Final Days at The Tombs Loaded With Memories
Published: Tuesday, April 27, 2004
Updated: Wednesday, January 19, 2011 00:01
Growing up in our generation, it's hard to imagine a neighborhood bar without thinking of "Cheers." Someplace crowded, but friendly, where the staff always keeps up a witty repartee with the customers. Someplace with a really fancy restaurant upstairs so that rich people in suits can hang out, waiting for their table, and sneer at the lack of class that we know to be just the right amount of lived-in comfort. Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came.
It may not be exactly like the TV show, no one yells your name the instant you walk through the door, but The Tombs has that same sort of culture and mentality. When you're a regular, everyone knows your face, your name, your drink of choice, your sports allegiances and even your favorite T-shirt. You truly know you've arrived in this category, when the person checking IDs at the door declares, for the second time, that one day he will visit a greasy fried fish shack in a tiny town on an obscure part of the Connecticut shoreline so that he can own his own neon shirt proclaiming, "Life's good. Eat fish."
I am, quite honestly, the last person anyone would expect to be a prospective member of the 99 Days Club. I didn't drink at all until sophomore year, and even after that, not heavily. What tolerance I have is due almost entirely to genetics and beer has been known to give me a stomach ache long before any effects of alcohol kick in.
I'm not exactly sure why I even signed up in the first place, either, but it was probably a combination of things. There was certainly the "Everyone Else Is Doing it Factor" as five other people at my table put their names on the clipboard one night in February. There was also the fact that I'd accepted a job offer two days beforehand, making the rest of the semester seem like a formality. If all I need to do for the next few months is show up, I thought, why not show up here too? I went to The Tombs probably three nights a week anyway, not really for long, just to see who was there. Going every day would be fun, until I got bored of it, and then I would stop. I certainly didn't sign up with the intention of actually making it through 99 days, or even half of that, really.
Figuring out why I'm still in the running is easier - still multi-layered but much less complicated - I am not a quitter. Literally, once I have invested time and effort into something, quitting it causes me psychological pain. This trait is much more useful when it comes to things like athletics and difficult classes but I just can't turn it off when it comes to other matters.
On another level, I'm doing it for my brothers. When they graduated, the tradition didn't exist yet, and they're jealous. They and all their friends descended the steps into that basement barroom for much more than the last 99 days and they got nothing in return. Awe-filled e-mails were sent out, crisscrossing the country between graduates of a decade ago, reminiscing about fond memories of days gone by. I got several notes to the extent of, "You'd better do this, on behalf of all of us too."
But really, I'm doing it because it's fun. When I started, I expected it to be occasionally amusing, but more often a chore. Instead, I find it impossible to imagine something I'd rather do with an evening, be it Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday. I've gotten to spend time with old friends, the kind I made the first week of freshman year and always kept in touch with over the years, but now am closer to than ever. I've gotten to know an entirely new group of people and it's sad to think I might never have met them otherwise, while at the same time elevating a group of acquaintances to a new level of friendship.
I've heard it repeatedly said that only losers do 99 Days and I couldn't disagree more. If you asked the seniors sitting on barstools every night what they're doing after graduation, you'd get a host of impressive answers and probably more definitive ones than if you took a random sampling of the class. And no, most participants don't whittle their lives away throwing back pitchers of Busch Light from dinner until closing. They go in, have a drink or dinner, chat with the bartender for a bit - they're old friends by now, of course - and make a round of the room, stopping at a few tables. And then they leave. They go home to their homework or their job search, and not in an alcoholic stupor.
Is 99 Days nothing more than the greatest marketing scheme ever? aybe. After all, you still have to buy the T-shirt you earn at the end. And yes, buying something every night does add up, but not in the way you'd expect. You tend to forgo those massive expenditures that accumulate with hours at a bar. Instead, you go in for 20 minutes worth of chatting and leave with a $1.50 tab - one beer. Or you nurse an iced tea all night, and when you're a regular that means they just bring you the pitcher and a couple of straws stuck together, a little ice and a few lemons added for garnish.
Really, though, what you're buying is memories; memories you will recall in e-mails to younger friends 10 years from now. You're buying the right to have pet names for drinks that everyone behind the bar understands instantly. You're paying in to get a high five or a hug when you get there and when you leave and to have your license only checked as a formality. And to have a place where everybody knows your name.
Mary Goundrey is a senior in the College and a former Editor in Chief of THE HOYA. She can be reached at goundreythehoya.com. This is Goundrey's last column.