The Last Parsnip

A Truly Unbelievable Dining Experience from Chef Bryce Chartwell

The Hangover Scale

As I sat in my home this morning grasping a cup of coffee and gazing out over the murky gray of Puget Sound I found myself reflecting upon the nature of one of the most human and yet painful aspects of adulthood - the hangover. I'd had a rather spectacular evening out at the Spur Gastropub in Belltown. Back in the day (many moons ago) I would have consumed last night's level of alcohol with consummate ease - and then gone on to consume several more. However, the arrow of time has run its course through my own mortal coil - and nowadays I'm lucky to knock back a couple of pints without starting to feel the effects.

The question I was posed over breakfast of "How are you feeling?" should have been an easy one to answer. And yet I was left grappling for an adequate response. I was definitely "under the weather" - but exactly how far under was harder to describe.

It occurred to me that this is one area of our everyday lives that could benefit immensely from a standard scale. A one that it both easy to grasp and unambiguous in its classification.

Scales are common place elsewhere. We use a four point scale in many restaurants to describe the level of spice associated with a dish - ranging from a rather watery one all the way up to a bowel-shattering four. This is merely a simplified version of the more sinister sounding Scoville Scale of chill pepper strength. In the medical field we have all adjusted to describing our level of pain against a ten point scale. Handy charts and graphics are on hand to help us assign our level of infirmity from a pimply one up to a near-death ten. (Although it strikes me as unlikely that a walk-in patient would be sufficiently lucid to self-diagnose their crippling pain as a ten).

Which brings me back to the common hangover. It's something that most of us are very accustomed to, and definitely an experience that comes with varying levels of discomfort. And yet when asked "How bad is your hangover?" we all have to grasp around in the dark, searching for suitably descriptive yet non-expletive ways of communicating how we feel. Why not have a standard scale that is both easy to understand and easy to use?

I propose the following straightforward five point scale:

The Chartwell Scale:

  • One - Mild conditions; subtle, lurking headache; easily remedied with coffee
  • Two - Troublesome headache; dry mouth; not shaken off by single dose of painkiller; demanding greasy food and strong coffee
  • Three - A real pain; stabbing headache; sandpaper mouth; food not appealing; daylight "burning"
  • Four - Serious pain; anvil headache; stomach churning stomach; conversation not appealing; over the counter painkillers inadequate; daylight threatening permanent retinal damage
  • Five - End of Days experience; bisecting headache; vomiting imminent; life not appealing; dark shrouded world closing in

 As I reflect on this morning's experience I'd say I was probably up at a two. Coffee and bagels have done the trick - and I'm ready to face the world again. I can only pray that I never have to face another four or five in my life. But I know, with a certain inevitability, that it's only a matter of time.