Finding the right social lube

By Mike Fox

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons
The lines for the bars in the center of town have gotten out of control. For several weeks now, I’ve made my way uptown around 11 o’clock to find every bar with lines that stretch on for at least a block.

Now some bars always had lines, the trendy set-up in front of the Monkey Bar or The Pub typically comes to mind. But now even The Spoke takes forever to get into. Last spring, when I first turned 21, The Spoke was where I went to get away from crowded scenes. Now, it takes the hordes of people just looking for somewhere.

There’re a few causes for this constant congestion. Primarily, last semester the town of Amherst started enforcing capacity laws much more strictly. Of course this makes complete sense. Capacity laws are in place so that tragedies can be avoided in the event of an emergency. I imagine some combination of math, legal wrangling and design went into these magic numbers.

But let’s be serious. Besides ABC, where they use a counter at the door, how many bars could still be in violation?

Another cause could be the closure of Charlie’s. For those who wonder why there’s a vacant storefront next to The Pub that says Olde Towne Tavern, know that this was the former site of Charlie’s. The bar wasn’t pretentious, served up decent portions, and, like The Spoke, was usually easy to get into. However, it closed and new owners started planning a bar in its place. But for whatever reason, probably the economy, because it’s easy to blame that for everything – or at least the news tells me that – the new bar, Olde Towne Tavern, is yet to open.

Then there’s the weather to blame. Being stuck in our houses all day and all week because of ungodly amounts of snow gives one an acute case of cabin fever. The only prescription seems to be heavy social interaction with the proper lubricants. With this weather, one can’t be expected to party outside, and it’s difficult to get around. So the only solution seems to be to go where everyone else is: uptown.

This last reason – the need to see other people and interact – got me thinking the other night why I was even trying to get to the bars.

At this point, it just seems like the thing that you’re supposed to do. Tuesday and Thursday nights, you go uptown. Whenever I finally make my way into to a bar, I remember why: it’s such a gratifying feeling to be packed wall to wall with the people you’ve spent the past three and a half years with. Essentially on those few nights, the bars throw the largest open party for the entire senior class.

Walking around a bar and seeing those friends from freshman year who you rarely have time for, that person who worked on a project with you sophomore year, and friends from home, makes the world feel pretty damn tiny.

But the bars are expensive – covers, drinks, Antonio’s; why should the bars have a monopoly on social events?

For that matter, why do we need alcohol to be more outgoing and social? It’s expensive when it tastes ok and disgusting when it’s cheap. Sure, sometimes you have a drink that tastes good, but that’s usually due to mixers or “acquired taste” – whatever that means.

Bars and alcohol have their status as mainstays of college life. I will keep enjoying both of them, but maybe it’s time to question our dependence on them as cornerstones of our social lives. Maybe we need to introduce the outgoing bar mentality to everyday life. Or maybe it’s just about diversifying what we do a bit. Go to more concerts, see more great movies, have a longer and more social meal.

I will keep making my pilgrimage uptown several nights a week. I like to “see and be seen,” but when half the night is spent in line waiting to get somewhere to start the night, it’s time to start looking for alternatives.

However, Tuesday is my birthday, so I’ll start questioning things next week.

Mike Fox is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]