Unforgettable night changes Warrior’s ways for a lifetime

The greatest fear of this newly christened Road Warrior is that he’ll violate a traffic law and end up on someone’s police blotter.

Whereas he once would push the speed limit, especially on the freeway, the Road Warrior now backs off the accelerator.

Whereas he often would run the yellow at an intersection, the Road Warrior now slows and accepts “red better than dead.”

Whereas he would occasionally make that ill-advised left turn in front of approaching traffic, the Road Warrior now acknowledges that safe beats sorry 10 out of 10 times.

While those are lessons previously learned, they’re now accepted without exception because of this new position of responsibility and, yes, credibility.

One lesson learned and accepted long ago, though – almost three decades past – is not to drink and drive. That’s one ticket you’ll never see the Road Warrior receive.

Never, ever … EVER!

The last time I had a drink out when I was my own transportation was in late 1983. It was a night I’ll never forget because it was a night I barely remember.

A brief back story: I’ve never been much of a drinker – not in high school, not in college, not as a young adult. But there were a few occasions when, as a twentysomething, I got caught up in the atmosphere. Several longtime acquaintances can attest to that.

The most notable was when I accompanied a group of former co-workers – no, not from the Review-Journal – to a UNLV home football game against San Diego State in late October 1983. The game was being nationally televised, and we wanted to be there. Our group started drinking at work and then reloaded at the stadium well before kickoff.

Everything was fine until late in the second quarter when I craved a couple of hot dogs slathered with mustard. Soon after scarfing them down, that overwhelming sense of “Oh, no!” overcame me, and before I could get out of my seat – how can I say this delicately? – I went “Technicolor” all over the guy sitting in the row in front of me.

Not once. Not twice. But three times, my co-workers told me later.

A fight almost ensued, but my comrades whisked me out of there – I believe with the help of a couple of on-the-spot stadium ushers.

It certainly wasn’t one of my proudest moments, and it definitely created a lot of razzing for this then-27-year-old. And it’s what led from an embarrassingly memorable night to a night I can hardly remember.

What I do remember is that it was about a month later, a Friday night, and I stopped late at a bar that was frequented by co-workers, both from my then-job as well as people I previously worked with at the Review-Journal. I also remember I started out drinking beer.

The next thing I recall is waking up on my couch sometime the next afternoon in my apartment near Tropicana Avenue and Decatur Boulevard.

In between the drinking and the waking, nothing. Not a single minute remembered.

I rushed out to my car – well, “rushed” as quickly as my wobbly legs would carry me to my assigned carport slot. I carefully looked over my treasured black Datsun 280ZX turbo. I scoured it for scrapes, for dings, for any blemish whatsoever, and to my immediate relief there were none. The car was parked squarely in its slot.

After returning to my apartment and making a few calls I concluded that no one had driven me home. Somehow, I made it there on my own. Never mind that I also managed to put my apartment key in its lock and get inside before falling face-first onto the couch … somehow I made it home on my own, approximately a six-mile drive, without being involved in a crash.

As I suddenly came to that realization, a cold shower of joyous relief-turned-petrifying terror washed over me. It was a feeling I hadn’t experienced previously – or since.

It was then that I made a vow to myself, one that I’ve kept to this day, never to drink if I know I’ll have to drive. Yes, over the ensuing years I’ve had a few drinks while out, but only if the person I was with wasn’t drinking.

Over those 29 years, I have never started my ignition with even a hint of alcohol on my breath.

I recount this story not to put myself forth as some saint or to lord my “road sobriety” over others or to disparage bars, pubs and clubs, which operate well within the law. Rather, it comes as a follow-up to the Road Warrior’s column last Sunday about designated drivers and how there are ways such an important responsibility can be enjoyable for those who assume it.

Among the readers who contacted the Road Warrior to thank him and/or comment on what he wrote was a gentleman who called to say, “I’d rather be the one who kept the partyers alive than be the life of the party.”

Well said, my friend.

Fellow motorists, whether it’s the holiday season or Super Bowl weekend or St. Patrick’s Day or a summer boating party at Lake Mead or just a Friday night in late November at one of your favorite watering holes, please remember: Don’t drink and drive.

Believe the Road Warrior when he says you don’t want to experience the feeling of waking up at home and not remembering how you got there.

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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