Garner: Opinion

Column: How are you gonna celebrate the new year?

Johnny Whitfield, columntst The Eastern Wake News and the Garner-Cleveland Record.
Johnny Whitfield, columntst The Eastern Wake News and the Garner-Cleveland Record. tiwabu@newsobserver.com

For most of my life, New Year’s Eve hasn’t been the most festive of holidays, but a couple of celebrations are memorable.

Several years ago, I attende a Gregg Allman concert at the old Longbranch Saloon. Blues Traveler opened for the Southern Rock legend. Allman finally came on stage just as the clock was ringing in the new year. He played Auld Lang Syne before he lit into a two-hour set of familiar hit tunes that left me singing along all night long.

Last year’s holiday was surely another exception. For the first time, our family headed off to First Night Raleigh.

We had never been before and we weren’t exactly what to expect. When we arrived we checked out the schedule and picked a couple shows we were all interested in. We saw an improv group at Memorial Auditorium, then walked back down Fayetteville Street to watch another act.

At that point, our children headed off to see something that interested them, while my wife, Becky, and I headed off to other venues. We met up shortly before the acorn fell. Downtown Raleigh has enjoyed a wonderful resurgence. There was a time, in my lifetime when downtown Raleigh wasn’t a place nice people wanted to go in the daytime, much less at night. But the city was beautiful and the lights were sparkling.

We all had a lot of fun, which is unusual when you’re talking about two different generations. But we had all our fun with nary a drop of alcohol. In fact, it was so much fun, I can’t imagine missing the event this year.

Now, my point isn’t to suggest you have to stay dry to have a good time on New Year’s Eve, but here’s my thought. If you do enjoy a beer or a few glasses of champagne, be smart enough not to drive. No matter how much fun you have ringing in the new year, all that fun will go away in skinny minute when you get arrested for drunk driving, or worse yet, have a wreck and hurt someone.

To be honest, I can’t imagine a more stupid crime. I’d like to think no one goes out at night intent on driving drunk. And yet, so many will. I have to wonder just how drunk do you have to be not to consider the idea that maybe driving isn’t such a good idea? Every time you turn around, there are public service announcements on television encouraging us to find a designated driver. And since most of us don’t party alone, that seems like an easy enough thing to do.

And one more idea, if you’re the host of a New Year’s get-together, consider taking everyone’s keys when they arrive and hide them so that a potential drunk driver can’t just pull the keys from his or her pocket and drive away. Or better yet, invite them to spend the night.

The long and short of it all is this. You don’t have to drink to have a good time this New Year’s Eve. But if you do, figure out a way to be smart enough to stay off the road. I really don’t want you running into me or any of my friends or family. That’s a sure-fire way to ruin my holiday and yours.

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