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Post-party resolution: Sit in a cab, be grateful

By JAN GLIDEWELL, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 15, 2002

Wanting you to have a safe holiday isn't only an altruistic wish; it's also good business. I need your readership. My newspaper needs your patronage. And your loved ones need you alive and not in prison after the holidays are over.

Please don't drink and drive during this, the holiday party season. It simply isn't worth the risk.

We recently carried a fascinating story on a sport called hashing.

Hashing is a weird combination of recreational alcohol consumption and long-distance running. Okay, maybe it's only weird to me.

I admit that I spent a large portion of my early adult years mastering at least half of that sport.

But I have always run as little as possible, even when I was a runner.

And today I drink less and, if it involves more than 1 ounce of alcohol per hour or more than three or four drinks, I participate in a new, for me, activity.

It's called cabbing.

Taking cabs is nothing new to people who grew up in metropolitan areas, especially in cities without hurricane building codes where development tended to be more vertical and less sprawl-like.

You can walk a lot of places in Manhattan and take a cab or a subway to most of the rest. Growing up in Miami, it seemed everything was at least 10 miles away from everything else. Cab rides to grandma's house were expensive.

Until I was well into my 20s I had only ridden in a taxicab once in my life, and I remember thinking it was really neat because the Checker Cab had a fold-down jumpseat.

But I have friends who grew up in cities with mass transit and cabs that could actually be flagged down or would show up, if called, within less than an hour. They reason that, if alcohol is involved in a celebration, it makes much more sense to cab it, rather than to drive, even with a designated driver.

They are right.

There are, for instance, no parking fees, and, if you are in Ybor City, the home of the quick and expensive tow, no whopping towing fees. (My last trip there cost the driver of the car $130 for missing the signs where we parked.)

Splitting the cost of a cab between two couples makes the price for most trips negligible, and if you figure some of the possible prices of drinking and driving, it is really cheap.

The Hillsborough County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimates that the actual cost of a driving under the influence case, including fines, legal defense and other costs, could run as high as $8,000.

That doesn't count medical costs or possible lawsuits that could run into the millions, nor does it take into account the possibility of winding up in prison if someone dies, or being permanently disabled yourself.

Forty percent of all traffic fatalities are believed to be alcohol-related, and MADD estimates that two out of every five Americans will be involved, at some time in their lives, in an alcohol-related accident.

I'll admit that cab service in some areas around here isn't all that it should be. I have had cabs not show up despite two- and three-hour waits, and, in one case, it never showed up. It's one of many reasons I never go anywhere without a book.

But if you don't have a book, you can use the time thinking about the fact that you are breathing, and walking, and not on a stretcher or in jail waiting for a bail bondsman.

Some can just sit and be grateful for survival.

Although she didn't plan on it as a career, my wife studied ballet when she was younger.

One night 20 years ago a drunken driver plowed into her car on U.S. 301 north of Dade City. The crash ended the ballet lessons and also plans for law school. She had a leg amputated and reattached. Her toddler son had his scalp detached. Her infant daughter had a skull fracture.

That all survived is one of the blessings we count when waiting for cabs, as well as one of the reasons we call them.

But my wife only dances now, for the most part, when she thinks nobody is watching.

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