Saturday, August 6, 2011

Designated Driver

I'm not much of a drinker.  Sure, I'll have an occasional beer during the ball game, or a couple frou-frou beverages at a restaurant (the Wallaby Darned at Outback Steakhouse is a personal favorite) but, generally speaking, I can buy a twelve-pack of Coronas for the Super Bowl in February and polish off the last two or three at our Fourth of July barbecue.

This was not always the case.

My first few years of college, at least my fuzzy recollection of them, were spruced with regular weekends (and by "regular" I of course mean "every friggin' weekend without fail") of partying.  Actually, "party" in this case is a euphemism for "sitting around someone's living room (or dorm) getting totally sh'faced."

sh'faced /shah-FAYST/, (adj.); 1. From the American Slang term "shit-faced," meaning inebriated beyond what is normally possible in human beings.  This is caused by excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually in a group environment.  Symptoms include the inability to walk straight or speak coherently, a tendency to make embarrassing comments about one's self or others (looking at YOU, Tim Sterling), developing an unexpected sexual attraction to a member of the opposite sex whom you would not normally even look twice at, and of course temporary loss of consciousness.  (ex. "You hear about Sterling?  Last night at DeNunzio's party he took off his pants, sang Who Let the Dogs Out, and then hit on DeNunzio's golden retriever.  I hope I never get THAT sh'faced.")

One night at DeNunzio's, we were playing a heated game of Quarters.  For those of you unfamiliar with this exciting pastime, here's how it works.  The players sit around the dining room table (or coffee table, or -- this is usually in college dorms -- an overturned milk crate with a large slab of plywood on top), and take turns bouncing a quarter into a highball glass of beer.  If you successfully land the quarter in the glass, you get to choose an opponent to chug the beer.  The object, of course, is to get everyone as completely sh'faced as possible.  Strategy is minimal, competition is somewhat casual, and there's not really a "winner" in any practical sense of the word.

It's not exactly chess, is what I'm saying. 

The best part of the game is when a player makes three shots in a row.  At that point, he or she gets to make up a new rule, limited only by one's creativity.  These might include:

Any player to touch his face must take a drink, even if it's not his turn.
Players must say the phrase "And awaaaaaay we go!" before taking a drink.
If you don't chug the beer all in one gulp, you have to make an obscene phone call.

I spent a lot of time engaging in this sort of activity, and I learned a lot about myself.  For example, I learned that the first part of my particular brain to be affected by alcohol is the part that figures out when you've had too much to drink.  I would chug beer after beer, and at no time did any of my synapses shoot off a message like, Whoa there, seems like we're losing control of our large motor function and relying much too heavily on words like "dude" and "bro" when conversing with others.  Maybe it's time to slow down a little.  No, I would drink myself into oblivion, a quality that earned me the nickname "The Pass-Out Kid," also known as POK, also known as "Paco."

All of which brings us to our public service message, which is as follows:  If you're going to be incredibly stupid and irresponsible with your alcohol intake, for God's sake do not get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

Not long after I got my driver's license, my father invited me out to the garage for a heart-to-heart.  The gist of it was, "I know you're going to college soon and you'll probably have a few drinks from time to time.  When that happens, do NOT try to drive home or get in a car with someone else who's been drinking.  Give me a call, no matter how late, and I'll come get you.  No lecture, no questions asked."

It sounded like a trap, but as I got older I realized why he offered that type of "immunity."  My dad knew that if I was worried about getting in trouble for drinking, I might try to hide it from him.  This could lead to driving under the influence and putting my life at risk.  It just wasn't worth it.

Despite what you may think, especially after what I've already told you, my friends and I were pretty responsible and knew there were precautions we needed to take to protect ourselves from, well, ourselves.  Therefore, we always appointed a designated driver or two.  Most times, our system involved a sort of "shuttle service."  We attended a very small local college, and all of us still lived at home with our parents.  At the end of the night, the designated drivers would load up their cars with "fallen soldiers," take them home, and in most cases help them get to their bedrooms undetected.

Not everyone's father has a "no questions asked" policy.

Anyway, on one particular evening at DeNunzio's, our activities wrapped up around one in the morning.  The designated drivers made their rounds, and before long everyone was home safe and sound.

Except of course for Paco who, since he was passed out in a hammock in the back yard, had gone undetected until DeNunzio literally stumbled into him while picking up the empty Budweiser bottles strewn all over the lawn.

"Dude, what are you still doing here?" he asked.


"Everyone left an hour ago, how are you gonna get home now?"

"Dunno.  I prob'ly shouldn't drive, though, huh?"  I said.

"Uh, no.  And I can't take you home either, 'cause I'm still buzzed.  Better call someone, dude."

Time to take Dad up on his offer.  At two o'clock in the morning.  After three attempts and three extremely pissed off wrong-number recipients, I successfully dialed my home phone number.  Dad answered on the third ring.


