Before last Saturday, I’d never been initiated into anything before.
The closest I came to that was almost chugging five shots of espresso when I started working at Mocha Joe’s three years ago, but my fellow employees took pity on me and let me skip the hazing.
I was at The Loft Saturday celebrating my belated 21st birthday. I was squished in a sticky black booth with my mom, dad, friends Kelsey and Lauren and boyfriend Nick when the people in the booth in front of me overheard someone wish me a happy birthday.
A bespectacled head craned above the booth I was facing and asked, “It’s your birthday? How old are you?”
“Twenty-one!” my tipsy boyfriend shouted over “We Are Young” by fun, which always makes its way onto the jukebox there.
“Happy birthday!” glasses man shouted back. He told us he wished it were his 21st again.
He was a 27-year-old Kent State alumnus at the bars with a gaggle of old friends he used to work at the Rec Center with.
After the brief exchange, both booths went back to their own peanuts and pitchers. I noticed glasses man had gone to the bar and come back with a cheeseburger-sized flashlight with an illuminated, multicolored shot sitting on top.
“What is that?” my ever-curious, big mouth asks.
“You’ve never seen one before? It’s a Grecian Urn!” he answered.
And then a light bulb clicked on in his brain. “You’re 21. You have to take one for Kent State initiation!”
What had I gotten myself into?
My mom tried to save me, told him no, she’s already had a lot to drink, she shouldn’t take it.
But glasses guy wouldn’t have it.
Without another word he swiveled to the bar and ordered another flashlight drink. At this point, everyone from the Rec Alumni table had climbed on their seats to get a clear view of this ensuing train wreck. Even more people had gathered to the left of our table as glasses guy handed me the hefty shot.
“What’s in this?” I begged to know. The green on top and red on bottom looked harmless enough, but I was worried about the white chunks throughout.
“Don’t ask! Just drink it!” said the glasses guy.
My mom and I bent our faces down to sniff the concoction, and all I got was a nose-full of stinging spice. My mom scrunched up her nose and gave me a look that wished me luck. She really wasn’t going to bail me out, and neither was my dad. Thanks a lot, guys.
I looked up after smelling the rancid mixture and saw at least 13 iPhone cameras trained on my face. As the clapping and “come on!”s began, I knew there was no turning back. I took a deep breath and removed the heavy, illuminated shot from the flashlight.
When it first hit my lips, it tasted foul but tolerable. Then the white chunks smacked into my taste buds.
I later found out those were mayonnaise, which I don’t even like as a sandwich garnish. Thick globs clogged the back of my throat, and I battled the bile that threatened to eject from my esophagus.
I struggled to take one more gulp so I wasn’t a total failure, but that’s all I could stomach.
I slammed the two-thirds consumed (I’m probably being generous) shot onto the peanut-flecked table and expected to be ridiculed by my audience. To my surprise, everyone was whooping, clapping and telling me good job.
One of the alumni table members told me in the bathroom that after her 21st Grecian Urn, she left a trail of vomit the whole walk home.
I washed my mouth out feeling accomplished and excited to make future Kent State 21-year-olds go through their Grecian Urn rite of passage — just like I did.