Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In a way, I'm very, very fortunate...

This isn't a very lighthearted post, like the stuff you usually see here. But I think it's important, so I'll put it here, 'cause I feel it needs to get out there...

What touched off this post is a news item; in Santa Ana, California, 24-year-old Andrew Gallo was sentenced to 51 years in prison today for the death of Nick Adenhart and 2 others in a car crash in 2009. Gallo went out drinking with some friends, one of whom was supposed to be a Designated Driver, but the Desig-nee himself got too drunk to drive, so Gallo, also drunk, took over the wheel. Adenhart was a pitcher who Made it to the Major Leagues, and had fired off six innings of scoreless baseball in his debut, just a few hours before the crash.

That got me to thinking about times when I drove drunk. I was always More Careful when I knew I was drunk, navigating 'by instrument', telling myself to come to Complete Stops and not to tailgate anyone or exceed the speed limit. I would actually get more paranoid when I drove drunk, and I never had an accident. I'm not saying I Actually drove Better when I was drunk, because after all, I was drunk. But I'm so lucky I never got a DUI, because I was out there on the road. And most of all, lucky because I didn't injure or kill anyone in the process of Being Out There. Drunk.

There were times when I was so drunk that I couldn't see past the hood of my car. I used to get virtually obliterated on Friday and Saturday nights, and perhaps I wasn't the greatest driver while drunk, but I was better than a lot of other drivers out there. Better at not getting caught, anyway. In fact, I've been stopped more when I'm sober...can't figure that one out. As I look back, I got obliterated because that was the only way I could enjoy myself, to get out of ME. I never got drunk on holiday weekends, when I knew the County Mounties were out there in force, and I knew myriad back-alley routes between the bar and home, where I knew (or hoped) the Waiting Jaws of The Law wouldn't be posted, waiting me to sneak by.

If I could be the person I am now, and transport myself back to those (younger) days, I'd definitely take a cab home Every Single Time I got drunk. But I was Stupid back then. Carefully Stupid, but Stupid nonetheless. And I'm so thankful that I never killed or injured anyone in the process of navigating home after-hours. That's life; you can make a mistake in a second, and pay for it the rest of your days. I probably am not justified in telling others not to drive drunk, because I did. But I sure wouldn't recommend it.

I went out on weekends starting from my college days in the 1970's clear up thru the mid-1990's. And I got drunk the majority of those weekend nights. That's quite a streak. I'm not proud of it. I was incredibly fortunate, I guess. No tickets, no killed or maimed bodies in my wake. So what slowed me down? Age. Right around the time I turned 40, the hangovers began hanging-on twice as long as they had previously, and after a couple of hours in the bar, the beer literally started tasting like liquid detergent. I found myself switching over to Pepsi or Coke with increasing frequency. After that, it wasn't hard to just convert myself to Soft Drinks Only. And that's the way it's been, since 1995.

It's the Holiday season now; full of tidings and good cheer. Or at least it's supposed to be. If you drive drunk, may you not kill anyone, and may you always be as careful as I was. But be warned; you're taking your chances every time you drive drunk. I never even came close to having an accident while drunk. (Again, I've been sober during accidents I've been involved in.) But you're not me. The dice may not roll for you the way they rolled for me. So I think of the people killed in this accident, and I think of another young man who'll be serving over a half-century behind bars. Lives gone to waste. All I can say is be careful out there; especially these days. After all, it's the Holiday Season.

I've been driving since 1971. I've only had one at-fault accident between then and now (In 1977). No injuries, no fatalities, not even a scratch. My insurance company Loves Me. On the other hand, I could've been killed in the accident I had in 2001. I have no idea if the other driver was drunk. I guess it's possible. I was sober at the time. Scary for sure.


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