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The curse of drink

Posted: December 27, 2012 - 4:39pm

“Nominees significantly improve the gene pool by eliminating themselves from the human race in an obviously stupid way.”

—Rules for determining Darwin Award winners, many of whom consume alcohol prior to becoming nominees.

I watch “Alaska State Troopers” on television, though I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s because seeing drunks do stupid things makes me feel superior. Other times, watching it makes me feel embarrassed to be a member of the human race.

This TV show illustrates why drinking while operating a vehicle is a very bad idea. Instead of learning all the lessons the hard way — the wrecks, the jail time, the injuries and deaths — you only have to watch “Alaska State Troopers” to see how low people can sink when they drink.

Drunken behavior is memorable. My memory isn’t as good as it once was, but I well remember the drunks of my childhood. I remember every alcoholic, some of them relatives, who embarrassed themselves and others by slurring words and saying things they wouldn’t ordinarily say. I remember taking a shortcut on the way home from school and seeing two drunks behind a tavern hammering each other’s faces to bloody pulp.

When I was a kid, salmon fishing on the Skagit River in Washington, a couple of drunks anchored their boat nearby and started fishing. A few minutes later, one of them yelled, “We’re sinking!” When they had launched, they hadn’t put the drain plug in the transom. By the time they pulled their anchor and started their motor, they were “well down at the stern.” The drunk skipper steered straight for shore. His drunk buddy stood up, ready to jump ashore. The boat stopped short of the bank, launching him into the shallow water. Several people were fishing nearby, but no one came to their aid. They looked the other way and tried to keep from laughing out loud.

Bystanders rarely help drunks. Instead, they shun and disrespect them. Drunks used to get laughs by playing the part of the fool. In the 1960s, we laughed at Dean Martin, well known for playing a drunk in his comedy acts, but drunks aren’t funny anymore.

No matter how careful you are, a drunk driver will maim or kill you. I’d just started driving, and had borrowed my dad’s car to go on a date. While driving around town, as kids will do, I saw a friend in another car. We pulled over to the shoulder of the road to talk. I had my hand on the driver’s-side door handle to get out when a drunk swerved his car into the side of Dad’s car. If it had happened two seconds later, I’d have been killed.

Drunks also will hurt and kill the people you love. In 1955, my best friend was in a parking lot in a car with his wife and new baby, waiting to pull out onto a street, when a drunk veered out of traffic and crashed into them, putting them all in the hospital.

On a recent “Alaska State Troopers” show, troopers were called when a snowmachine rider ran into a cable across a trail. The cable struck the rider in the forehead. He was lucky. If that cable had been six inches lower, it would’ve taken his head off. He was charged with a DUI.

Many Alaskans don’t know that the state’s Driving Under the Influence law applies to the operation of all motorized vehicles. You can wind up in jail and paying a fine for operating a watercraft, snowmachine, four wheeler or other “all-terrain vehicle.” Statistics show that the odds of being killed off the road are better than on it, and the odds are even better when when the riders have been drinking.

I’ve never believed that drinking helps people forget their troubles. If you think you have troubles now, wait until you get drunk, wreck your vehicle and kill or maim a few people.

No amount of booze will make you forget that.

Les Palmer can be reached at les.palmer@rocketmail.com.

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