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Earlier this month, a PR representative emailed this magazine to pitch a story about an exciting new product. Usually, I send those type of communiqués straight to the trash bin. But this pitch concerned a personal and professional interest of mine. “With holiday season approaching, people will drink a ton,” the email reads. “The Bytox patch helps to replenish the necessary levels of vitamins and nutrients your body loses when consuming mass quantities of alcohol."
Within minutes, I have replied with the address of my office requesting a sample of the patch—a hangover prevention remedy that claims to deliver, among other things, 10,000 percent of one’s daily value of vitamin B1 directly to the bloodstream over a night of drinking. The PR representative tells me he’ll send ten patches immediately. He also has a “well-spoken, good looking doctor” on hand to “discuss how the patch works.” Would I like to speak to him?
I Google “Dr. Leonard Grossman” and arrive at the page of a New York plastic surgeon. Two phrases are conspicuously bolded in his online bio. They are both “Breast Augmentation, in NYC.”
On the phone, Grossman tells me that he agreed to come on as an “adviser” and "co-developer" of the product partially due to his medical appreciation of vitamins, which he says help shepherd his breast augmentation patients through their recovery period. For those not recovering from surgery, a constant stream of vitamins could help us consume alcohol without feeling bad later. “We didn’t do any real testing to the product,” Grossman tells me. But anecdotal reviews from partiers and Grossman himself have been positive. “I’m certain that you will enjoy them," he says. "They really work amazingly well.”
How well? “I would not recommend anybody that they drink a lot, that’s number one,” Grossman says. “I don’t know what your limits are, but I'm betting people could drink probably twice the normal amount and still not have a hangover,” he continues. "Know your limits," he instructs me. Then, “bend them a little bit. Do it in a safe way.”
The patches arrive shortly before the commencement of GOOD's annual holiday party (the bar will be open). In lieu of real, scientific testing of Bytox, I decide to try a little experiment of my own. I select 10 colleagues I predict will produce interesting results. At 6:15 that evening, I instruct them to deploy the patches (Grossman has recommended the forearm as an optimal access point).
We head to the bar, and bend our limits.
8 a.m the next morning. I awake to a text message from my carpool buddy, another recipient of the hangover patch. “Hangover patch fails,” it reads.
“I can’t move,” I reply.
“Me neither,” she texts back. “But I want a breakfast burrito or bagel so much."
“This is the greatest text message. I don’t know where.”
I squint and take a tour of my phone. The previous night, I had sent one text message (“Where u??," 1:23 a.m.) and one unsent draft “Haha. Cat n fidev”—presumably, I had tired before completing the name of the bar I was in). I am impressed with myself. It was the kind of night that usually leaves a long trail of digital evidence. The worst of the damage is contained within my apartment: An untouched bowl of pasta sits on my bedside table. Except for the patch, I am completely naked. After arriving home, I had decided that I needed carbohydrates, before quickly reversing course: I needed a bath, one executed with one arm draped over the side of the tub to keep the patch from getting wet.
9 a.m. More reports from the field. “These patches don’t work for shit,” another colleague texts. “I feel terrible, and maybe a little depressed?” The last time I saw him, I was shouting “Goodbye, handsome idiot!” from the back window of a cab as he was led to the curb in a Santa hat he had recovered from the bar. Earlier in the evening, we had argued about whether there exists a popular perception that attractive people are also dumb, an exchange that culminated in him aggressively shouting compliments at me (“You don’t look like a man”).
“Im very depressed,” I text back. “Where is the best breakfast burriti [sic].”
9:30 a.m. I have risen, showered, put on the dress in my closet that most resembles pajamas, and lined its pockets with ibuprofen, my more trusted hangover remedy. I peel the patch from my forearm and take in its sticky, scaly underbelly. As instructed, I have removed it eight hours after my last drink. My hangover is just beginning. If the patch works, what sort of nightmare would I be living right now had I not applied it?
I exit my house and sit on the curb, waiting for my coworker to scoop me up in her car. We have needs: The aforementioned burrito, and the kind of sparkling apple juice they sell at the 24-hour doughnut place by the Payless. On our way into the office, we see a coworker at a bus stop wearing the same clothes he wore last night. “I am extremely hungover,” I tell him when he enters the car. Due to an unfortunate series of events, he has not been home since the previous night. He had not been wearing the patch.
10 a.m. The office is littered with half-eaten breakfast burritos. Several intraoffice email threads begin debating the patch's effectiveness. To my surprise, there is no consensus: “I think it worked!”; “I feel like I got run over by a truck”; “I need a second run with a patch to confirm this, but I do think it’s a wonder drug.” Our control group fails to illuminate the situation further: “I didn't have mine on and I think right now I'd honestly rather be dead. Just FYI,” one coworker writes from inside the office, while wearing sunglasses.
