Taxi Tales:

The seven Bs of a drinking town

By Louie de Palma
Reader Road Warrior

I made a wrong turn into a seemingly ordinary driveway. And you’ll never guess what I found at the end of it.

OK, this s not a real intro to my article. It’s actually an example of a click-bait caption we all too commonly see on the good book, also known as Facebook. The good book bombards its users with gussied-up fake journalism relentlessly. All for one purpose: to get you to click on them and open the link. Click-bait hook headlines can vary. The majority are structured as lists, enticing people to learn something about themselves that they already knew. You’ve probably seen headlines similar to the following: “10 things only people who are socially awkward will understand,” “23 reasons why you’re doing just fine at 23,” or “Nine reasons your cat will always have four more legs than your fish.”

I could give you 100 reasons why these articles are pretty stupid. But honestly, they can be fun. You read them and you’re all like, “That’s totally me. I totally get that.” Relating is fun and feelings of solidarity and inclusion are important. I get it.

In light of click-bait’s popularity and the recent article by naming Sandpoint the “drunkest town in Idaho,” I give you my very own click-bait article, based on observations from my taxi. Here are some headline ideas: “The seven B’s that make Sandpoint an A+ drinking town,” “Seven drinking-themed B words that only Sandpoint drinkers will understand” or “If you’ve found yourself in any of these predicaments, you might be a Sandpoint night life participant.”

1: Bunker 

It’s a known North Idahoan truth, if you will, that the 219 never closes. It’s like knowing there will always be a cop hiding across from the Chamber of Commerce—you can just count on it. Rain, shine, sleet, holiday or snow, the bar will be open. It’s as dependable as the mail, and probably more so when it comes to the holidays part. Even more impressive, however, is its ability to stay open throughout the blusteriest storms and blizzards.

Driving the taxi, I have witnessed the 219 keeps its doors open when power has been out for hours, but more often than not, its power is on when most places are dark. This makes it a Mecca for wayward citizens seeking shelter from the storm. It’s our football stadium for our Hurricane Katrinas. On questionable nights, I have watched more people rally at the Niner to charge phones and wait out storms than any other place in town, sipping easy comfort in unsettling times. In more agreeable storms, people will flock to cheer on snowy blizzards, celebrating our powdery fortune like Vikings taunting Ullr with every sacrificial shot downed. It may look like an apocalypse outside, but in the Niner, it’s business as usual. It is the bunker lounge, the last hold-out to the elements’ temperamental tizzies.

2: Brethren

Storm or no storm, once you’re on the inside of any Sandpoint drinking establishments, cozily nestled between sentinel doors that have seen it all, you are greeted with the reverberating laughter of your peers, the ambient clacking of pool balls, rhythmic dull thuds of glass kissing bar top and instant small town family-style camaraderie. All the bars are just like “Cheers” in Sandpoint: Everybody’s going to know your name. They’ll probably know where you live, where you parked yesterday, who your third cousin is, your dentist and your GPA from high school. It’s both an amazing feeling and a daunting one as well.

If you’re not feeling the “Cheers” vibe, don’t worry. There are still bars off the beaten path you can find if you want to go where nobody knows your name. We’ve all got days like that. Most of those places are out of town, so just make sure not to drive away. Have the bartender call the taxi for a ride home. It’s easy. They just need to tell us your name. We know where you live.

3: Bikes

Taxis aren’t for everyone. If you’re one of those nerds, then riding your bike home from the bar is always a good idea—if you like hospital bills and injury, that is. Biking and bars have had a long and symbiotic friendship in Sandpoint. To the passerby driving downtown, the bikes outside blend artfully with the buildings and pubs as if they grew naturally together. It’s as if they were planned into the very architecture by our forefathers. Sure enough, many of the bike racks actually are planned into the designs and there is never a shortage of bikes to fill them.

In other places, when you see someone with a brand new bike you might ask them when they got into mountain biking. In Sandpoint, we ask them when they got their DUI. All in all, we’re a fit town into libations. Make a mistake, gain a hobby, no biggie. And once a month we still get to cruise around the streets breaking traffic laws all lit up by the full moon, on bikes.

4: Beer Run

Bikes are handy transport devices in many situations, except for an emergency beer run. The locks take too long to fiddle with when every second is precious. Oftentimes, when people are feeling the good libations, they can lose track of time. Then when the lights come on, it’s an on-your-marks-get-set-go race to the gas station to get beer before they stop selling it at 2 a.m.

When people don’t want the night to stop, foot racing from the bars to the Chevron is the only way to guarantee the ability to get more beer. I have watched this looming deadline transform rotund men into Olympian runners and inspire the saltiest drunks to work as teams. They shave seconds by ringing up cases for several parties, while the ever-loyal clerk urges everyone to use credit because it’s faster. It’s a fine case of Sandpointers united for a common cause.

5: Burritos and Burgers

There’s an ancient standpoint proverb that says: “When the bar doors close, there are two fighting wolves that live in all of us. One craves burgers and burritos. The other that craves social interaction and after-parties. Which one wins? The one you feed. Feed them both, and you have no more fighting wolves.”

We don’t have after-hours clubs that can continue the party after bar hours. Fortunately, we do have gas stations. Even better. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled into Dairy Depot to get a customer food, only to find a whole different side of night life. Everyone is getting food and ready to mingle. Plans change, evenings go on.

Night didn’t go as planned? Get a burger and feed two wolves with one bun. Fry sauce might just be the best wingman/woman you ever had.

6: Bungee Jumping

There is often no fry sauce at the end of tunnel. You wake up feeling like hell from a terrible night on the town. After getting gussied up and going to the same bars to hang with the same people, nothing went your way. You find yourself wondering, “Why do I do this every weekend or every night?” Sandpointers try to jump off the downtown band wagon but inevitably just bungee back. Why?

It’s because we love bar bungee jumping. It seems awful. No one wants to do it. But you commit, you jump and you spring back, then you go down again, then you spring back. You’re up, you’re down. People keep springing back downtown because it’s thrilling. We don’t know why we like it. We just do. The downtown has a draw, and we’re hooked to it.

Sometimes we don’t go out for long periods of time, but we always get yoinked back. Maybe it’s because we’re the drunkest town in Idaho. Or maybe it’s because we just feel the need to bike down to our bunker, see our brethren, go on beer run and wolf down a burrito until the next time we bungee back.

Oh wait, I guess I forgot the seventh B.

7: Balderdash

Whoops. As you Sandpointers know, sometimes nights end earlier than we meant for them to.

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