"In one night I managed to hurt two people I cared about — and none of it would have happened if I had listened to my mom."
Ted (Josh Radnor)
When one is young, one is apt to think that one's elders are being killjoys when they try to pass along the cautionary wisdom they have gained the hard way.
Don't bother to deny it. We've all been there — well, there are exceptions, but they are so rare as to be statistically inconsequential.
On this night 10 years ago, How I Met Your Mother dramatically illustrated the truth of the adage "Nothing good happens after 2 a.m." or whatever the equivalent was that your parents/grandparents/teachers/whoever told you. Some folks will say midnight or 10 p.m., whatever they have selected as the curfew.
The episode was called, appropriately enough, "Nothing Good Happens After 2 A.M."
Now, as I observed a few weeks ago, Ted (Josh Radnor) had begun a relationship with a girl named Victoria he met at a wedding. She was a baker who had made the wedding cake. Not long into their relationship, she accepted a cooking fellowship in Germany. Ted tried to carry on a long–distance relationship but found it unsatisfying, as people inevitably do.
Victoria wrote Ted a letter telling him she would call at a certain time on a certain day, and Ted was convinced she was going to break up with him.
Which bring us to the episode that aired 10 years ago tonight.
Robin (Cobie Smulders) called Ted at 2 a.m. and asked if he wanted to come over.
"Go home, Ted," everyone advised him — well, not everyone. Marshall (Jason Segel) and Lily (Alyson Hannigan) advised him to go home, but Barney (Neil Patrick Harris) did not. And Lily inadvertently lit a fire under Ted when she spilled the beans about Robin being attracted to him.
Of course, Ted went to Robin's. He still hadn't heard from Victoria, although his subconscious kept seeing her everywhere — in the taxi, on the steps in front of Robin's apartment. And when Robin asked him how the conversation with his girlfriend had gone, he lied. He told her they had broken up, which hadn't happened yet, but he was sure it would. He showed Robin his new phone. It was exactly like hers.
That gave him a chance to tell a metaphor–loaded story about how he liked that old phone, but the new phone just felt right.
Then he got a phone call from the gang and went into the hallway to take it. They implored him to go home; he implied that he would, but he didn't.
He started to do the right thing and leave — but he found himself in an embrace with Robin. The next thing the audience knew, they were making out on the couch and agreed to move things to the bedroom, but, before they did, Ted made a dash for the bathroom and grabbed a phone. The wrong phone.
He found that out after having a conversation with subconscious Victoria in the bathroom. Turned out Robin was having a conversation with the real Victoria out in the living room. The phone rang, and thinking it was hers, Robin answered.
She told Ted that Victoria had called and that he ought to call her back. Then Robin went to the bedroom. Alone.
A pretty vivid example of how nothing good happens after 2 a.m.
The first time I saw this episode I remembered the night Jimmy Carter was elected president. He rolled up a big lead in the popular vote with huge margins in most of the Southern states, but the race was still a cliffhanger in the Electoral College late into the evening.
Finally, around 3 a.m., the networks called Mississippi for Carter, putting him over the top.
So, I would say, from Jimmy Carter's perspective, something good did happen after 2 a.m. At least once.
Although given the way his presidency turned out — maybe it wasn't so good in the long run.
Anyway, what was the moral of the story, my millennial readers?
Simply put, it is this: Your elders aren't trying to deprive you of anything when they tell you not to do something. See, they had to learn it the hard way. They love you, and they want to help you avoid something that most of us simply have to learn for ourselves. The hard way.
And I suppose most of us just have to learn this the hard way: When it is 2 in the morning, you are better off just going home and going to bed. Alone.