New Year's Eve 2002
I'm at the Carousel Hotel in Ocean City, MD with my musician boyfriend, who will be playing with the band all night. I have brought not one, but two possible outfits with me: a skirt and a top, and dress pants and a stretchy, shimmery tank top. "You can help me choose!" I tell my boyfriend excitedly. My enthusiasm quickly turns to horror as I realize that though I have brought two complete outfits, as well as pantyhose, dangly earrings, and strapless undergarments, I have not, in fact, brought any shoes. I try on my sparkly tank top and burgandy dress pants with the only shoes I have with me- sneakers. It looks just as awful as I had imagined. "I'm not going down!" I wail.
"But you have to!" he insists.
"I can't go like this!" I cry. "I'll just baby-sit the band wives' kids so they can go down to the party."
"I'll buy you new shoes. What size are you?"
"It's 6:00 on New Year's Eve. Nothing will be open. It's no use!" I throw myself facedown on the bed and sob.
"I'll find you shoes. Stay right here." As if I have anywhere to go, I think. I turn off the lights and get under the covers until a knock comes on the door. It's Bo, my old jazz band instructor from college, and a member of the cover band my boyfriend is in.
"Hey Rachel, did you find any sho..." he begins, and seeing my tear-stained face, says, "No, I guess not, huh?" I shake my head. "What size are you?" he asks. I tell him, get back in bed, and pull the covers over my head. I hear female voices I don't recognize in the hall discussing shoe size, and I kind of want to die. A short while later there is another knock on the door. Bo again, bearing a pair of beachy platform slides. A size too large, a little bit frayed, a lot not my style. But they're black, and they'll do.
My boyfriend finally comes back from his unsuccessful shoe shopping excursion and heads downstairs to warm up with the band. I dry my tears, dress and go down to the party, where I spend most of the evening sitting alone at a banquet table. Though the wives are supposed to take shifts baby-sitting, none of them ever come down. The band plays, and people are dancing and enjoying themselves. At one point, Bo gestures me over to the stage. I approach the edge, looking at him questioningly. He motions me to get on the stage, and I shake my head, sure I'm misunderstanding, but he's quite insistent. Thinking maybe he wants to ask me a question about sound levels, I creep onto the edge of the stage, trying not to draw attention to myself, but instead of asking me a question, he hands me a saxophone. "Can you play this?" he asks. Oh, lord. I put the neck strap over my head, because it seems that I have little choice in the matter. "Want to take a solo?" he asks. I frantically shake my head no, trying to tell him with my eyes how serious I am about this. "Ok," he says, "you don't have to. Just keep playing E." I do, and it sounds so awful that I just pretend to play after that. An interminable amount of time later the song finally ends, and I creep offstage and sit back down at the empty table, relief flooding over me. During the next break, Tess, the singer, is furious. I have made them look unprofessional, I later find out that she says.
I spend the rest of the night making full use of the open bar. After I lose count of how many drinks I've had, I have to use the bathroom. Again. I've already gone twice in the bathroom across the hall, and I'm embarassed to go in there and face the attendant again. And what is that basket for, anyway? I'm supposed to tip her to use the bathroom? Seriously? I decide that this time I will go up to our room to use the bathroom. It's a quarter of twelve. I should have plenty of time to go and be back before midnight. I take the elevator up, take care of business, apply fresh lip gloss, and head back down. I wait impatiently for the elevator. It arrives and I get in, looking for the button for the lobby, but there is none. What? I get off the next time the door opens, trying to get my bearings. I walk over to the next elevator, push the button, and wait. When it finally arrives I get in and push a button marked L, which I think means Lobby. The elevator descends and the door opens into a hot, steamy room. Towering piles of white sheets and towels cover every imaginable surface, and women are chattering back and forth in Spanish. What the hell is going on??? I think. This can't be happening... I check my watch. It's 11:58. Shit. I press the button again and try to act nonchalant as dozens of hotel maids look at me in amusement and surprise. I take the elevator back up, again missing the lobby. This could only happen to me, I think. I hit a button, get out on the 10th floor, start looking for the stairs. I'm running now, huffing my way down ten flights of stairs, and I hear the strains of Auld Lang Syne drifting up from the ballroom. Too late. I follow the music and find my way back, at last. I see my boyfriend making his way through the crowd, weaving through throngs of drunken middle-aged couples, still lingering over their midnight kisses. "Where were you???" he says.
"I got lost," I say. "Aren't you supposed to be on stage?"
"Bo let me take a break so I could kiss you," he says.
"Well, happy New Year," I say.
"Happy New Year."
Still to come: The (mis)adventures of New Year's Eves 1999, 2006, and 2007.