Diatribe No. 100: We Don’t Do This–It’s So Un-PC
As they finally establish the U.S. as a world brewing power par excellence, our craft brewers continue to improve their beers. At last, we grasp the bitter (as in high IBU) truth: not many of these wonderful ales are low-alcohol. In fact each new beer seems to be stronger than its predecessor.
We can’t resist. But we can’t drink either. We can have one pint of that 11% (abv) barleywine from the Smoggy River Brew Pub; but not another drop. Well, OK, maybe just one more, and then we’ll quit. After all, it’s only a short drive home.
Most of us are guilty of driving after a couple large ones of a big brew. I weigh nearly 200 lbs. I CAN have two short pints (16-oz pints) of beer over a two-hour period, and my BAC (blood alcohol content) will not get over 0.08%. But if you are a 100-lb person, you are actually drunk. DRUNK. Please, call your sober husband, boyfriend, sister, or significant other.
But wait! Even at my weight, those two pints I drink cannot be 11% beer, they can only be beer at about 4.8%. Budweiser will fill that bill, won’t it? We can have two pints of Bud or Bud Light, but there’s no way we can drink two pints of Smoggy River Old Smasheroo and then drive home. I’m afraid one pint will have to be your limit. Sorry ‘bout that.
So now you have had TWO pints of Old Smasheroo and you have to get home. Your BAC is about 1.0%. A few years back you’d have been O.K; 1.0% was legal then. But now the standards have been reduced to 0.08%, and are heading lower. My advice to you is “Don’t drive home.” Take a bus, taxi, walk, hitchhike, call a friend, your mother, spouse or significant other. BUT DON’T DRIVE HOME.
But of course you WILL drive home; won’t you? Come on, ‘fess up now. You will drive home. We’ve all done it. Be honest.
Even if we disapprove of it publicly, most people who drink alcohol—at a restaurant, at a bar, at an office party—sometimes drink then drive. As long as this country permits any level of BAC above zero, and as long as we lack safe, cheap public transportation, some of you will be on the road with some level of alcohol in your system. It’s a fact, but it’s so un-PC we can’t talk about it.
If you’re going to drink alcohol then drive a car, stay within legal limits, and prepare yourself. Here’s how:
Several Years Earlier…
Make good driving a habit. Know the law and follow it all the time when you drive. Always obey ALL traffic laws all the time. Resist the urge to flaunt your driving expertise; don’t be a show-off. Never eat while driving and don’t use your cell phone, either. Practice keeping a good distance from the car ahead of you. I once saw a useful bumper sticker: “Visualize stopping distance”. If someone wishes to cut in front of you, LET THEM do it; and don’t even think of cutting them off. If you smoke, DON’T do it while driving. Always pay attention. Did I mention that you need to PAY ATTENTION all the time?
Two Weeks Earlier…
Take your auto in and have it thoroughly checked. Be sure EVERYTHING is working well, and that the car is properly equipped. Be especially careful about the lights and signal indicators. Make certain your brakes and brake lights are properly functioning. Check your tire pressures.
The Night of the Big Event
1. When you drink ANY alcohol beverage, remember to match your drinks with equal amounts of water. If you drink enough water; you’ll have heavy beer on the palate, and light beer in the gullet. That’s a good compromise. It may keep you sober longer, but that alcohol WILL get into your blood stream sooner or later; so puleese don’t drink a whole pint of that Old Smasheroo.
2. Switch to Smoggy River’s low-end brew. Ask the bartender which beer has the lowest alcohol content, and drink that. Don’t forget to match that beer with water, too.
3. Try alternatives. Once I did a tasting of ten American malt liquors for our beer club, the Oregon Brew Crew. They didn’t notice when I slipped in Barbican, a non-alcohol brew from the Guinness people. It was the only beer in that tasting that actually had flavor! They voted Barbican the best American malt-liquor. Of course, they were not amused at what I had done, and they made me promise never to do that again. The fact remains: there are several NA brews that have the good taste of real beer (Clausthaler, Haake Beck, and others). Tell yourself it’s strong. You’ll never know the difference.
4. DON’T even think of anything stronger than beer, especially a drug. Marijuana can have the same effect as beer, particularly when mixed with beer. Don’t do that.
5. Wait at least an hour after your last drink. Your body will metabolize alcohol if you give it enough time.
Remember: drinking and driving is NOT a crime (yet), but driving DRUNK, or under the influence, is definitely a crime, and a costly one at that.
Are You Ready?
Get in the car in your usual manner. You’re on. Pay attention; be fully and totally present and aware at all times. If it’s winter, turn the heater off, keep the car cool to avoid falling asleep (your prime enemy). Do NOT run the radio. You don’t need the distraction. Oh, and please remember to fasten your seat belt.
Now start the motor and slowly enter traffic. Keep your distance from the car ahead. Stay with the traffic. Don’t weave in and out of your lane. Don’t cut people off. Don’t get anyone angry with you. Be aware of the positions of all the cars around you. Stay alert at all times. Obey all traffic signs and signals. Obey all traffic laws. Above all don’t be a show-off. If you must prove a point, do it later. Be courteous at all times, even if you never do that any other time. Don’t hurry, but don’t go slow either. Stay in the pack. Stay in the outside lane. Always be ready to exit.
If you are stopped at a road block, or some such, cooperate. Know the EXACT location of your driver’s license in your wallet. THE EXACT LOCATION. One time, a few years back, at one of our Oregon Brew Crew meetings, our president, who was a lawyer, invited a fellow lawyer to talk on driving dr*nk. He looked at me (seated in the front row) and said, “Show me your drivers license.”
I pulled my wallet out, and rummaged around trying to find it. As I did that, he intoned in a loud, judicially authoritative voice, “…fumbled for his license…”
These days I ALWAYS know EXACTLY where my driver’s license is located in my wallet. I can produce it almost instantly with no fumbling at all!
The truth of all this is that you were fairly well equipped to drive at the old limit of 1.0% BAC, which is now illegal most places. If you are over 30, you will have had some experience in this occult art, and if you are as old as me, you will be almost an expert. I was well over 30 before the law people began worrying about such activity. In those days they mostly just laughed at you.
Practice good driving at all times, and you will still be a good driver when you have had a beer. If your car is fully and properly equipped, and you are driving sanely, and carefully, you will not be stopped. And how often do I hafta tell ya: don’t drive dr*nk.
If alcohol is a problem for you (i.e., you are a nasty drunk); sober up and quit drinking. Sociability is the only good reason I know of to drink; and if you are a nasty drunk, do the rest of us a favor: sober up and stay that way. We don’t like you anyway, and your family probably hates you.
It’s a fact that the government exaggerates their driving and alcohol use statistics. For example, if you are involved in an accident while perfectly stone cold sober, and if the other car has a passenger who has had a drink or two, then that is an alcohol related accident. That’s the case, even if the other driver is also stone-cold sober.
Despite that, all the measurements of drunk driving have come down in recent years, and that’s good news. There are good reasons for the laws about drinking and driving, no matter how much their application is abused. You REALLY don’t want to be responsible for an accident. And remember this: in some countries Driving Under the Influence can result in the death penalty (Bulgaria and parts of Russia); or so I’ve heard. And you thought our country took DUI seriously!
Fred Eckhardt lives and drinks beer and other such libations in Portland, OR. He often drinks two pints at one sitting; but never ever drives dr*nk.