10:30 a.m. A body of evidence mounts.
“Its obviously tough to know how i would feel had i not had the patch on last night,” writes one user. “i think i do feel about 5-10% better than i might have otherwise predicted i would."
“I feel pretty good today, and I did mix up my drink order, drink a lot, and also went to bed on a empty stomach, which is all recipe for disaster," another weighs in. "The patch might have done something for me, because I woke up with no headache, sickness or aches usually associated with a heavy night of drinking, and I'm not pregnant and have not stopped smoking.”
“I went into the whole affair last night with a false sense of security,” another writes in an email accompanied by a YouTube video for Lil Wayne’s “I Feel Like Dying.” “I figured the patch would work so I drank a ton more than I would have otherwise. Perhaps I drank so heroically I destroyed any chance the patch would have had at being effective. Either way, when I woke up I was very disappointed with myself, I felt sick, and looking at the patch resting there on my forearm just made me angry and ashamed. I sat down in the shower and let the water fall on my drooped head for a few minutes. I never sit down in the shower. Just pathetic. Sorry if this is too stream of consciousness.”
Days earlier, I had sent a series of desperate emails to the PR representative. "I haven't received the samples yet; were they sent? I'd love to have them to try out for our holiday party next week," I wrote. "Let me know if the samples were sent out—would love to use them Wed.," I wrote again. Hours before the open bar began, a bright orange envelope turned up in my inbox containing 10 patches. There was much rejoicing. “Thank God,” one colleague announced.
But our joy soon bred hubris. "I'm going to push my limits," I told everyone who would listen.
11 a.m. Another patch recipient enters the office. By the time I had selected him to be a part of our little experiment the previous afternoon, I had had the opportunity to fully inspect the patch's packaging. "THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION,” a disclaimer read. ”THIS PRODUCT IS NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, CURE OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE. INDIVIDUAL RESULTS MAY VARY. DO NOT USE IF YOU ARE PREGNANT OR NURSING, OR IF YOU ARE TAKING MEDICATION AND/OR HAVE A MEDICAL CONDITION.” ("That disclaimer would appear on almost any product you buy," Grossman had assured me earlier).
Meanwhile, another colleague had performed an exploratory Google search for “B vitamin overdose.” I was beginning to get nervous about distributing the products in a work environment, but I pressed on. "Would you like to try a non-FDA approved patch you apply to your skin that claims to mitigate a hangover?" I had asked a coworker. “[Expletive] the FDA," he replied. "[EXPLETIVE] THE FDA," we all repeated.
Now, he has arrived in the office with a puncture wound on the palm of his hand. After "putting the patch through its paces" with a night of Guinness ingestion, "I think my dart wound hurts more than my head," he concludes. "Do they have a patch that prevents you from stabbing yourself in the hand with a dart?"
Noon. After a breakfast burrito, a large styrofoam cup of soda, water, ibuprofen, and endorphins released from a morning of spontaneous laughter concerning events of the previous evening, things are looking up. Commiserating with others about the patch’s effectiveness also seems to help. We formulate a plan for crushing the hangover once and for all.
1 p.m. Inside the closest Roscoes Chicken and Waffles location to the office, we pull from every corner of the hangover food pyramid—waffle, fried chicken, maple syrup, Sriracha, gravy, butter, Coke. Cee Lo arrives. This is the best hangover of my life.
2 p.m. I Google image search Brett Favre. He is not nearly as handsome as I had drunkenly asserted the evening before.
3 p.m. Success: I have made it to our daily editorial meeting, the last work commitment for which I am expected to be physically present in the office. I inform my colleagues that my Bytox story will be coming in late, for reasons that require no explanation. “This is the worst hangover I’ve ever had in my entire life,” one editor says when the meeting concludes. “I am going home,” I announce.
4 p.m. I secure rations for the evening at a convenience store—chips, salsa, a six pack of beer—turn off all the lights in my apartment, and lay on my bed to begin my review. "The most interesting people in the world remember what happened the night before," Bytox's promotional materials read. “Do you?"
I am the most interesting person in the world. I remember administering highly sophisticated relationship advice to a wide variety of people; debating the merits of journalism awards and the Arizona immigration bill; instructing a friend on the handsomest quarterbacks in the NFL; being overcome with the urge to hug everyone in the bar; informing co-workers from the furthest reaches of the office that we will totally hang out after this; pulling out my credit card to keep it all going after the open bar had closed. I remind a colleague of something he had told me the night before. “I don’t remember that," he tells me, "but I stand by it.”
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