One More for the Road

Writing stories about a place in a quieter corner of the map may (or may not) be fiction but it takes me to a place where life may be weird but at least no one is driving drunk.

Explain something to me: why does every holiday office party seem to feature alcohol and at least one person doing something insanely inane involving stupid hats, paper products, a table top, and/or a co-worker while deeply under-the-influence. Why?

What makes the office Christmas party or someone’s retirement party sacrosanct as the Valhalla for closet drunks on a work sanctioned toot?

And how about what happens when the party’s over and the keys go in the ignition?

Is it a surprise that December leads the way for DWI arrests? And would it be another surprise if I told you that 66% of New York State’s drunk drivers were seriously impaired with high blood alcohol levels?

Consider this: in 2009, in New York State, there were over 36,000 DWI arrests and 321 fatalities. These fatalities cause an estimated $1.33 BILLION dollars a year in medical and work loss, not to mention the grief of losing a loved one. New York ranks in the top ten in this category. Where do I get my facts? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

How many accidents are there annually with injuries short of death resulting ranging from mild to life-changing and life-threatening? Those statistics are scattered among emergency medical services, hospitals, and fire services. But they’re much higher than the number of fatalities. At one point, in 2006, in an emergency medical services career that spanned 15 years of work weeks that passed the 72-100 hour mark, I estimated that 75%+ of the accidents I responded to involved alcohol and personal injury. I have no patience.

And what happens the day after that office holiday party or the retirement party?

Apparently it’s OK to toss off someone’s concern with a couple of declarative sentences, “I was drunk. Get over it.”

I’m not “getting over it” and neither should any boss or supervisor or party planning committee or any co-worker or anyone else in arm’s length of a potential impaired driver.

Who assumes responsibility if the drunk leaves impaired and causes an accident, maybe with death or serious physical impairment resulting?

The bartender?

The boss or supervisor?

The whole party planning committee?

Everyone standing there?

The drunk? Or is the drunk “forgiven” because he or she is impaired and therefore excused from behaving safely?

It’s a trick question. Answer: all of the above, including the drunk who should have exercised due caution in the first place.

There’s a chain of failure here and a broken chain of responsibility that disregards the potential seriousness in allowing anyone who is drunk to leave a restaurant or party without an escort and without their keys.

Tell me: how does someone negotiate roadways with cars, lights, pedestrians, bicycles and other party hardy drunks during rush hour after two plus hours of slamming down alcohol?

How does that person get home on crowded roadways when motor control, speech, balance, and vision is impaired? And how do you keep it together for maybe 10-20 miles while white knuckling the wheel and rocking along to the radio?

How is it that no one calls for a designated driver or a cab?

How is it no one gives a crap and it repeats year after year?

Why is it unpopular to say “let’s try this without alcohol next year.”

Explain that to me.

About Phyllis Alberici

Hanging a few lanterns in the darkness. Let me know how it's going.
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