I'LL TRY ANYTHING ONCE: Going On Spring Break In Panama City Beach As An Adult
I didn’t party hard super hard in college, with the exception of one semester. During that time, I pulled all-nighters in grimy basements and rolled up to my 8am Psychology 101 class reeking of PBR.
Eventually I got mono (most likely from my habit of stealing other people’s abandoned Solo cups of flat beer) and was confined to my gross dorm bed, where I’d lay and watch Baby Boy for the 500th time with my with roommate.
Instead of partying, I spent many college days reveling in Taco Tuesday and illegally downloading Smiths songs while eating my heap of nachos and contemplating life. And creating elaborate love stories in my head based on faceless users' playlists on the Rutgers shared network. Obviously, there were hot tattooed dudes on the other side just waiting for me to engage them in sexy, witty banter, which would be fueled by our shared love of green Tabasco sauce.
So flash forward about five years. I accepted a job in the marketing department of my company after my editorial job was eliminated (SAD FACE). I had no idea WTF I was doing, except that I had to make marketing stuff. My company was looking to get in good with the college kids, seeing as they’re a desirable demographic, blah, blah, they like to buy stuff, blah.
Somehow, I ended up on the phone with an agency that basically ran the entire show down in Panama City Beach. The timing was exactly right (it was mid-March, high season for Spring Breaking), so they wanted to know if I’d like to fly down and tour their fine city to determine if it’d be a good fit for an upcoming marketing campaign. After a few hours of begging my boss and our CEO, I had plane tickets booked for that weekend. I was going to be the oldest Spring Breaker ever.
If you’re not familiar with Panama City Beach, it’s like a mixture of the Deep South and a Caribbean paradise. On one block you’ll find rows of broke-down trailer homes with pick-up trucks (the kind with steel balls hanging off the back end) parked haphazardly on front lawns, and on the next block a pristine, sandy white beach.
I’d be staying in a condo owned by the agency that overlooked the “nicer” end of the beach, the part with the least amount of condom wrappers strewn about in the sand. Seriously though, the view was pretty spectacular.
I had an itinerary for my stay; I’d be touring all the hotspots in town with one of the agency representatives, who was basically the mayor of Panama City Beach. Every single time we walked into any establishment, we were greeted with warm hellos, copious amounts of booze and glowsticks.
My time in PCB was essentially spent bar-hopping while pretending to be a grown-up marketing industry professional adult lady. In reality, I was a purple-haired freeloader who couldn’t say no to energy drink samples. In between gulps, I’d snap pictures of hotels and outdoor bars where my company could potentially slap their logo.
What surprised me the most about Spring Break was how controlled it was. Most of the bars and clubs were run by a few big companies, including the agency giving me a free vacation. Even the grimiest bars had loads of security guards. I didn’t see a single boobie or even a good bar fight. James Franco didn’t show up and invite me to sing Britney Spears songs with him while he played a white baby grand piano overlooking the ocean. (I was exceptionally disappointed by the latter.)
But Spring Break, or my unrealistic fantasy version of it, wasn’t all that bad. On my last night, my agency rep took me out to an old man dive bar with dollar drafts, followed by a raucous oyster bar that was waaay off the beaten path. After my second pitcher of beer and third helping of baked, parmesan crusted oysters, I was sold. Drinking Natty Light cans with bros wasn’t really my thing, but PCB’s charms were creeping up on me. That and the gallons of alcohol I was consuming.
Our final stop that night was an outdoor beach bar where I drank a gin and tonic larger than my head. At this point, I was passionately convinced that visiting Spring Break as an adult was the best life decision ever. I then proceeded to text a friend Fat Joe lyrics because it made sense at the time.
I tried to keep my best got-my-shit-together face on BECAUSE I’M A PROFESSIONAL DAMN IT. At the end of the night, a group of uber-tan party girls asked to take their picture with me, on account of my weird hair. They assumed I was a student and I didn’t bother to correct them. I won’t lie, getting confused for a 20-year-old kind of made my night. I could go home happy.
Obviously, my Spring Break experience wasn’t typical for a college kid OR an adult. But I’d absolutely go back and pretend to be whatever age everyone thought I was. Besides the party-hard atmosphere, Panama City Beach did have some cool stuff to offer. The beach is gorgeous, the food is fairly cheap and you wouldn’t believe the amount of people I saw pairing bathing suits with cowboy boots. That’s a winning combination if I’ve ever seen one.
Would you ever do Spring Break as an adult? Are you unable to control yourself around free samples? Do you ever text your friends late 90s rap lyrics? It’s a passion of mine.