Five years ago, my friend had me over for New Year's Eve. I was 20 at the time, not yet of legal age to drink, but of course I did (so sorry, Mom). Needless to say, we drank at my friend's house.
Now I drove to my friend's. Earlier in the day I had seen AAA had a New Year's Eve program where they provided free safe (and sober) transportation to members and non-members. This was 2011, so Uber and Lyft were not things. Aha, this is how I would get home.
Of course, my friend said I could stay over, but I preferred my own bed and this was a free service. Why wouldn't I use it? the selfish millennial in me asked. I showed up without even a toothbrush in case I changed my mind.
Sometime after midnight, I decided I was ready to go home. I ended up not drinking that much (beer isn't my thing), but no one believes you when you say that, plus being underage I was afraid of any suspicion I had alcohol in my system, let alone 0.08. I started to say my goodbyes.
"You're not driving home, are you?" my friend's mom said, immediately concerned (as she should be).
Me: "Oh no, I called AAA for a ride home."
Friend's Mother: "You what?"
Me: "There's this free program where they'll take you home tonight and bring your car."
Friend's Mother: "You don't have to do that. Why don't you just stay here?"
Me: "Well, I already called them, and I didn't bring anything to sleep in. Plus, it's free and I only live two miles away."
Friend's Mother (obviously thinking I'm insane because I also think now I was insane five years ago): "You really don't have to do that. You should cancel it."
Me: (naive and thinking she's just being nice and I'm being nicer by not imposing) "No, it's no big deal."
Oh, how wrong I was.
I soon got a call that the tow truck was out front. For some reason, the part where AAA gave me a free ride home and also brought my car had failed to make me think of a tow truck. How else were they going to get my car home with me?
I opened the front door to the sound of a grumbling engine and the truck's red lights bathing the neighborhood block. Now my friend lived smack dab in suburbia. It was 2 am. This truck sounded like a tyrannosaur in Stepford.
Friend's Mother: "Are you sure you want to do this?" She should've added, "And wake up all the neighbors?"
Me: "Thank you so much for having me. My ride is here. I can't cancel now."
Tow truck driver: "Which car is yours?"
Me: "That one."
This operation turned out to not be so quick. If I thought the truck had been loud, the roar of the tyrannosaur hoisting my poor Camry off the pavement and onto its back sounded like a construction site at the volume of someone like myself having their limbs hacked off without anesthesia.
"Could you keep it down?" I wanted to ask the driver. "And not shine your floodlight into every window on this block."
Meanwhile, my friend's mom watched from her porch, somewhere between aghast and amused.
I was quickly realizing this service, while meant to prevent drunk driving, was probably not intended for underage drinkers in middle class suburbia who could easily crash at their friend's house. If I hadn't been sober before, I was definitely sober now.
Me to my friend's mom: "I didn't know it would be so loud."
I think she wanted to ask me what could possibly be so wrong with her house that I wouldn't accept the guest bedroom or with my mind and soul that I required a tow truck at 2 am to haul my Toyota Camry two miles down the road and wake up every suburban soul in a half mile radius. Five years later I ask myself these things.
Me: "Thank you so much for having me. Happy New Year."
Friend's Mother: "Thank you for coming. I hope you had fun. (Looks like you didn't since you called a tow truck.) Be safe getting home."
How could I not be safe?
She went inside, and I got into the truck's cabin. The five-minute ride could not have been more awkward.
Me: (trying to make conversation) "Well, that was really loud."
Me: "Have you had to do a lot of pickups tonight? (Have a lot of them been underage 20-year-olds in suburbia?)"
Driver: "You're my second."
Me: "I almost could have driven home. I didn't have that much to drink."
Driver: "You don't want to risk it. You're not just putting yourself in danger's way. It's also against the law."
Me: "Oh, I know. I wouldn't have driven drunk."
I stop myself from elaborating that it's 2 am and my last beer was at 10 pm and I only had two beers before 10 pm. I also don't mention I work for a student-run nonprofit at my university whose mission is to prevent drunk driving. I'm all about not drinking and driving, mister.
Me: "Is this your full-time job?"
Driver: "I'm actually a cop. This is my side job."
OMG, don't ask my age.
Me: "Well, this is my house. Five minutes later."
Driver: "Where do you want me to leave your car?"
I pale as it dawns on me we have to take my car off the back of his truck. We have to wake up a whole new neighborhood.
"Oh, jeez, just take it with you," I consider saying. Instead, I say, "We can leave it on the street."
I watch from my porch as the driver extracts my car from the tyrannosaur's maw and places it on the street. Inside, my dad is still up. "How did you get home?" he asks.
***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'.***
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