Driving Drunk

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A title to grab the attention of the reader, to be sure.

I'm in Albuquerque, and the weather is so beautiful here--its' one of those times when you think: I could live here. Tonight our plans to have dinner with the guys from the UK fell apart (the DTRA guy was too exhausted, I was too hungry to wait), so I drove to Cervantes, a Mexican restaurant a few miles from my hotel, and had dinner alone. Something about the air here makes each pinpoint of light from the city shine so brightly that the city looks like a vast scattering of jewels--a dragon's lair spilled across the desert. The moon was incredible as I was driving to the restaurant--full and bright, and low in the sky, hovering just over the shoulder of the mountain in the near distance. According to the moon just to the right, it's 99% of full and waning, but I can't imagine it looking any rounder or brighter.

Cervantes serves good New Mexican food, puffy sopapillas with honey, and great Margaritas; we ate there when I was out here in February. I ordered the chili relleno dinner and two "silver coin" Margaritas. With a big meal--and I ate enough for three--I figured I'd be good to go. It was only as I was paying the bill that I realized I was reeling from the alcohol. I considered my options: taking my chances driving back to the hotel, or leaving my rental car at the restaurant and asking the hostess to call a cab. If I did that, was there any chance of my getting to the meeting on time in the morning? Probably not. I drove the short distance back to the hotel: a straight shot down Gibson, a right turn onto Yale, and I was back safely.

I realize how lucky I was. Had I been pulled over, I probably would have failed a sobriety test--if not by alcohol level, then surely by ability to walk a straight line. It would have cost me so much, and I'm not just talking about money. Worse yet, I could have caused an accident. I drove flawlessly, but I knew my reaction rate would be slow if anyone pulled out in front of me unexpectedly. I considered the likelihood of a child running into the street--no, it wouldn't happen on Gibson at night.

I think of myself as a fairly "heavy drinker" because it's my habit to have a couple of drinks in the evening after work. But my favorite drink these days is bourbon and ginger ale, and I fix it thusly: 5 or 6 ice cubes in a tall glass, one shot of bourbon, then fill the glass with ginger ale. I fix gin and tonics the same way. I'm always blown away by the strength of drinks served in restaurants. Whereas I add a shot of bourbon to cut the sweetness of the ginger ale, a bartender seems to add a bit of ginger ale to soften the bite of the bourbon. I can drink two of my own drinks and feel perfectly fit to drive, but I can't drink two of the Margaritas at Cervantes.

Next time I'll leave the rental car at the hotel and take a cab to the restaurant.

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May 2009

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