A scientific rationale as to why designated drivers are hard to come by

Scout got to the Walker fiasco before I could, so I thought I’d take a moment to explain one of the heaviest mysteries I’ve encountered to this stage in life.

Tonight, we’re going out to celebrate The Missus’s birthday with some of her friends. She has some “normal” friends like A and a couple people she met through social engagements and previous jobs. Then, there are her work friends, who have been known to plow through an entire bottle of Red Stag and then give each other “cleavage checks” before they head out to the bars.

We will be going out with the latter this evening.

Early in this process, I volunteered to be the designated driver. I don’t like getting shit-hammered, I really hate hangovers and if I’m getting drunk, I’d like to make sure I’m safe about it.

I think it goes back to my first experience with a drunken driver. When I was 17 or so, my best friend decided no one was driving his car, dammit, and he was just fucking fine. Thus, I found myself riding shotgun, sober as a judge, on the U.S.S. Look Out For That Fucking Light Pole.

When we were inevitably pulled over, my good friend had the misfortune of breathing within 10 feet of the cop who asked, “You drinking?”

True to form and without missing a beat, my friend answered, “Why? Are you buying?”

It was all down hill from there.

In any case, DDing isn’t exactly popular around here. I know at least two people who have court-mandated breathalyzer-keyed ignition locks on their cars and I can’t read the local paper without seeing something about some idiot who showed up drunk to a DUI hearing.

Dennis Miller, back when he was funny for the right reasons, once noted that there are two groups of people in the country now: Those who get pathetically drunk in public and the rest of us poor bastards who are now expected to drive these pinheads home. The first group seems to be growing while the second group seems to be shrinking.

Here’s my logical “Doc-based” explanation as to why.

Let’s start out with the concept of you and a fellow barhopper heading out for a night on the town. If you both have about equal tolerance and start drinking about the same time, you’re getting hammered at the same rate. You thus both find it equally difficult to walk, you both are OK when you want to tell the other person “just one more thing” and you each think the other is fucking hilarious.

You have a very small differentiation in how much of an asshole you are being in your own minds because you’re both drunk. You both might be raging assholes who are puking all over yourselves and trying to grab the bartender’s genitalia, but neither of you notices because the gap between your assholic behavior is so small.

I have labeled this differentiation the A.T.G. or “asshole tolerance gap.”

See Figure 1:


Now, let’s think about you, your drunken friends and your poor designated driver. As you continue from rich to good looking to bulletproof to invisible in your alcohol-soaked mind, your DD is sitting there, sipping a Diet Coke and wondering why everyone else at the table thinks it’s hysterical that the woman at the next table is wearing a “Where’s the Beef?” T-shirt over her A-cup-sized chest. It’s also unclear to your DD why one of your party has been staring at the jukebox for 45 minutes trying to find “That one fucking song… you know what I’m talking about? By that chick… With the tits… And… Fuck, man… It was just here!” Meanwhile, the one girl that everyone hates because because after two drinks she makes it clear that when she says “Let’s blow this place!” it in no way means she’s planning to leave, is over in the corner trying to seduce someone’s husband.

It’s not just your friends that become a problem at that stage for the DD. Your own perception of reality has become something between that of a kaleidoscope and an acid trip as you suddenly come apart on your DD in one of the following ways:

1) The “I love you” attack: This is marked by several staggering passes at your beloved DD, who is doing his/her best not to topple over and spill Diet Coke all over the place as you fall slobbering on top of him/her with a “You know I love you, right?”

2) The “horny toad” approach: Alcohol lowers your inhibitions until you suddenly feel like Don Juan or Bella in Twilight. Either way, you sense nothing but yourself, your groin and the DD. There is likely to be a lot of groping, fondling and the inevitable line of “What’s your fucking problem? Don’t you want me?”

3) The “fuck barter” conundrum: Drunks want several things all at once: Food, more booze, sex and sleep. The last one, they really don’t cognitively want, but their body’s putting the squeeze on them to lay down, vomit and start the road to recovery. Still, if you’re drunk, you’re fighting that urge because you “so totally want breakfast/Taco Bell.” Thus, you will offer to trade your DD anything, including a rim job, for the chance to get a stack of waffles or a burrito supreme (no those aren’t euphemisms).

Here’s a tip from me to the rest of the DDs out there: If he/she says, “I will blow you right now for some pancakes,” don’t expect head and don’t bother with the IHOP run. The drunk will be asleep before the second traffic light.