"Hi Pop.  'Member how you said if I was ever drunk and needed a ride you'd come an' ge' me?  Well, uh, I think I need that now."

"Sure, where are you?"


"What's the address?"

"I dunno."


Dad chuckled softly, and said, "Well, I'm going to need you to get it.  It'll make it easier for me to find you."

"Oh, right.  Hang on."  I got the address from DeNunzio and gave it to my father.  He arrived twenty minutes later, poured me into the passenger seat of his car, and took me home.  As promised, there was no lecture about the dangers of drinking, no threats of confiscating my car keys, nothing but comfortable silence until we had a brief emergency about a mile from our house.

"Dad, I think I need you to pull over."

Knowing what was coming, he skidded to a stop on the side of the road.  I opened the door and leaned out.


I wiped my mouth on the sleeve of my Police t-shirt (Synchronicity tour, 1982), sat up, and fastened my seat belt.  We got home a minute or two later, and that was the end of it.

Well, almost.

At 6:30 the next morning, I was awakened by a loud knock on my door.  In fact, "loud" doesn't really capture it.  Given my extremely hungover condition, it sounded like a SWAT team was taking down my bedroom wall with a battering ram.

"Chris, come on!  Time to get up!  Let's go get your car!"  My dad said no lectures, no grounding.  This was neither.

A loophole, apparently.

"Go 'way!" I growled from my bed.

"Let's go, don't have all day!"  BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG, the knocking continued.  I swear I heard giggling.

"Okay, okay!" I said, gathering my faculties to the limited extent possible.  "Gimme a minute!"

We drove back to DeNunzio's and got my car.

Dad has always had the knack for handling things in just the right way, and because he gave me a certain amount of freedom as a teenager -- with a safety net -- I was able to learn from my mistakes without getting in any real trouble or putting myself in danger.

Thanks, Pop, I appreciate it.

But watch your back.  One of these days, I might come pounding on your door at six in the morning.

On a Sunday.

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EmptyNester said...

I had basically the same chat with each of the lovelies. I went to college and partied like a lunatic too- even in grad school! You brought back some memories...and some gaps that remain MIA to this very day. LOL

Eva Gallant said...

Your Dad sounds like a very wise man!

J.J. in L.A. said...

I love your dad. lol! Growing up, I'd walk into the family room and have to step over multiple bodies because of my dad's drinking rule. Everyone had to hand over their car keys before the beer came out. If he felt you couldn't drive home, you didn't.

Steph said...

Good for you for taking his words to heart!

Peter Varvel said...

You went to college?? ;)
I like your Pop. AND his methods.
A lot.
(Have you had a chance to pass them down/use them on your kids, yet?)

Jonah Gibson said...

Dude, you were blessed with an excellent dad! My parents were pretty excellent too in this regard, but things didn't always work out so well. Once my brother got driven home and poured onto our front porch by some fellow revelers. He managed to get into the house and pull himself halfway up the stairs by the railing. This is when Mom came out of the kitchen where she had been waiting for him to get home. "You're drunk," she exclaimed. "No, I'm not," said my brother, and then promptly he hurled over the stair railing all over Mom's housecoat. Instant family legend.

notactuallygod said...

Ah, those were the days.

One of our favorite rules in quarters was 'no numbers' -after which people would ask for the time and somebody would say 11 o'FUCK!

Another fav was "You can't use the word Drink" so we used 'imbibe' instead, but somebody would always trip up and have to dr- IMBIBE.

otin said...

Something about the wisdom of Jersey Dads.....

Suldog said...

Good story. I wish I had had as much common sense. I drove while under the influence quite a few times, although it was usually tempered with massive amounts of cocaine. The combination made me a very wide-awake drunk, so it wasn't as bad as just slurry drunk, but still... I'm pretty sure I'm blessed to be here.

Fred Miller said...

I want to make Sean ride a bicycle until he's thirty, but I hear you can get a dee-wee on a bike, too.

Anonymous said...

I dunno Mr. Knuckle. I've read this post like three times now, and I just can't get past the offensive:

"Who Let The Dogs Out?"

Dogs (and bitches, especially ME HA!) are NOT pleased.

heh heh

I'm glad I don't imbibe, however, I see what I must be prepared for JUST IN CASE with my 14-yr-old.

Me no likey.


Junk Drawer Kathy said...

Love your dad and love the loophole. Funny guy. I wish I'd had that sort of agreement with anyone, parent or otherwise. I hate to admit how many times I got behind the wheel of a car when I was in no condition to do so. Gives me nightmares to this day how close I came to ruining my life or the lives of others. I don't drink at all these days because I fall asleep after three sips. Quarters would kill me now. I would never get the quarter in the glass and everyone around me would point to me to guzzle.

Great story, Knuckle!

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