly. But we semi-regularly and with great fervor enjoy drinking a shot of cheap beer every minute for a full hour*, and we are not ashamed.
When we have a good occasion to do so, we set ourselves up with some snacks and a case of cheap, canned beer. It’s generally cheap, canned light beer, which pains me to admit, but the lightness of it turns out to be incredibly important should one still want to be able to do anything productive somewhere in the vicinity of the rest of the day – including things like preparing or procuring a meal, which is important to do after the most powerful of hours. And in any case, we’re out for enjoyment – an admittedly juvenile sort of enjoyment, but not obliteration.
Before we begin, we set up one of a number of methods for musical accompaniment, all methods specifically designed for pairing with this activity – a computer program that plays a minute each of songs in an iTunes playlist, a variety of websites that provide power hour playlists with minute-long clips of songs (90s playlists are vastly preferred to all others), or, one time, a video playlist of minute-long clips of music videos from our middle school years (sadly disappointing and quickly deemed vastly inferior to other methods). If we’re inside, we cover the table or the floor with some sort of liquid-resistant tablecloth or plastic. We claim our spots in chairs or on the rug, in a circle. We make sure we have an unencumbered route to a bathroom or other necessary locations, since everything that needs to happen away from the circle of friends must happen within a minute-long interval. We remind everyone to burp when they feel the need, and to drink water when they can. We confirm the volume of each of what is usually a motley assortment of shot glasses, making sure everyone knows how much they’re actually drinking each minute. This is how responsible adults do a power hour.
I’m a 28-year-old, married, professional, responsible woman, and I power hour for fun.
Here’s how it usually goes: The first fifteen minutes or so go slowly. We chat idly about normal things, as if we were sitting at a bar or around a dinner table. Sometimes we absentmindedly take sips from our shot glasses even when the minute hasn’t changed. Around minute 20, the engine begins to rev and conversation becomes louder and faster. Usually about now is when it starts to slowly dawn on you that taking another 40 shots of beer will be a serious undertaking. We start talking about how much we love doing power hours. Inevitably, someone asks, “Will we still do power hours when we have kids?” So far, the answer is always “of course!” (We have no idea what it will be like to have children, it should be noted.) Somewhere near minute 40 is when time begins to fold in on itself, those minutes that seemed like eons back at minute 10 now speeding by like telephone poles along a highway. The pile of empty cans grows at comical speed. Conversation becomes less linear, more chaotic.
At minute 60, the group has a serious decision to make. Will we continue drinking? There is a short mourning period at the end of each power hour, as the intensity of the previous hour comes to an abrupt end and as we yet again realize the downside of the power hour: many hours of drinking have been condensed into one, the desired effect coming more quickly (likely the intention of whichever desperate college student originally designed the simple-yet-effective game) but the enjoyable act of drinking with friends unfortunately shortened. Usually, most group members nurse another beer or two over the next many hours, as we enjoy the lingering power hour afterglow and settle into the rest of our afternoon or evening.
It’s been about five years since we started doing power hours, and every time is better than the last. The first few years we did it every six months or so because … well, because there was no reason not to. (Still valid justification for doing just about anything, in one’s early twenties.) We were still loopy with that sense that we were out in the world for the first time in our lives, and no one could stop us from engaging in structured ways to get drunk on cheap beer. But after a few years, things became more difficult. People started moving away, including one of our core four and then my husband and I, and even before then all of our schedules filled up with work and school and all of this “being an adult” business. Our extended group became more and more scattered across the country, none of us with quite enough money or power to make it possible for us all to get together regularly (meaning: most of us are or have recently been graduate students). So we do power hours when some number of us is together, maybe a few times each year, if we’re lucky. We do it to celebrate being together and we do it because it is undeniably one of the most fun things we do (we do other things for fun too, don’t worry). We’ve done power hours in our living rooms, in our yards, in vacation rentals, and one time over Skype, with a friend doing research in Hawaii.
An outsider might say our power hour tradition is some sort of vigil to our college years – four years of living, working, and playing (partying) in close proximity to one another, in semi-isolated bliss – and I might not necessarily disagree, but the funny truth is that most of us (me included) had never done a power hour until we started this tradition, a few years after graduating. We may pine for our younger days, but we are not trying to recreate them. Life was pretty great then, but life is pretty great now, too (especially with a case of beer behind us).
I’m not sure if we’ll do power hours forever. When I’m honest with myself I know we won’t. But I hope we’ll try, for as long as we’re able. Maybe I’ll be the crazy old woman your kids tell you about, who has her other old lady and old gentlemen friends over to drink cheap beer out of shot glasses. I suppose that sounds kind of awesome, when I think about it. But even if we’re not doing power hours, I certainly hope I’ll still have these friends, and that we’ll still be having this much fun together.
* Otherwise known as a “power hour” – perhaps because of how mighty you feel after completing one, but far more likely because of how fairly quickly it causes you to experience the power of the all-mighty brew.