Surprise birthday party gets blood going and flowing for a man turning 40

March 28, 1996|By KEVIN COWHERD

I ATTENDED A surprise 40th birthday party the other night at which the guest of honor was so surprised, it nearly killed him.

The party was organized by the man's wife, who, knowing her husband was returning home exhausted from a business trip, thought it would be a real hoot to have three dozen people jump out from behind the furniture and scare the guy half to death.

Anyway, the poor guy walked in and the lights snapped on and everybody yelled, "Happy Birthday!"

And, I don't know, I guess he thought he was being attacked or something. Because as soon as we all leaped out, he turned as if to run and put his hand through a pane of glass in the door.

This caused a small river of blood to begin flowing down his arm and dripping on the carpet, which caused the room to become quiet as a chapel. You would have thought O. J. Simpson just walked in.

As a veteran of many such situations, I knew instinctively what had to be done.

Quickly, I chugged my beer. Then I grabbed another one and put it in my coat pocket, just in case the guy was going to throw everyone out.

But once he got over the initial shock, he was remarkably jovial, especially considering he was facing an easy 15 stitches in that hand.

As he excused himself to wash out the cut and find a bandage, I realized why it is that most people hate surprise parties.

Look, I don't like coming home and finding my mother has dropped in, never mind a bunch of drunks leaping at me from behind the drapes.

Part of the ritual of a 40th birthday party is that the guests are required to stand around and heap abuse on the birthday boy, reminding him that he is now officially "over the hill" and that he will spend the rest of his life -- a fairly short span at this point -- suffering from incontinence, diminished libido, hemorrhoids, etc.

Unfortunately, there is always one person at these affairs who feels compelled to offer sympathy and encouragement.

At this party, it was a large blond woman with earrings the size of gold Kruggerands and an impressive strand of heavy pearls yoked around her neck.

"Forty is only a state of mind," this woman declared suddenly, in a voice emboldened by three glasses of Chablis.

The room grew silent as we all di- gested this nugget of wisdom.

Finally, a fellow in a red golf sweater said: "Heck, 65 is a state of mind."

I was waiting for someone to say death was a state of mind, too, at which point I planned to point out that being placed in a coffin and having the coffin lowered into the ground by two sweaty cemetery workers had an air of permanence about it.

I also wanted to deliver a short polemic on what it's really like to turn 40: the minor injuries that take forever to heal, the hair that grows in unwanted places, the snotty convenience store clerks who address you as "sir" and generally make you feel as if you're Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Yes, all this and more I wanted to say, except I was too busy raking a Triscuit through the crab dip, and when I raised the Triscuit to my mouth, part of the dip fell off and landed on my shoes.

At some point in the evening, we all moved into the living room where the birthday boy opened his presents.

These were mostly your garden-variety gag gifts: a cane, a "Senior Citizen" coffee mug, a pair of fake eyeglasses, etc.

I wanted to tell the other guests that, if we were any kind of friends, we'd also pick up the tab for his coming trip to the emergency room.

Anesthesia, stitches, a full round of powerful antibiotics to beat back the infection that was sure to flare up in that hand -- it all adds up.

But then I thought: Aw, hell, the guy's a CPA, he probably has first-rate medical insurance. So I dropped the idea and went downstairs to play pool, which didn't really work out since there was no pool table.

Anyway, the party broke up a little after midnight. The birthday boy said his slashed hand was starting to throb, which, I told him, sounded like the onset of staph infection, not that I'm a medical doctor or anything.

I waited for Mrs. Khalil Gibran with the pearls to say: "Staph infection is a state of mind."

But she didn't say anything and we all left and hung out on the guy's front lawn for 20 minutes, dissecting the party.

Luckily, I still had that beer in my coat pocket.

Pub Date: 3/28/96

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