A sober Aimie Cronin walks along the main street of Mount Maunganui on New Year's Eve and decides she's a decade too late to appreciate the atmosphere.
A young guy walks by as he screams down a cellphone. Red cheeks and audible anger as he passionately defends his whereabouts and wages a familiar war: Where's the best place to go for New Year's?
"Dude . . . Whangamata is shit."
There's a group of friendly folk handing sausages to drunk people. Chewed-up-and-spat-out chunks stick to people's shoes. Endless ill-fitting dresses cling to girls with three different shades of long, straight hair. Girls hold hands. Girls with bare feet skip over broken bottles. Drag each other in search of friend pods. And"Happy Neeeeew Yeeeeeear" handshakes and high fives and unwelcome intimacy with intoxicated strangers. Sticky hands after. Boys weave through the street playfighting, then man hugging, then approach strangers to hug, and fight, and hug again. Girls run past with cheap heels in hand, poking their heads into cars to ask strangers for drinks. Playing it cute.
And older people wrapped in sensible clothes, swilling red wine, watch from their well-to-do balconies. Laughing at the silliness below, squirting teenagers with the hose.
"SOBER THEM UP."
This from a young drunk girl hanging out of a car. Arms everywhere.
"Sooooober them up."
Everyone looks the same. Boys: NBA basketball singlet, cap, shorts and jandals. Girls: cheap floral dresses, always too short. Some in sensible sandals. Many in heels. Wobbly heels.
Couples start partnering up for the night. Teenage boys slinging arms around girls. Still a touch nervous, despite self-medicating with cheap beer.
A charged-up teenage boy unleashes, "Let's get ROWDY ... let's get F..... ROWDY!"
And wide-eyed children stare at the conveyor belt of drunk people as their parents shove them into cars after a New Year's barby with friends cut short because the kids must get home to bed.
Buses arrive. Drunksters pour out and stumble under streetlights. Feet are found and they make their way north with the familiar cry, "Happy New Year, bro! Happy New Year, girl." And to the gutter: "I'm so wasted."
A girl steps down from the bus in a white and pink micromini with makeup and hair that indicate time spent earlier in the night. She's too far gone to worry about all that now and she's too far gone to walk in her matching pink heels. At her weight, a couple of RTDs would do it. She's a sight.
A stranger on the sidewalk looks up from her cellphone and nudges a friend to inspect the girl in pink.
"Hoooooooo, she's pretty," says one, and the friend agrees.
Half a dozen friends all tangled together narrowly miss a teenager vomiting.
Up ahead, a makeshift barrier guarded with security and a couple of police. A bottle breaks as we shuffle through and a group of young men plead their innocence. Bodies are searched. Drunk people try to make themselves look sober, but end up looking more drunk. My hands rise in the air to highlight the extent of my compliance and sobriety. The guard laughs me through. Nobody over 25 feels youthful tonight. I contemplate alcohol smuggling as a career path. And all the while, the big, orange moon smiles and the waves crash down and it's a miracle not a single person drowns as thousands move to music on a dancefloor made of sand.
Back the way we came. Flashes of the same, only a few hours drunker.
Rich kids in flash drinking pads sit behind walls, dance behind bifold glass doors, sip from their wine glasses, without ever thinking to look down.
An older woman approaches a policeman on the lawn with a cup of tea.
Heaving traffic the next day. We stop at a local bar. A pale-faced under 25 who's cruelly been rostered to work approaches the table to take orders. The place is crawling with young people struggling to finish their shifts. All pale faced with red spots and chipped nail polish and sticky plasters covering angry blisters. This one squints into the sun and frowns when asked to recommend a beer.
"I'd feel like a Radler . . . if I was ever going to drink again."
And there's a moment that hangs in the balance. Where she looks like she wants to confess to her deeds from the night before. The drunken wobbling in heels and slurring of words in the dress that's too short. As if we wouldn't believe what she got up to.
Sadly, we do believe. And what's even sadder, perhaps, is the fact she wouldn't believe, at our age, we were there on the street to see it all play out.
- © Fairfax NZ News