The Drink/Drank/Drunk Issue: I Am the Designated Driver

Confessions from behind the wheel

The Drink/Drank/Drunk Issue: I Am the Designated Driver

I've done plenty of stupid shit in my 25 years on this planet, but there's one striking difference between myself and most of my peers: I can't blame a single bit of it on alcohol.

No, I made the choice years ago, after my brother's best friend was killed by a drunk driver, that drinking wasn't for me. I realized, though, that I was in the minority, and that's fine; just because I choose not to drink doesn't mean everyone else should be bullied into that decision as well (you hear me, Republican legislators?). So instead, I offer early and often to be my friends' designated driver.

(Side note: Turns out that's also the easiest way to explain away not drinking at most parties.)

At first, some hesitated to take me up on the offer. "You'll be miserable," they said – and it's not untrue. Drunk people always think they're way more entertaining than they actually are: They're loud, they're stumbling, and they're impossible to reason with. They're basically toddlers. And there's nothing like the imminent threat of vomit to make me fear for the well-being of my car's interior. But once they realized that I wanted to hang out with them anyway and that I wasn't sacrificing anything by not drinking, they came around.

Really, it works out for everybody. They get to imbibe to their hearts' content (or livers' discontent), I get to enjoy a night out with friends, and at the end of it all, they get a safe ride home and I have the invaluable peace of mind that nobody's behind the wheel who shouldn't be.

Yes, it means I've gotten more than a few phone calls at odd hours that took me to all corners of town, no questions asked. But it also makes for some hilarious stories. When I was shopping for a new car, I made the 6-foot-2-inch car salesman crunch up in a Scion tC when he swore that my tall dude friends would fit in the backseat (I called bullshit and bought a four-door Jetta with eight airbags instead). And then there was time my friend was freaking out in the passenger seat as I zoomed north on Lavaca, knowing the lights were timed. Once, I even made a few bucks off a friend who figured (correctly) that I'd be cheaper and faster than getting a cab out to Lake Austin. And then there was the time … Well, I'll protect the innocent. But let's just say you learn all sorts of things about people when they're in an enclosed space and half a dozen drinks deep on a Friday night.

But more importantly, I've also gained vast knowledge on tolerance, overserving, and parts of West Austin I never would've otherwise investigated – not to mention picking up enough along the way to hold my own in a conversation about craft cocktails, wine pairing, and homebrewing to surprise even myself.

Added bonus? More free root beer than I know what to do with. Thanks, bartenders, for keeping a girl in bubbly and for those knowing looks: Yes, I'm with these guys, and yes, I'm the designated driver.

Read more stories behind the bar and deep in the jigger at The Austin Chronicle's Drink Drank Drunk issue hits stands Wednesday, July 3.

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