Sunday, September 5, 2010

Designated driver drama, with special guest Darnell!

Darnell: Can I be Ashley this week?

Lulu: Oh thank god. I am so alone. Also, there were 2 letters about drunkenness in Dear Abby yesterday.

Darnell: Oh boy, that is my goddamn wheelhouse!

Lulu: Here's the letter and response:
DEAR ABBY: A few weeks ago, I met a group of friends at a local pub. "Charlie" was the designated driver. As the evening progressed, I noticed Charlie was drinking beer. When I mentioned it, he said he'd had only three. Then he insisted he was fine and "it was only beer."
I tried to explain the danger of driving while "buzzed" and told him I'd walk home. Charlie then became insulted that I didn't trust him to know his limits. He said I should relax and quit being so uptight.

A few days later, some of my friends told me I had caused "unnecessary drama" that night and that my standards for the designated driver were "unrealistic." They also said that Charlie wasn't drunk and was totally capable of driving. But the fact remains, our designated driver wasn't sober, and I wasn't comfortable getting into a car with him.

I voiced my opinion; now I'm being punished for it. Did I judge Charlie too harshly?

- Values My Safety, Davis, Calif.

DEAR VALUES YOUR SAFETY: Not in my book, and not in the one published by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. In its California Drivers Handbook, under the section titled "Designated Driver Program," it lists the requirements for someone to be a designated driver. Among them: "Must abstain from consuming alcoholic beverages for the duration of the outing." That means not drinking anything with alcohol in it. Zilch!

You were right to speak up. In the future, if you decide to socialize with these folks, arrange to meet them. And if the location is not within walking distance, take a cab.
Darnell: "It's only beer" is the worst excuse ever.

Lulu: You can't get drunk off beer! It's like water. Or wine coolers.

Darnell: I think this theory needs scientific testing. I'll just hop in my time machine and perform those tests last night. ... Nope, beer works.

Lulu: I mean clearly the guy was incorrect, what I'm wondering is how much "drama" the letter writer actually created. Are her* friends objecting to her walking home because the designated driver was drinking, because that's lame, or are they objecting to her delivering a 20-minute monologue on the subject?

[Ed. note: We assume the LW is female for no real reason.]

Darnell: The problem with advice letters in general is that they rarely tell the part of the story that might make the LW look bad.

Lulu: Although, given what she reports her friends actually saying, it seems like they were defending the drunk guy and being incorrect about the role of a designated driver. They don't seem to have identified her delivery as the problem with the message.

Darnell: Yeah, this is one of those situations where I want to be against the LW but can't really justify it. It seems like, barring the possible diatribe, she behaved pretty well.

Lulu: So it sounds like she needs better friends.

Darnell: That is my default and always correct answer, but I try to take my time getting to it. This feels so close to being a non-issue that it is kind of baffling me. I am a guy who will have a few drinks and drive, and I believe that people can know their limit safely. But it is also okay to see somebody drinking and say that you don't want them to drive you. Your friends saying that expecting a designated driver to not drink at all is unrealistic, that is just goddamn stupid.

Lulu: Yeah, I'm trying to see why the friends got upset that she walked home, and I can't. Unless she tried to give them grief about it, how does it hurt them? Sure, walk. Why not?

Darnell: The bit about the Drivers Handbook I find fascinating as well. There is documentation around how you have to be a DD?

Lulu: Yeah, I thought it was just a term for the driver. Who is designated.

Darnell: The definition being the poor shmuck whose turn it is to have no fun.

Lulu: I don't see how it can be an official thing if it's all entirely informal. I mean, how can the designated driver be either tested or recognized by the state. You don't get a medal.

Darnell: Maybe in California you can get some kind of DD tokens to trade in for prizes.

Lulu: Free beer.

Darnell: I was thinking an arcade prize counter at the DMV: "I've been the DD twice so I can get the tiny squirt gun or the friendship bracelets!"

Lulu: This is a great idea.

Darnell: The awarding of tokens might be problematic, but that is for the pencil pushers to figure out. We're idea people.

Lulu: I love being an idea person. It is no work.

Darnell: It's a pretty great life.

Tune in next time (tomorrow?), when the chat about this same day of Dear Abby continues!

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