Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not Giving Is The Best Gift of All

From a financial point of view, the holidays are a worrisome time for many.  The cost of buying gifts, and planning gatherings, the food, the entertainment, the traveling, the alcohol....

The alcohol.

Even without holiday gift giving looming on the horizon, these times are tough on our wallets.  It shows by the amount of Internet chatter on how to participate in holiday gift giving with minimal expense. Suggestions include everything from homemade treats and crafts to donations of time, like house cleaning and babysitting.  All wonderful, thoughtful, from-the-heart gifts.  I'd like to add one suggestion to the list.

The gift of not giving.

That's right.  I'm in a not giving kind of mood this year.  And not just over the holiday season either.  My generous, not giving nature is a year round affair. 

The gift I'm not giving everybody this year is regret.

Regret has great potential at any holiday party, especially where alcohol is available.  "I've only had a few drinks", "It's not that far to go", "I'm not going to get caught".  The point is it doesn't take that many drinks to qualify anybody as over the legal limit.  You don't have to be staggering and slurring to be legally impaired.  In fact, most people will be very close to warning criteria after just one drink.

"Lots of people drink and drive", "What's the big deal"?  I realize that you don't feel drunk.  This is where a catchy slogan and actual facts mix with alcohol and become confusing to someone with car keys. "If You Drink, Don't Drive" suddenly translates into "I'm Not Drunk So I Can Drive".  See, alcohol messes with your head.  It disables the part of your brain that makes you appreciate someone else's efforts to watch your  back. So why am I choosing to be the biatch that won't give you your car keys?

Because the other gift you're not getting this year is a criminal record.

You are also not getting the key operated jewelry the cops use before they place you in the preferred seating area to the rear of the cruiser. I hear they have a great photographer at the police station who can't wait to take your picture. 

You're not getting fired from your job.  All those cars lined up bumper to bumper in the early morning and afternoon rush hours are full of people just thrilled to be frustrated by traffic.  Now that your license has been suspended, you can't participate in that rat race anymore.  When you are looking for a job, be sure to check the box on the application that asks, "Have you ever been convicted of a criminal offense," and good luck!

You are not getting denied entry to another country.  That trip you were thinking of taking to Canada or the US?  Remember to pack for disappointment.  Customs will want to know if you have "been convicted of a criminal offense". You may be denied entry to either country until you have served out the sentence imposed, including a license suspension.  Traveling from the US, through a Canadian airport to another destination with a DUI conviction includes the potential for additional immigration screening. Be prepared to wait a long, long time for clearance.  Customs officials don't really care if this delay means you miss your connecting flight.  Good thing you've already had one more for the road.  

You are not getting additional expenses.  Stuff like costly fines, mandatory remedial driver training and reinstatement fees, and don't forget the astronomical insurance premiums.  You're going to love the fancy interlock device that most provinces insist you install, at your expense, in your car when the driving suspension ends.  Bet you can't wait to show that baby off to all your besties.  Good luck getting your car to start after snacking on the drive-thru coffee and apple fritter.  When the law says no driving with any amount of alcohol, they take the word ANY pretty seriously.  Fermented fruit counts too.

So, that's what you're all not getting from me this year.  I apologize if you're disappointed about not having the opportunity to call your spouse to pick you up from jail.  I know you were looking forward to explaining why you were arrested to your children.  I'm sorry you won't get the chance to explain to your boss and your friends why you can't drive anymore.

You are not getting the chance to wish you had made a different decision.  You can call me whatever names you like, and you'll walk funny afterwards for a while, but the nuisance that I am now, and will continue to be is much easier to bear than the conditions that will be imposed upon you by the courts. Add up the fines, the court costs, and all the other inconvenient costs associated with a DUI conviction and compare that to the taxi fare home tonight and back to your car tomorrow. Are you really prepared to risk your freedom for some liquid in a glass, poured over ice?

Before you tie one on, regardless of what time of year it is, plan your way home before you head out. Plan to stay or arrange for alternate transportation home.  Designate a sober driver. Give the host your keys so you aren't tempted to drive, just because you think you can.

The law won't accept excuses for drinking and driving, and neither should you.  Make a promise to yourself, your family and your friends that you won't ever give anyone the chance to turn a great evening into the regret of a lifetime.