Although the legal drinking age in Hong Kong was 18, it was very easy to buy alcohol there even if you were underage. You could buy it at grocery stores, at 7-11 corner stores and even the leading drugstore, Watsons would have entire flats of Carlsberg and San Miguel on the shelves. What’s more, the cost of beer was on a par with pop and juice, so it was relatively easy to get a hold of. The only problem was that there weren’t many places to consume it, where it wouldn’t be noticed by other adults.
One Saturday, a group of my friends and I decided to go to watch “Nightmare on Elm Street”. In Shatin, where I lived was this large shopping centre called New Town Plaza. It had, what at the time was considered a large movie theatre – 6 different screens. Back then any place that showed more than 2 or 3 different movies was a large theatre – not like the 20 screen theatres of today that show every current movie. The Plaza also had a McDonalds, several other restaurants and of course a large Watson’s on the second floor. In our group were my friends Alex and Caroline, who you will read about elsewhere in this book, Michael and Jason – another guy I was almost, but not quite friends with. We met up in the central area of the shopping centre at the agreed upon time and proceeded to head to McDonalds where we pigged out on many, many Big Macs and orders of fries.
After dinner it was time to head over to the theatre. Just as we were about to go, Mike and Jason suggested that we go to Watson’s and buy beer to take into the movie theatre. This sounded like a great idea, so we went to Watson’s and noticed that a flat of San Miguel was $100 HK, which worked out to be $20 for each of us. Think about this: 24 cans of beer split among 5 teenagers. We were sure to get drunk. The most alcohol I’d ever consumed to this point was a single glass of wine that my dad had let me drink every now and again. I didn’t even think I liked beer. So I wasn’t thinking at that point of getting drunk and I had no idea what the impact of drinking that beer was going to be. I would find out soon though. We bought the beer and paid for it with our pooled money, but were immediately faced with a problem. How do we get it into the movie theatre? Mike came up with the idea to ask the counter staff for extra bags. We simply took the beers out of the plastic rings that held them together and dropped them into four bags, making it look like we had simply bought toiletries and were carrying those into the theatre. It was brilliant. Although we were a bit nervous as we stood in the ticket line, nobody noticed what we were bringing in with us. We made our way over to some seats near the back of the theatre on the left side and settled in.
I barely remember the details of the movie, except that Freddie Krueger was mildly scary. The focus for the first hour of the movie became the consumption of copious amounts of beer. By the time the first hour of the movie had passed, I’d already consumed four entire cans of beer and in the second half of the movie I began to feel the effects. I was sitting in the seat closest to the aisle, while Alex, Jason, Caroline and Mike were seated to my left. It wasn’t long before I noticed one of Mike or Jason (I can’t remember which now) and Caroline making out next to me. I started to experience the feeling of missing out that I suspect nearly all drunk people experience in this situation. Now, I had never made any moves on Alex before: we were just friends. But as the alcohol induced stupor began to take hold, I suddenly began to feel great affection for poor Alex. I leaned over and slurred something that sounded very charming in my head to Alex and proceeded to try and kiss her. I was promptly rebuffed and I got upset, to which Alex immediately apologized and said that while she liked me as a friend, she never saw me that way. Needless to say I was mortified.
A short while later, we left the theater and went our separate ways. I was very drunk by this point and staggered home, after leaving the train station at Fo Tan, which was a good 45- minute walk from my apartment. I had decided that I needed to walk it off, because I knew that my parents would be waiting for me when I got home. My parents had this ritual. We owned two large Queen Anne Wingback chairs from the 1700’s. These things are 5 feet tall and almost 4 feet wide, and they sat in our living room facing one another. My parents would wait up for me, one in each chair and when I came home they would ask me to sit on the couch and would proceed to ask questions about the evening’s events – where I had been; who I was with; what I had been up to. I knew that if I took the normal bus route home from New Town Plaza, I was surely a dead man.
I figured that if I walked home, somehow I would be sober when I got home, or at least sober enough that I could avoid my parent’s suspicions and just shuffle off to bed. Unfortunately as I was soon to learn, it doesn’t work that way with alcohol, and when I walked through the gates of the housing estate, I was still noticeably drunk, perhaps even more so as the physical exertion had distributed the alcohol throughout my system. I made my way into the elevator, hit “18”, and prayed a silent prayer as the doors closed. When I got up to the 18th floor, I got out slowly, collected my composure and took out my key and slowly unlocked the front door. Much to my surprise, the only parent who was sitting down was mom. It was enough though.
Mom: “Tell me about your evening darling.”
I began to speak and after about two sentences mom stopped me.
Mom: “Chrissy, have you been drinking?”
Me: “No…. Well I had one beer.”
As I could see from the look on mom’s face that there was no way I was going to successfully fib my way through this one.
Mom: “Christopher, you smell like a distillery. You know this means I will have to tell your father."
Me: “No! Don’t tell dad. Please. I can do something for you in return - like maybe you have extra dishes that need washing.”
As I said this she got up from the chair and begin to walk toward the hallway that led to the bedroom where dad was. I followed after her a few steps repeating my pleas, but to no avail. Resigned, I wandered back to the wingback chair and took a seat, awaiting my fate. Dad came out with an angry look on his face and proceeded to chew me out something fierce for getting drunk telling me what a stupid thing it was and was this really how I was going to show my parents how trustworthy I was with my freedom. After a few minutes of this he ordered me to go to bed. I shuffled off to my room and crashed on my bed, passing out almost immediately.
Within a few months, my parents admitted that it took everything they had not to burst out laughing when they saw me like that.