Too much to drink usually isn’t a good thing for anybody. But once, and I mean once, it saved my life and the life of the person I was with.
We’d gone on holiday to Tenerife. We hadn’t known each other long and things were a bit fractious at times. So we went to lunch. It was a long lunch because to be honest, in the part of Tenerife we were in, there wasn’t much else to do.
But we found an OK restaurant, right next to the sea with a table that had a great view of the water and the harbour mouth and people swimming and the food was good and the wine was cheap and things started to get ok, even though the sky was clouding over a bit outside.
Then odd stuff started happening. I’ve been in earthquakes a couple of times in my life and I don’t like them. This was different. A Coastguard launch came out of the harbour with a megaphone blaring and a guy on each side of the boat with a long boathook. They took the boat right up to the few people swimming. I don’t speak Portuguese or Spanish or whatever it is they speak on Tenerife but I didn’t need to. “Get out of the water now or I’ll get you out of it” didn’t need a lot of translation.
That was when we saw that where the water had just been green it was now grey, except where, just near where the Coastguard boat was, a yellow streak about as wide as a road had appeared, right up to the water’s edge. About the same time the staff started looking nervous. It started to rain hard too.
The restaurant was closing but they said we could stay if we liked, so we did and we bought another bottle of wine, which was about the third probably. I’m not recommending this, but as I said, it did save our lives. We thought it was an odd time for the staff to start moving furniture upstairs, but it was their restaurant and what they did was up to them. We were starting to get on better.
Eventually the rain stopped, and so did the furniture moving. It had got all a bit Latin, a lot of banging around up there but again, not our problem.
The Coastguard boat had gone after scouring the rest of the harbour looking for people swimming, but there weren’t any more of them as we left the restaurant. Before we left we said something about how they could get on with moving furniture again, but the person we talked to didn’t seem to know what we meant. Which was when we saw the road. Someone had been throwing rocks around. There were walls down and bricks on the road. And police tape strung across parts of the pavement saying Do Not Cross and big chunks of rock in the road as well as some earthslides spreading down the the hill which one of these days is going to come right off, fall into the sea and tsunami New York, just like in the films.
Nobody was moving furniture upstairs in the restaurant, for the reason that there wasn’t an upstairs. What we’d heard was rocks being shaken off the hill and hitting the roof. None of them came through, but some of the debris we walked past on the way back to our hotel had smashed down parts of buildings. It was like a war zone, literally, as we picked our way through the rubble.
If we’d been walking along this street, the quickest way back to our hotel just half an hour earlier we’d both have stood a very good chance of being dead by now. As it was, we’d sat drinking wine and getting to know each other a little more, while the earth had split under the water of the harbour and tons of rock and earth had smashed their way down the hill.
Drinking kills people. It ruins others’ lives. I’ve seen it change people into something I didn’t even recognise. But just that once it definitely saved my life.