4) The “Dylan Thomas” fight or flight mechanism: Some folks are angry drunks or violent drunks. Some are stubborn drunks. The best way to deal with these drunks is to not be around them in the first place. However, the DD needs to make sure they get home alive. Thus, after what seems like six minutes to you but is actually about 19 hours, the DD will do the “hey, it’s time to get going” thing, which will trigger a “do not go gentle into that good night” moment. You don’t wanna go dammit. That DD fucker isn’t the boss of you. He isn’t the king of Dirk. People can’t tell you what the fuck to do… All of this leads to either a drunken slapfest fight or you running through the parking lot in the middle of a snow storm wearing nothing but a bra, a pair of vomit soaked jeans and one shoe. And if you’re a woman, you’ll likely be wearing even less than that.

At the time you are engaging in any/all of these behaviors, you appear to be totally rational and in the right. Of course, you’re so drunk you spent three minutes making out with the wooden Indian who is guarding the entrance to the smoking lounge at the bar, so what do you know? Meanwhile, the DD is fighting the urge to try to carry you to the car and swearing to GOD that he/she will never DD again. The reason is because he/she sees reality while you are growing more and more and more disturbed and assholic.

Thus, the A.T.G. is much wider.

See Figure 2:


Everyone has an asshole tolerance threshold. Some people can tolerate anything. Take my mother, for example, who works with eighth graders all day. Her tolerance levels are beyond anything I can possibly comprehend. I really think she could have an armored car dropped on her from the top of Empire State Building and emerge unscathed with a “That all you got?” smirk on her face.

Other people are way too sensitive for their own damned good. I remember getting an earful from a former colleague who was incensed at the dominant-male-hegemonic-hierarchial-paternalistic-hegemonic-hegemony of this world after someone in our group made the mistake of referring to a “covered sewer access opening” as a “manhole cover.”

However, for most of us, we have a moderately OK level of tolerance. When someone farts in public, drops an off-color joke or makes an inappropriate movement, we can grit our teeth, blow it off and move on with life. We don’t like it but we tolerate it.

And yet we all have our limits, which is why the A.T.G. is such an effective and rational explanation for why we have fewer DDs and those who do DD don’t like it all that much.

That said, my other theory, known as the “Who the fuck puked in my car?” axiom, also seems promising.

6 thoughts on “A scientific rationale as to why designated drivers are hard to come by

  1. I think your “A.T.G.” is pretty much key to understanding so much of this. It was always related to the “well, you had to be there” explanation of some hilarious situation; to truly appreciate the great humor, you had to see it thru the same kind of bleary eyes. If you can’t, it ain’t funny and it sure ain’t safe. When you are clear-headed, you know there’s no way you want to be anywhere around that!
    Though this does remind me of a time long ago, when I was in college. We lived off-campus, about a 1-1/2 mile walk from the school. The library closed at 2 a.m. during the week, and I was there until closing time. This coincided with the local bar closings, so my walk took me through the downtown past the final patrons leaving the fine establishments. It was one of those midweek winter nights when the streets are empty, and with the cold you could hear the stoplights click when they changed. So I had just passed the one bar when two happy friends staggered out of the door and headed toward the only vehicle on the street (a bright green Chevy pickup, I recall). Walking was quite an effort for them, but their conversation continued on. Midway on the street, one fellow stops, falls back on his butt and lays out right on the yellow line. His buddy continues on without him for another 15 feet toward the truck, still talking, oblivious that his partner is laid out on the asphalt. Then the reality hits him and he hustles back and tries to pull him up. “Come on, come on. Get up! You gotta dri-i-i-ve!”
    The balance of my walk home had me well off the streets and looking over my shoulder for any green pickup weaving towards me.

  2. When we were inevitably pulled over, my good friend had the misfortune of breathing within 10 feet of the cop who asked, “You drinking?”
    True to form and without missing a beat, my friend answered, “Why? Are you buying?”

    This sort of thing works out so, so much better in the movies than in real life.
    Do I want to know what a cleavage check is? Also I have to meet these chicks.

  3. Wow, dude. I would suggest you find yourself some friends who can handle their alcohol better. I have appreciated any and all DDs I have, never EVER puked in anyone’s car (I can count on one hand the number of times I have puked after drinking–and I always did it at home), never tried to grope anyone or come onto or exposed myself to anyone. Worse thing I have done is yell “Happy Fucking New Year!” to a cop after leaving a bar on New Year’s Eve. With my DD and other friends. Cop just smiled and waved us on. Never begged a DD to take me somewhere to eat.
    If you hate being around drunk people, maybe you should just not be a DD anymore? Although I will agree with your main premise. The reason people don’t want to be DDs is because they don’t want to be the only sober person–unless they just don’t drink. Then they usually don’t mind because they are always the only sober person in the room.

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