Sunset 2011

I was outside snapping this photo with my phone, and remembered it was New Year’s Eve, and thus the last sunset of 2011. That got me to thinking about how it would have been, “back in the day.”

I’d have been getting tuned up for the evening by now, slightly tipsy (to the extent that I wasn’t permanently tipsy, there at the end), and making jokes about “amateur night.”  That’s what we called New Year’s Eve, referring to all the drunks who couldn’t handle their liquor, and how dangerous it was to be on the road when they were rushing around looking for that last party where they could ring in the new.  That didn’t stop us from getting drunk, we just stayed home.

Drinking surrounds celebrations in our Western traditions.  I guess other traditions have their own ways of mood-altering to celebrate, and certainly we Westerners have a variety of recreational chemicals to hasten us on our way to “happiness,” but in our society alcohol is overwhelmingly the drug of choice.  We take to heart Ben Franklin’s declaration that “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” and on New Year’s Eve we don’t hesitate to travel other roads to happiness as well.

And you know what?  That’s OK for most of us.  The fact of the matter is that roughly 80% of folks don’t even want to get drunk when they drink.  They get the buzz, relax a little, and then just…stop drinking for the evening.  Those are the folks who walk away from a half-full glass of wine, an unfinished beer, and leave people like me a bit mystified and just the least bit annoyed.  At most any celebration that isn’t held in a bar, eighty out of a hundred of the guests will drink that way, or won’t drink at all.

The rest of us — well, we don’t fare so well.  One of the prime indications of a booze problem is getting more intoxicated than we intend to.  Another is the ability to drink “amateurs” under the table.  Both of those danger signs are well-known.  Despite that, I managed to remain happily unaware for about twenty-odd years.  But that was then.  These days I don’t worry about things like that.  I know that as long as I keep my head in the right place and do the things that have helped me stay sober over the years, I’ll be safe and happy this New Year’s Eve.

As long as I stay off the road, that is.  It’s Amateur Night, but now it’s the other pros that I worry about.

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