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Unpleasant Realities

overviewofdwicheckpoint

A hasher's nightmare

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about what I thought was a mean-spirited post on our local hash email list: a hasher gave another hasher shit about getting a DUI. My post is titled Hubris, because the giver of shit is a drinker too, and as far as I can see, the only difference between the two is that one’s been nailed and the other hasn’t . . . yet.

When I write about drinking and driving, it turns some hashers off. No one likes talking about unpleasant things, and hashers are no exception. Most often, the reaction I get is denial: there’s no problem at my hash; we always make sure hashers who’ve had too much to drink get a ride home; we always make sure there’s plenty of food and soda; etc.

But this time I got a different reaction: don’t write about this stuff. Yeah, that’s right . . . just shut up about the drinking and driving, Booger. Now, granted, this is only coming from one hasher. I don’t know him, or anything about him, or even where he hashes. But he reads my blog and follows me on Twitter (where I post as @halfmind), and he’s like a dog with a bone on this issue. Initially I tried to reason with the guy, but it’s increasingly clear to me that isn’t going anywhere. Here’s a summary of our ongoing “conversation” (some of which is happening on Twitter and some in the comments section of this blog):

  • Him (referring to my Hubris post): ugh, we get it. you’re a teetotaler. *some* hashers are profoundly stupid when it comes to getting home. this topic is getting old
  • Me: I’m not just a teetotaler, I’m also a lapsed alcoholic, and I know from personal experience that 95% of hashers drive home drunk. I blog about hashing, good things and bad, and the DUI issue is an important one. Boring to you perhaps but still important.
  • Him (referring to numbers I used in this follow-on blog post): You use 95% like it’s fact. I understand that any number above 0 is bad, but this general demonization doesn’t help your cause . . . demonizing people, especially at this high a view, isn’t the way to go. What if the anonymous commenter in your previous post was one of us 10-20% (to use one of your incongruous, random, made-up numbers) who take great care not to drive under the influence? We both like to stir up trouble, but I don’t think it’s the way to go on this subject . . . fulsome comments like the one you made previously do you and this advocacy harm, especially for those of us who attempt to address these issues on a local level in a more positive way.
  • Me: There were 220 hashers at the Las Vegas H3′s Red Dress Run. 219 were drinking. That’s slightly more than 99.5%. I counted.
  • Him: did you help people you thought needed it? If you didn’t, your numbers are useless, and you shouldn’t talk about drinking.
  • Me: Actually I did — designated driver for four other hashers. Granted, they were family members. Four DUIs averted! Specifically, why shouldn’t I talk about drinking? Not qualified? Harming the hash? None of my business? What?
  • Him: because you gave us some useless information and declined to tell the good story, the one I had to prod you for.

It’s hard to know where to begin. I’ll start with Cultural Revolution-style ritual self-criticism: when I say 95% of hashers drive home drunk, I mean “drunk” as it’s defined by law enforcement and the courts today; that is, any measurable level of alcohol in the blood. My original comment could have been taken as an insult to hashers (as in “you’re all a bunch of drunks”), and I didn’t mean it that way.

In my experience, nearly all hashers drink at the circle, and by “nearly” I mean almost 100%. I don’t see how anyone can deny such a self-evident truth. Again, I’m not differentiating between hashers who drink a beer or two and hashers who drink too much . . . one beer or twelve, it’s drinking.

beer

A hasher's dream

At interhashes, where we typically stay in hotels and walk or take buses to and from runs, drinking and driving is not a huge issue. But at local hashes, the ones that happen in my town and your town, week after week, we drive ourselves to and from runs. And most of us, literally 80-90% of us, drive home afterwards with some level of alcohol in our bloodstreams.

A few years ago, “drunk driving” was defined as a blood alcohol level above 0.15 percent. Then it was 0.10%. Now it’s 0.08%, and there’s talk of lowering it to 0.05%. But in many locales, including some countries (like Japan), any level of alcohol, even 0.01%, will get you arrested and convicted. What used to be acceptable social behavior is all of a sudden unacceptable, and many of us haven’t caught up with that reality.

In the past, I’ve protested that reality. I wish we’d go back to sane, meaningful standards for drunk driving (like a blood alcohol level of 0.15% . . . you know, actually impaired), not the bullshit M.A.D.D.-driven witch-hunt no-tolerance hysteria we have today, but you have to deal with things as they are, not as you wish they were.

I’m not so much worried about the few hashers who drink too much. They know damn well they’re DUI bait, not to mention a danger to others, and they do it anyway, so fuck ‘em (or better yet take their car keys away). I’m worried about the rest of us, the ones who only drink a little, which is nearly every hasher there is.

Let me go back, for a paragraph or two, to the denials I usually get when I blog about hashers getting DUIs:

  • “There’s no problem at my hash.” There’s only one non-drinking hash I know of (the Virgin HHH in Phoenix, now defunct . . . I wonder why). Unless you’re a member of that hash, you’re simply full of shit.
  • “We always make sure hashers who’ve had too much to drink get a ride home.” Yes, it sometimes does happen that hashers will call a cab for someone who’s falling-down drunk. I’ve seen it happen four or five times in two decades of hashing. But what about those of us who limit our drinking to one or two beers? No one gives us a thought. No one should have to give us a thought . . . we’re not impaired. But law enforcement and the courts see it differently, and if we get pulled over, it’s a DUI.
  • “We always make sure there’s plenty of food and soda.” That’s nice, but until they come up with food and soda that magically sops up alcohol, hashers who drink at the circle will still have measurable levels in their blood driving home.

Back to my interlocutor. Am I making my numbers up? Of course I am. With the exception of my most recent hash, I don’t normally take head counts of drinking vrs. non-drinking hashers. But you know and I know my made-up numbers are pretty close to the truth.

I don’t often hear my comments described as “fulsome.” I had to look that one up. Here’s what it means: “aesthetically, morally, or generally offensive; exceeding the bounds of good taste.” How telling . . . well, at least he’s clear where he’s coming from. He just doesn’t want me blogging about drinking, driving, and DUIs. He’d rather not think about it. Even bringing it up is offensive, like farting in the singing bus.

Well, it’s offensive to me too. It’s offensive that we can’t hash and have a few beers afterward without worrying about DUIs. It’s offensive that there are so few ways to address the threat. Sure, concerned hashers can quit drinking, but how realistic is that? No, hashers are going to continue drinking. We know what we’re doing and we assume the risk, so what’s the point of talking about it? It’s “useless information.”

Except . . . this kind of useless information can cause hashers to modify their behavior. It convinced me to cut way back on my drinking, and finally stop altogether. It may convince a few hashers to do the same, or it may convince hashers to take public transportation to and from runs (yes, Virginia, there are hashes where venues are supposed to be accessible by bus or subway, and there’s no reason other hashes can’t adopt such policies). “Useless” is in the eye of the beholder.

It comes down to this: I’ll continue to rant about the things I care about. And I care about this.

- Flying Booger

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