The Story

I have just woken up on a sunny Sunday morning and am getting ready to make my coffee. It’s still quite early and Ares, our dog, peeks at me from his blanket, without even bothering to lift his head as he decides that it’s too early to get up. I place the capsule in the espresso maker and as I bang the little door shut to get the machine working and am quite lost in my thoughts, I hear an amazing blast, which makes my heart race and activates all the alarms in the neighbourhood. For a minute there, I thought the coffee maker exploded for some odd reason. I look carefully, while my pulse can’t seem to get a hold of itself, and the coffee maker looks intact. In the meantime, Ares has sprung up on his feet and has started barking like crazy in the direction of the window looking onto the front verandah. Oh damn! It dawns on me that somebody must have had a car accident just outside. I’m half naked. The closest thing to me is my coat. I put it on and rush outside.

My jaw drops. I live on a fairly narrow street that always has cars parked on both sides. What I see is inexplicable. An old Yaris has managed to turn at a perpendicular angle and has rammed straight into a parked car. There isn’t enough space to do that. It’s crazy. Both cars are completely destroyed. I’m wondering whether to get dressed or just run downstairs and, at that moment, the door of the Yaris opens, and a rather dazed young lady, probably less than 20, steps out of the car. Goodness me! At least she’s upright. She’s walking. She’s not dead. I run inside, quickly decide to put on a track suit and race downstairs and outside. By now, a small crowd has gathered and everybody is gasping. Somebody has notified the police and the owner of the car that has been smashed. Everybody seems so stunned by the baffling event, they seem more worried about solving the mystery of how this came about, than asking the girl if she’s alright. The poor soul looks completely lost. “Are you ok? Are you feeling well? Can I get you something? Would you like me to call someone for you?

Just for the story, before ramming into the car of our neighbour, she had wrecked two metal bars as she had turned the corner into our street, hit my car as well, as it turned out, and then, I assume, swerved abruptly in panic, and that is how she had ended up at a 90o angle. I honestly felt very sorry for the kid. It turned out that she was intoxicated. I won’t linger on the goings on of that day any longer, because what follows these types of events is pretty standard.

How much alcohol?

What made me remember this whole episode was the fact that a couple of nights ago, as usual, we had friends over for dinner, bottles of wine had been drunk (and enjoyed), and everybody had left my home in a VERY cheery mood. We had all had a lovely time and, honestly, I wouldn’t have considered anybody in the company drunk. Just cheerful! Only, I knew exactly how much wine we had consumed. I have pictures of what we drank. And normally, at these dinners more than a bottle per person is consumed. Of course, not in an hour. We’ve been eating and drinking for at least four or five hours. So, the alcohol has been consumed over a period of time, with food.

I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s just the fact that I’m getting older. It seems I am becoming more anxious altogether, but also I am definitely becoming more anxious about getting seriously ill or dying. I won’t claim I think about it all the time, but I am at an age where different things happen, and people around me have been struck by maladies of sorts. That particular night I didn’t sleep well at all. The first thing I did in the morning was to call everyone, with some excuse each time, to make sure they had all gotten home intact. You might think I was over-reacting. Don’t worry. I wondered about it, myself.

I have been flirting with the wine sector for a number of years now, but, I am still a practicing psychiatrist. I can’t ignore the fact that I know a few things about alcohol. I know how it is metabolised, how long that takes (0,016% per hour), and the effects that it has on the body (, both short and long term. Did you know that you don’t have to look or act drunk, or that you don’t need to feel tipsy to be above the legal limit? If you do, you are way over the limit. You shouldn’t be near a wheel anyway.

Campaigning Social Responsibility

But, I am more concerned about the incidents in which we feel just fine (myself included). We are still together; we still feel in control. We’ve just had enough to be feeling cheery, talkative, flirtatious, fun, etc., but the fact is that we have consumed more than is recommended. What then? How can it become standard practice in our minds that it’s better to take a bus, cab, whatever, or sleep it out in the car? What needs to be done, or said, to convince people that ‘feeling’ fine is not enough? Is there a message that we could come up with, that could talk to our hearts? Not our minds. I hold that rational messages are not gripping and thus don’t have the effect that we would like them to have. Impact is made with messages that aim at our sentiment; those are the ones that we remember. Is it possible that we should be campaigning health and social responsibility issues in another way? Particularly to the young, who are not worried about dying soon anyway? Should we be targeting different age groups with different messages? Just some thoughts I had the other evening.

The image has been taken from FlyClipart.