My capoeira mestre told me he never touched a drop of alcohol, because it was poisonous for his body and would affect his mind as well. My chiropractor father said “you are what you eat,” and showed me pictures of alcoholics with large red noses with huge pores. However he also said that almost anything is ok “in moderation.” And he occasionally drank bourbon.
Last night at a wedding during a snowstorm, the roads were treacherous, and my car was skidding left and right. It was completely out of control as it slid down the hill to the bride’s house at the bottom of the driveway. I was pumping the brakes madly and hoping I wouldn’t crash into the cars parked in a small lot at the bottom. And for three hours I wondered how many guests would be unable to make it home by driving back up this steep incline on the long icy, snow-covered driveway that had not been plowed.
We watched a two-wheel-drive car fail on two attempts by the father of three and then a more expert driver who claimed to have experience doing these things. Five-plus strong men including the groom without a coat couldn’t push the car up the hill, and I worried someone might be run over and hurt as the drivers let it slide back down in reverse. Someone later used a four-wheel-drive truck to transport that family home. Maybe their car was retrievable today.
Soon it would be my turn, and as I waited to see whether I could make it home in my all-wheel mini-SUV, I saw party guests passing around a silver flask. “Want some bourbon?” I was asked? As someone who feels alcohol’s effects from very modest intake, I declined. But I was actually quite shocked that when we needed our senses to be as sharp as possible, people were offering to dull them out of friendship and with kind intentions. Did they think I would handle the car better if I was more relaxed? I also thought of my father’s love of that liquor, and then his advice about all food and drink intakes. A nice memory.
I feel prudish about drinking and driving, but I have skidded in snow many times. I took a special Skip Barber advanced driving course that taught me how to respond instantly and correctly to skids. I have even practiced in a snow-covered parking lot by turning rapidly and slamming on the brakes. There have been skids where this practice saved me from going off the road and crashing. Decades ago, I was in a two-car, winter collision on black ice that totaled both cars and would have sent us sliding in tandem over a 300-foot cliff had there not been a guard rail. I need to be really attentive. These accidents don’t always happen to “someone else.”
What is wrong with me that I am so conservative when others are so cavalier? Those wedding guests were drinking happily, indifferent to the possibility of danger and the need for super quick reflexes. Why don’t they agree that hard liquor and driving—especially in such hazardous conditions—just seem dumb? They probably think one swig can’t hurt, though three or 10 might be a problem. I remember a friend who would smoke grass, put on his car-racing gloves and drive 400 miles on the turnpike convinced that he was keener and more capable, having slowed down his sense of time. I didn’t travel with those dopey, doped drivers, whenever I could avoid it.
So I did make it up the hill with no problem. Then drove as slowly as 10 miles per hour down some steep hills of slush. One time I drove in the wrong lane, which had been plowed, to avoid falling off the road or just sliding out of control for half a mile or so. The biggest danger was getting back quickly into the correct lane, when cars approached from the other direction. It was tense, my passengers didn’t speak, and no one complained as I pumped the brakes and made it home safely. It was a drive that no one should have been out in and that took three times as long as normal. I hope the others at the party were just as fortunate.
HERE IS AN UPDATE IN FEBRUARY: I have learned that I need snow tires, and that the all weathers on the car are completely inadequate…