I find it hard to get worked up about a lot of things. During the elections, I got in no arguments, Facebook or otherwise, with the hoodwinked imbeciles who voted for the unfiltered Putin wannabe. When my apartment came under a mouse invasion, I frowned and remarked we needed to buy some traps (versus my roommate who was ready to declare nuclear war on rodents and landlords - and which is probably the more appropriate reaction). When my car got towed because I failed to see the "Street Cleaning" signs, I sighed and re-budgeted for the month.
But there is one thing that gets my embers glowing: drunk driving. In 2016, the public sentiment tends to be, don't do it (can we say it louder for those in the back?). I stand and applaud this (and I keep clapping long after the audience has retaken their seats). Driving under the influence is barbaric, selfish, unnecessary, and every other negative adjective I can grab.
I don't feel like I need to expound this lecture. Having more than a drink (or two; you should know your limits) and then driving home or to wherever is so idiotic and, I want to say, evil. You are not putting just yourself at harm; you are putting everyone else on the roads and on the sidewalks at risk. Your decision is greater than yourself.
So why do people do it?
I recall hanging out in college with several friends. We ran into "Bern" who needed someone to sit with at lunch. The topic of partying came up because college. Bern happened to live in a more distant apartment complex, and he made a comment that when he and his friends went out, it was always a decision of who was the least drunk to drive home.
What about cabs? Buses? SafeRides?
SafeRides was a program at my undergrad run by students that aimed to prevent drunk driving both by education and by providing free rides home to college students. I happened to be on the executive board for this organization, so maybe this is why this issue is so intimate to me.
I think we mumbled something about these alternatives, and Bern brushed us off with complaints of money, looking cool, and impatience.
I regretted then that we didn't say more, that we didn't argue with him or speak louder, no matter how awkward it got, instead of staring at our plates and disengaging like we all did.
Because I found out recently Bern killed someone while drunk driving.
I'm not saying if we spoke up five years ago this incident wouldn't have happened. (I won't give you the time of day by calling drunk driving an accident. Accidents are not actions done full well knowing the possible consequences.) I can't predict the future or trace the past. But having that conversation would have made it easier for me to speak up in similar situations in the future and encouraged my friends to also speak up, then and later, and finally maybe speaking up would have planted a seed that would have grown with other seeds and maybe Bern would've hesitated to get behind the wheel while drunk and maybe his friend would be alive. Or, at the very least, Bern would remember the hostility of his peers at his cavalier attitude toward drunk driving.
I have tried to speak up more since that time. I've learned it's not enough to cast shade behind someone's back and comment to your friends who "totally agree it's horrible to drive drunk," but what are you going to do?
You know what you're going to do: you're going to tell them to their face that they're an idiot for driving drunk.
It's not an easy or inviting conversation. It's awkward, hesitating, and blunt. I had to have one recently, which reminded me of how difficult it is, and it's why I want to share, so others know it is all these things, but it's a necessary conversation.
I had suspected a friend of mine drove drunk, but I had ignored it (bad Cazey!) until he came over to my apartment a few weeks ago and told me he had just had two pitchers of beer.
Me: "Well, I hope you didn't drive here." (Meanwhile, I'm fully aware he did drive here.)
Ignorant, selfish drunk driver: "I did. I felt fine driving. I'm only just feeling the effects now."
I could pause for comedic effect here, but I actually want to point out that it is probably more dangerous to think you are fine when you are not. Two pitchers?!
Me: "Two pitchers sounds a lot even if you do feel fine. I'm not a big fan of drunk driving." (I told you this is an awkward convo. Maybe add, "I didn't click like on the Facebook page for drunk driving.")
Ignorant, selfish drunk driver: "It was less than a mile."
Me: "It's just, drunk driving is a pet peeve of mine.* Even if it's just a block. It's not just you who you are putting at risk. There are other people on the road. You could Uber, Lyft, call a taxi, call a friend. Or walk if it's less than a mile."
*Drunk driving is more than a pet peeve. A pet peeve is me being annoyed when people put wet dishes on top of dry dishes. Drunk driving is a felony, potential murder, self-centered, and just don't do it. Gah. It's 2016. Why are we having this convo? (Don't say all that in real life conversation because the other person might shut down.)
Ignorant, selfish drunk driver stared at me. Finally, they said, "You're right. But I was fine."
Me: "Even if you think you're fine...think of the other people you're putting in harm's way."
Me: "Okay, cool. Do you want some ice cream?"
Hopefully the talk made them feel awkward enough so my friend won't drive drunk again (or, at the very least, not tell me about it). (I definitely felt awkward.) But we need to resist silence when things like drunk driving happen. We need to speak up.
I write all this because it's almost New Year's. And you already know (you better know after reading this), don't drink and drive. But also don't be silent. Call your friends out. Ask for their keys. Offer to pay the Uber if you have to. Threaten to call the police (okay, I've never done that, but as a last resort, maybe say that?). Tell them about Bern.
Do it for Bern's friend.
*This New Year's Eve (and every day), don't drink and drive. Remember to use Uber, Lyft, a taxi, or your own two feet. AAA also offers a Holiday Safe Ride Program that's free for both members and non-members. Just don't risk your life or others'.