“I’m fine, I’m … fine!” he said, swaying ever so gently. “It’s just up the street!”
We heard that a few times last night, because they can be pretty strong – strong willed and strong of grip.
The four of us were standing in a small circle around our bag of brochures from the day’s show. The conversation was flowing, the white wine had run out, a couple of plates of snacks were still available – left uneaten.
It was after he stumbled forward into our bags on yet another “I’m fine, really” that something switched inside me.
I’d never done it before, but there was no way I was going to let him drive home. I held him by each shoulder, looked him in the eyes and told him, that human to human, I cannot let him drive himself home. Of course, he continued his protestations.
At this point my idea was still to take his keys from him and make him take a taxi – but he was holding on to the keys too tight, and I could see him not want to take a taxi (for a drunk person working out the logisitics of the next morning are just too much I suppose?).
We stood there all glancing at each other wondering how to get this right, how we can prevent this guy from doing untold damage to himself or others.
After we discussed again where his hotel was, one of the guys in our group, a student from Germany, mentioned that this is not far from where he needs to go, and he could drive the car and guy to the hotel, and walk from there.
I immediately told him that theycould follow my car to the hotel, and I would take the student to his place (too far to walk, actually, especially in the dark) – so we had a plan.
And this is where I realised what one of the hurdles to solving our drink driving problem is – a Plan. We were all bumbling around trying to figure something out, telling ourselves we can’t let him drive home – but not really sure what to do.
But once we had a plan – and the sober ones had to make that – it all went smoothly. We told him what was going to happen, and took him to his car. We didn’t leave him room to argue.
As he put things in his boot he asked me again, “am I really that far gone?”. To which I replied with a quick, firm yet friendly, “yes.”
At the hotel, the car safely parked, he thanked us – I think he was grateful. And then invited us in for a glass of wine.
We didn’t go in – he needed to sleep it off, and we needed to get to our homes.
We’ll never know how many lives we saved last night, or how much damage was spared – but I do know we made a difference.
It’s not always easy – but we do know it’s the right thing.
And as I think about it this morning – if we didn’t have the “spare driver” – what would it have cost us in time or money if 2 of us had driven him home and gone back the 5kms to the hotel to pick up our other car again?
Would I have resented paying 50 or 100 bucks to put him in a taxi to his destination?
Probably not – but we need a mind shift change in this country.
Yes, it’s inconvenient
Yes, it takes some thinking
Yes, it means taking responsibility for each other – and for strangers.
Yes, it’s not easy – but then that’s often the case with something worthwhile.
(interestingly, as I finish writing this the driver managed to track me down and just called to say thank you)