Wanaka, New Zealand: Escape From Paradise

That last weekend in Wanaka went by without much incident. Saturday night was my last shift at Barluga and it was a quiet one, a striking contrast to how it all began. Garth decided not to work and was out for dinner that night so it was just me and the girls. Garth and I made it a point to get really drunk together on Friday, as it was our last night working together.

The next morning Garth texted me and asked me to come to the bar. When I got there, he presented me with a going-away gift. It was my bar blade (flat metal bottle opener), engraved with the Barluga logo, with my name and the dates I worked there. It was the perfect gift, exactly what I had hoped for.

The next few days were my crowning achievement of closure, the way to leave a town pulled off in a way that only I could (un)successfully execute. No amount of planning, preparation or forethought could have done it better. Last week I emailed Nick (who is still in Vietnam working as a teacher) and Phil (who has moved back to Manchester and is working at an outdoor equpment shop) the story and Nick responded with this comment:

“BJ…I have since printed out a copy of your story just to keep it as a hardcopy to refer to it every now and then for a good laugh…’In passive retaliation I got stupendously drunk and made an ass out of myself…’ fucking shit that is funny stuff…”

So rather than mess with a good thing, I present to you the story of my escape from paradise, as told to Nick and Phil.

It was my last few days in Wanaka and the guys had planned a few activities. On Monday was the Super Bowl (Phil, that would be American Football) and that night was my going-away party at Barluga. The Super Bowl went well and we all got nicely drunk at Woodys in the morning, always a favorite pasttime. The rest of the day is a bit tough to remember, I seem to recall a pub crawl with Mike.

I expected a lot of people to turn up in group consolation of my departure, but almost no one came. Except for the regular group, like Mike, Rene, Simon and a few others, the rest of my friends ditched me. In passive retaliation, I got stupendously drunk with my friends and generally made an ass of myself.

Now I need to pause and rewind for some backstory: see, after Maddy left, Garth replaced her at the bar with a very attractive blonde named Jodie. Now one night I came to work and found Jodie very drunk at the bar talking to our other newbie April, whom I was relieving. Jodie stayed for a couple more hours that night and got so drunk she was stumbling around, slurring her speech, and sitting in ways that revealed way too much to anyone who happened to sit across, next to, behind, or anywhere near her. She kept going on about how “massively hot” I am, and Phil, even I turned my head, scratched my chin and asked “Hmmm … maybe she likes me?” Then, as I was leaning over the bar, trying to prevent her from falling off the stool, she leaned forward and kissed me. We kissed a couple more times at the other end of the bar before she disappeared.

Of course, she didn’t remember any of it, and her sober personality was very calm, reserved and shy. Soon after (I didn’t have much time before I left), I worked up the courage to ask her for drinks before we both went to work, but ended up screwing up the night and even though she came back to my house with a few people after work, she left pretty quickly. We also met up for coffee another time and she offered to take me out on her parents’ jet ski (weather prevented that one).

So now we’re back to the day after the Super Bowl, and I made my way over to her office (she had her own graphic design business) to check out some of her artwork and so that she could burn a CD of pictures of Wanaka for me. I convinced her to ditch work and have a drink with me, and come with me to meet with some of the guys for lunch. And in some miraculous turn of events, I even convinced her to write off the rest of the day and come to the beach with me with some beers. We sat on the beach and talked for hours, finishing off a case of Heinekens. On some kind of roll, I succeeded in getting another kiss, and we agreed to break for a couple hours so I could pack, then meet up at the bar. Now I know this may sound painful for you guys, as you would’ve probably already fathered children with a girl at that point, but these were big steps for me.

This is it, I thought as she dropped me off, I’m finally gonna get some in this town … I packed quickly and then texted her to see if she wanted to meet me at the bar. I didn’t get a text back, so I called her, which went straight to voice mail. I hung around waiting for a call back but it never came. In my misery, I took a nap for a little while, constantly waking to check my phone. Nothing. Figures.

After a short nap I checked my phone one more time, it said I had a message. The message was from Jodie, saying she’d meet me at the bar when I had first suggested, but it was hours old. I was confused, it was the first time I had seen the message. Then the phone beeped again, saying I had 3 missed calls from her and the bar and a voice mail. Now I was really confused, cause I was damn sure the phone didn’t ring. I frantically called the bar, and Garth said that she was there for a long time waiting for me and met up with *some other guy* and left. I called her phone, she playfully screamed something drunken at me from inside her car and the reception went out. I was G-U-T-T-E-D. I was more than gutted, I felt a dark cloud of self disgust, pity, confusion and anger that enveloped everything inside me.

In a mad rage I went down to Barluga, jumped onto a stool and ordered shots. I told Garth simply, “I don’t want to remember this night.” And we proceeded to get absolutely, end-over-ass drunk. At the end of the night as we were leaving, I told Garth, “Hey, we’re gonna meet up tomorrow morning, right?” “Yeah,” he said, “9-oclock at Gusto’s.” “Good, then I won’t be needing this anymore.” And in one final, stress-relieving fit of madness, I took my phone and hurled it at the stone wall, smashing it into thousands of pieces.

The next morning I was woken up by Garth and Kirsten, whom I was supposed to meet at the cafe at 9 before my bus at 10:15. It was 9 when they came to the house. The bus was still at 10:15. Other than a few clothes, I hadn’t packed. I looked at Garth, “I smashed my phone last night, didn’t I.”

I ran around the house, throwing things into my bag, leaving too much behind. I managed to finish and Garth drove me down to the bus stop well before 10:15. I stood outside the information center with Garth, Kirsten and Nugget chatting, until 10:15 came and went with no sign of the bus. Nugget said, “Hey, there’s a bus across the street …”. But I replied, “No, my bus is going to stop here, that must be another one.” At 10:20 I went into the center and was told that the bus across the street had been mine. Perfect.

I sighed, dropped my shoulders and told the boys to go home, I’d hitchhike to Christchurch to make my 6 PM flight. Garth said, “Wait, see if you can talk to the driver and maybe we can catch up to him somewhere!” The woman at the helpdesk called and the driver said that he had a stop in Omarama at 11:30. If we could make it there, he’d pick me up. But he wasn’t waiting.

Garth looked at me with fire in his eyes and tossed his keys to Nugget. “I’m way too drunk to drive, so Nugget you’ll have to do it.” Nugget chucked out his cigarette and said, “Fuck it, I’m not doing anything anyway.” We jumped into the car and I leaned forward and stuck my head between the two in the front of the car, “Nugget, punch it.” We raced to Omarama and managed to catch the bus. I awkwardly boarded the bus with everyone staring at me and made it to Christchurch in time for my flight.

I left all my snowboard gear, my toilettries, and many clothes behind in that house in Wanaka. But the best was this: the car was still parked in the lot across the street from & Bar, where I had left it before Jodie and I went to the beach. There was a towel and a case of beer sitting on the passenger seat.

You’re both probably in tears of empathy right now, but think about it this way: It’s me, boys, how else could it have happened?

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