By Andrew Ramirez
I recently went to a bar at 4 in the afternoon on a Friday. What was the occasion? Nothing. Happy Hour exists for a similar reason: there is no reason to drink at four in the afternoon other than to drink at 4 in the afternoon. Let me explain. Barring turning six years old and celebrating in the backyard with a G.I. Joe piñata, any birthday party won’t get started until long past Happy Hour. Or if you’re on a date, she won’t be thrilled sipping Margaritas and exchanging dreams and commonalities on a patio blazed in rush-hour heat. Moreover, if you’re sailing on rough times and drinking alone, I’ve always felt it’s best to count your pennies and take it to Ralph’s or CVS. They’ve got specials all the time—and at that point, in my experience, it’s never been about ambiance.
So what I’m trying to say is: drinking at a bar at four in the afternoon isn’t about celebration. Never about romance. And has nothing to do with any kind of authentic loneliness. No. Floating over the right drink at the right bar at the right time in the afternoon should, rather, sing the purest ode to everyday Happy Hour magic. Celebration need be inspired by an event. Romance by a woman. Loneliness by what we lost–usually that same woman—but cheap drinks at 4 p.m. in a loosely packed bar is the pathos, ethos, and logos of the tightly packed magic inside every minute of Happy Hour. Don’t make the mistake: Happy Hour isn’t just your reduced price Mai Tai. Nor is it the different eyes you get to try on before the sun goes down either. Rather, it’s the joy that comes from the car ride you took with your buen compadre to get there too. That sun-drenched joy you got from sitting, from waiting, from ordering, and somehow knowing to tie your shoe before you got up and it went loose. From sitting in the sun with your sunglasses, staying warm in your favorite jacket with your favorite drink, or the way trading jokes makes others—and lets others make you—laugh. It’s the perennial hollowed-out stomach you get from catching someone’s eye across the sunlight barroom, or the way it felt when someone hollowed their self out for you at 4 p.m. and you realized the business models were lying all along: Happy Hour isn’t just something built into the bar and restaurant industry so as to entice customers to fill the mid-afternoon lull between lunch and late dinner. It’s not just a shot and a beer for eight dollars. Or two dollars off any whiskey. It’s all those perfect snapshots push-pinned into your brain too, the before and after, what leads up to it and what follows it, too.
Moments, like drinks and people and bars, aren’t worth wasting your time hanging around the wrong ones. And upon discovery of those special right ones: I gladly fall in at 4 in the afternoon, anytime, and if my memory doesn’t stretch too far across the mid-afternoon ocean of Happy Hour, and doesn’t give in to too many rips and holes, always I’ll remember what went in to each one of them and how much.