Drinking & driving
a confessional SUIT column by Chris Jungle
All right, holiday merry makers, here comes a sensitive subject. One that I have been on the right and wrong side of on many occasions. I have always been remiss to discuss this issue mainly because of my employment, my hobbies, my past history, and the way I grew up. It's called drinking & driving, and my opinion is based on the fact that I have now driven legally for more than half my life.
I've been driving on my own since I was fifteen years old (the legal age in NM at the time was 15). I've been drinking since I was fifteen years old (the legal age in the US is 21). Put them both together, and I have been drinking & driving since I was fifteen years old. Not every day, not all of the time, not actually drinking and driving, but driving after I had been drinking. Let's not split hairs, the name applies nonetheless.
I am a better driver than I was sixteen year ago. I drive a cab for a living. It's the best job I've ever had. My driving record states that I have one citation in Albuquerque for speeding (going 82 on the Interstate), and now I go no more than 10 miles over the speed limit. I've been driving drunks home since I was 15, and like the classic Rainman quote, I'm an excellent driver.
I am a better drinker than I was sixteen years ago. It started out as Milwaukee's Best and Boone's Strawberry Hill. There was a stint with Mad Dog. I upgraded MGD & Coors Extra Gold. Then came hard liquor. Evan Williams Whiskey, Bathtub Gin, Albertson's Vodka, Jose Cuervo Tequila. We always start at the bottom. As I started to make a little more money, I bought better booze. Microbrews, stouts, ales, Mexican pilsners, red & white wine, Scotch, Bombay Gin, quality whiskey and on and on. I'm an excellent drinker.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE LAW! Now, let's get down to it. I don't believe in the legal limit of .08. I've heard the explanations of two drinks in one hour equals this, that and the other. If you've had two drinks and blow into a breath-a-lizer in the same hour, you will be over the limit. Cops assume everyone is over the limit if they admit to any drinking at all. So trying to drink less than the legal limit is futile. I don't even consider it as a factor. Teetotalers & MADD can wince and hide in fear, but almost everyone walking out of a bar is over the limit.
The fact is that you have to be your own judge and jury on your capabilities. The irony is that you're asking drunk people to make sound judgments. Ay, there's the rub. Here's my advice. If a person's been drinking just beer or wine, an adult can probably get home after consuming a six pack or half a bottle without difficulty. I believe this and have done plenty of field research. Hard liquor is a different beast. Not only does it make you drunker quicker, it also messes much more with your emotional and functional processing. Over three shots of anything, and states become altered. You cannot sober yourself up any time soon. One of my favorite drinking jokes (which no one laughs at) is to scream out "Someone's poisoned my whiskey!"
In a town like Albuquerque, DWIs are given out like playing cards. As one person said, it's not whether you have one, it's how many do you have. I've been through only one DWI checkpoint when I knew I was over the limit. Fortunately, I only drank beer. I won't tell you how I got through other than to say I'm an actor and I did a pretty good perturbed sober guy impersonation. Other than that, I avoid coned-off areas with flashing lights and know a dozen ways to get to my house from almost anywhere in town.
Most drunk offenders in car accidents aren't a little over the limit, they are fucked up at .20 or more. Last month, an Albuquerque cab driver and his two passengers were T-boned and killed by a drunk 21 year old going 85 down a city boulevard at 2:15 am. The young drunk and his passenger survived. I was in a similar accident nine months ago with a woman going 55 miles an hour. I never saw her coming, and she smashed into the right side of the cab. It's an occupational hazard. If I'd had passengers at the time, they would have been dead. Everyone survived my day time accident, and I count myself lucky every day that I am still a part of this crazy world.
I never drink while I'm driving the cab. I'm responsible for those in the back seat, so I try to be as clearheaded as possible. I work days except for one night: New Year's Eve. From 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., I will be cruising the streets of Albuquerque, taking drunks to and from wherever they are to wherever they want to go. Lots of lost amateurs roaming around like zombies after the bars close.
This is the holiday season, and 'tis the season to indulge in food and drink. I won't tell you not to drive drunk because that's quite hypocritical. I'm asking everyone to be honest with themselves. Use my formula, use your own judgment, pretend you're a responsible adult, and decide what you can safely accomplish. The faster you drive, the less control you have. If you have doubts about your abilities, give the cabbie a call. Call a friend to pick you up. Walk to the nearest motel room. Sleep it off in your car. Whatever you have to do. Have a safe and sound holiday season, and here's a toast to everyone coming out on the other side to tackle 2006.
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