Of Cars, Bars, Friends and Strangers

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Recently I went to a local watering hole to have a cold one while watching some Sunday night football.

While there I had a brief conversation with BR. BR is a respectable enough fellow. He proudly wore his Vietnam Veteran baseball cap.  Upon noticing it I thanked him for his service to our country.

Shocked he thanked me and said, “Wow I don’t get that too often. Since those days I’ve normally gotten the opposite.”

I assured him that regardless of the politics of the war itself he was a soldier following orders and he should never be faulted for that. I appreciated BR as an American and my thanks to him was indeed sincere. After that we dabbled in a little conversation about politics and since he was rather full of the vine he was kinda loud with it.

It was clear that BR had too much to drink. After a while as he was saying his goodbyes I asked him how he was getting home. He showed me his keys and started to stumble for the door.  I knew he had no business driving that Lincoln Continental in the parking lot so I tried to convince him to let me take him home.  He tried to convince me that he was just fine and didn’t need my assistance.  As he stated his case and started to make his way to the door he stumbled into my arms.  I looked him in the eye and said, “BR, I know you think you are OK and perhaps you aren’t used to another man challenging you in this area.  But this is not about that.  Screw pride.  You are in no shape to drive.  This is not a judgment on you, but a plea that you accept the help.

BR was a tough customer.  I sensed he wanted to let me drive him home but he didn’t want to leave his car at the bar.  I supposed the thought of trying to get it the next day was burdensome.  I had to go for broke and pull out all the stops.

“Where do you live BR?” 

“About a couple miles from here,” he said.

I told BR that I would take him home in his car and arrange my own way back.  This seemed to satisfy the chap.  I drove him in his car and when we got there walked him into his home.  It took about 10 minutes to get from his drive way to his side door entrance as the man was totally six sheets to the wind. 

How are you getting back he said?

I’m walking… but its cool.  I’m in excellent shape!  Have a good night BR.  See you around.

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Fast forward to this past Friday:

I celebrated my daughter’s 21st birthday where she was looking to get inebriated.  Not that this was her first day of drinking, but first day of legal drinking.  She was great on transportation as she and her family on her mother’s side took a school bus where they all rode together. 

When I got to the restaurant/bar I tried to get some photo shots of the birthday girl with my blackberry and initially had trouble with the lighting.  I decided to check my car to see if I had my camera handy.  Upon walking out the door I noticed two women leaving and walking toward the parking lot.  Well sort of.

Really they were all but stumbling towards the parking lot.  If I were to estimate the level of intoxication of the two, I would say woman 1 was about a 5 on a scale of 10.  Woman 2 was an easy 9 at best.   As they looked at me one of them made some sort of comment and laughed as I walked by.  I went to my car to search for the camera.  After a few minutes as I locked my car door noticed woman 1 had escorted woman 2 to her car.  Woman 1 literally had to help woman 2 into the passenger seat.  Woman 2 couldn’t stop laughing at herself obviously amused at her state.  Woman 1 said to woman 2 between chuckles, Call me when you get home so I will know you are alright.” 

These two events are what prompted this post.

This isn’t about the drinker who has too many and decides to get in the car irresponsibly.  That’s because most of us understand the dangers in that and there are plenty of organizations to sound that alarm.  Not to mention we do have millions of alcoholics in our nation.  Alcoholism is an addiction and as such I understand that any addiction brings with it irresponsible behavior.  Driving while impaired is dangerous for any and everyone on the road.  That includes myself, my family and friends as well as any of yours. We get that?  Or do we?

My problem in these two instances were not so much the drinkers, but the other patrons and friends who see someone in a drunken state whether a stranger or worse yet a friend about to get behind the wheel of a car and let them.   Believe me when I tell you that though I took BR home that night, I knew him the least of everyone in that bar and not one of them was willing to help him.  They were fine to watch him possibly turn his car into a missile and hurt himself and or others.  Woman 1 whom I referenced seemed to have thought to come to a stopping point where she wouldn’t be so bad off.  Yet she had no problem putting her “friend” behind the wheel knowing full and well she was not capable of expertly handling that vehicle.  Why wouldn’t she take her home?  Why not call her a cab?

Think about it.  Where I live there are thousands of restaurants and bars where one can buy liquor.  When I go to a bar, I know within 5 minutes who needs to drive who doesn’t.  In most every bar there is a great chance that every single night of the week there is at least one person that drives away intoxicated.  Victims of drunk driving can testify to the damage.  So can police I’m sure.  But how many of us enable people by not even saying a word.

BR could have kept blowing me off.  I don’t know what I would have done if he had.  Maybe I would have followed behind him.  Maybe I would have called the police.  Maybe I would have asked for some assistance.  I don’t know.  It just didn’t seem right to do nothing.  I think at the end of the day, the man knew that I cared and that made the difference.

I know we live at a time when folk don’t want to get in other folk business.  I know that challenging someone not to drive drunk can cause conflict.  It just seems to me that I would rather have a person tell me ‘no’ than to not say anything at all.  It don’t seem right to see someone who may have had too much get behind the wheel when it could be a tragedy waiting to happen. 

I hope others will extend a hand and show someone you care when someone can’t help themselves.  The life you save may be your own or someone you love.

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2 thoughts on “Of Cars, Bars, Friends and Strangers

  1. Jim Thornber says:

    A good word, my friend. I’ hope MANY people read this and follow your advice.

    Blessings,

    Jim

  2. Rich says:

    That was proper. Good lookin’ out.

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