Driving home a point

-A A +A
By John Pawlak

I was only 12 years old, but I remember sitting in the car with my father, listening to soft music, enjoying the fragrant scent of flowers, and wondering who was in that coffin.  It was a “drive-through funeral” and my father (like many other curious drivers) stopped to see if it was really true.
Well, yes, a funeral home had set up a drive-through area so that people could drive up, spend some time looking at the body in the window, and enjoy the pleasant ambiance piped out to the car.
Today, you can drive-through at the bank.  You can drive-through for a cup of joe.  There are drive-through pharmacies, restaurants, laundromats, prayer vigils, postal services, car washes, grocery pickup, and even marriage chapels.
But perhaps the strangest (and dumbest) idea ever was the drive-through liquor store.  New Mexico used to have them and I’ve heard that they still exist around the country.
Seriously, is there a theoretical limit to stupid?  Sell liquor to drivers while still in their car?  Why not just set up a lemonade stand for thirsty drivers with an optional shot of rum?  
 Drive-through funerals.  What better metaphor for a society that celebrates a healthy and safe year at New Years Eve with “one for the road”?  Movies like “The Hangover” become blockbusters.  Rock music in commercials beat out a chant to party hearty as people drink themselves silly (and of course “drive responsibly.”)
Even back in my high school Latin class, we joked about alcohol.  A man walks into a bar and says, “I’d like a martinus.”  The bartender says, “Don’t you mean martini?”  The man says, “If I wanted two, I would have asked for two!”
Now you understand why Latin is a dead language.  
Drunk driving is a national epidemic and Los Alamos is no exception to the alcohol imbibed roads.  I’ve lost count of how  many cars I’ve seen (early in the morning) swerving side to side as the driver tries to fight off a drunken stupor.  (Notice how stupor and stupid are so close in spelling?)
Los Alamos High School held an “every 15 minutes” program a month ago, simulating an alcohol related car crash (with simulated deaths and arrests) to remind students of the tragic dangers of drunk driving.
It was a very successful program and many students told me how it would make them think twice about getting into a car with someone who had been drinking.
In my senior year of high school, we had a couple students die in a car crash (the students had been drinking).  Our principal had the car, smashed windows and blood and all, put on the front lawn of the high school.  No meetings.  No announcements.  No program.  Just a crashed car stained with real blood.
You can’t do that today.  Parents are OK with having their kids go see movies like “The Hangover,” but it would be “a horrible thing” for our kids to see real blood on a real crash.  You don’t see public outrage over commercials and TV shows and movies dripping with alcohol, but it’s a sure bet you’d have parents suing if we dared expose their children to something as distasteful as a real death.
Warnings and programs and blood soaked cars on display aren’t enough.  Young adults do think twice about drinking, but they often think a third time and then have that drink.  If they’re lucky, they’ll get home alive without killing anyone.
Every 15 minutes, someone dies from an alcohol related collision.  Funny drinking movies and rock infused alcohol commercials do little to raise one’s spirits when you’re at the morgue identifying your kid’s body.
Let’s face it.
Young adults are going to drink.  We did it and they’re going to do it.  The question is, how do we get them to recognize the very real dangers involved?
Every 15 minutes, someone learns the hard way that drinking and driving don’t mix.
If that’s not enough to make people think, then maybe we should just bring back the drive-through liquor stores and build them next to the drive-through funeral parlors. A fifth for your thoughts!
 John Pawlak
Los Alamos Columnist