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Being designated driver doesn’t rule out fun

You know Hammered and Tipsy and Buzzed and Blotto. Plastered and Wasted and Blasted and Blitzed.

But do you know … the most famous holiday partygoer of all?

Move over Rudolph, you snocker-nosed party animal.

It’s the designated driver.

That’s right, the sober friend or family member committed to making sure all of us get home safely from Christmas parties, New Year’s Eve festivities and other seasonal good times where alcohol flows as freely as holiday greetings, office gossip and bro hugs.

That caring soul who refuses the lure of beer, wine, spiked eggnog and everything that goes with Red Bull to ensure we eventually land on our couch, where we’ll wake up the next morning – or afternoon – with a rocking hangover that registers at least 5.0 on the Richter scale.

As Charles Dickens’ Tiny Tim might say of the designated driver – or DD, as they’re sub-“designated” – “God bless them, every one.”

Yes, God bless the likes of Abbie Morris and Kelly Wolske, a pair of Zappos.com employees who regularly take the reins of the sleigh to make sure holiday nights out don’t go from jolly to jailed.

The concept of the designated driver first came into the U.S. consciousness 30 years ago. And seemingly every December since, law enforcement agencies and anti-DUI groups beat the drum about the importance of using DDs.

We couldn’t be pah-rum-pum-pummed more on the topic if the Little Drummer Boy was sending the message.

Truth is, it takes a strong-willed individual to be the DD.

Often, the designated driver feels left out of the party, the guy or gal on the outside looking in while everyone around them is boozily dancing “Gangnam Style.” It can lead to the DD eventually breaking down and having “only a drink or two,” and then continuing to justify their role by saying, “I’m OK, ’cause I’m not as drunk as they are” – meaning their friends.

This is where we turn to Morris and Wolske, as well as Allen Porter, president of drinkinganddriving.org, who say it is possible for the DD to be part of the party without lifting anything more than a soda or virgin drink.

All agree the fun starts by acknowledging it doesn’t take spirits to get into the spirit of the season. Simply enjoy the atmosphere.

Both Morris, a 29-year-old safety manager for Zappos.com, and Wolske, a 36-year-old employee trainer for the company, make being the designated drive a people-watching experience.

Morris, who alternates DD duties from party to party with her roommate, turns people-watching into a game she calls “drunk people bingo.”

As she has a Shirley Temple or pineapple juice or just plain water, she’ll observe the wackiness of those getting liquored up around her, adding up points that she’ll use for the next time she’s partying.

“I’m kind of weird in that I really like to people-watch. I like to see people make fools of themselves,” Morris says. “So I’ll play this mental game where anytime I see someone crazy-dance or hear someone slur their speech or badly karaoke a song, I’ll count it. Then the next time I’m out” – with her roommate as the DD, mind you – “I’ll have that many beers.”

(Yikes! The Road Warrior has to wonder how one woman can drink that much?)

For Wolske, it’s easier to be the designated driver to her husband and their friends, “because I’m not a big drinker. I don’t mind doing it,” she says.

Like Morris, she enjoys taking in the whole room, watching friends and co-workers transform from their everyday sober selves into something she can tease them about a day or two later.

With tonic water-and-lime in hand – “When I drink that, it looks like I’m drinking so nobody asks why I’m not” – Wolske keeps a mental list of who’s being naughty and who’s being nice. And she checks that list twice by conversing with those who are drinking.

“I really find it entertaining to talk to drunk people,” she says. “You learn all sorts of things about people when they’re drunk and not so guarded.”

Porter, of Fontana, Calif.-based drinkinganddriving.org, a website that seeks to educate people about the dangers of getting behind the wheel after having too much to drink, agrees with the approaches taken by Morris and Wolske. He adds a couple of other ideas for the prospective DD.

“Everyone has a smartphone these days. You can use the camera to take pictures of what you see going on around you. There are apps out there with games and contests you can use with those who are drinking,” he offers.

“The thing is, we can’t be naive: People are going to drink at parties. There’s nothing wrong with that if they have someone who can get them home safely. That’s why the designated driver is so important.”

Porter also recommends that the DD always keep tabs on where his or her party partners are.

“You don’t want them leaving with somebody who also has been drinking. Or, if you’re worried about them going somewhere after you get them home, then take their (car) keys or have them sleep it off at your place,” he says.

The point is, to be a good designated driver you sincerely have to want to do it. From there, you can find ways to make it enjoyable.

Unlike that red-nosed party animal, you might not go down in history. But you’ll be sincerely appreciated by your family and friends – and everyone “they” might have encountered on the roads this holiday season.

Questions and comments should be sent to roadwarrior@reviewjournal.com. Please include your phone number. Follow the Road Warrior on Twitter: @RJroadwarrior.

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