A drunk is charged with falling asleep while smoking in bed and setting his apartment building on fire. In court, he insists that it wasn't really his fault. "But, judge," he protests, "the bed was already on fire when I lay down in it."
The popular joke may or may not be based on a real incident, but it's certainly true that a drunk is never at a loss for excuses to explain the results of overdrinking.
Take the case of Nicholas J. Holmes, who filed a lawsuit last month in Kanawha Circuit Court against the owners of a second-floor Charleston bar called Sound Factory, alleging that he suffered injuries after becoming intoxicated and falling down the stairs.
Ascending the stairs was simple enough, apparently. But descending them in an inebriated state was too much for Holmes. He entered Sound Factory sound, and left it unsound -- with a fractured arm and skull, he complains.
But it wasn't his fault. Of course not. How could a drunk be responsible for his own drunkenness? Maybe the bartender moved the stairs while Holmes wasn't looking, or reconfigured them while patrons got pickled.
Holmes complains the steps were steep and dangerous on the way out and he fell. Surely the steps were steep and dangerous on the way in. Did that deter him from entering or cause him to seek a safer location? Evidently not.
Perhaps his perception of the steepness and dangerousness of the steps changed after a few drinks. Certainly, his ability to negotiate the fearful flight diminished.
Oddly, it took Holmes two years to file the lawsuit. How long does it take to sober up or remember where the tragedy took place?
Holmes' memory seems to be impaired. He says the incident occurred on July 20th or July 21st. He's not sure.
Maybe it's time to consider a 12-steps program.