COLUMN: Point Zero Zero

Harry Caines contributes a weekly column to CacheValleyDaily.com. His column is a work of opinion, and does not reflect the views of Cache Valley Daily, the Cache Valley Media Group, or its employees.

<em>“Always do sober what you said you would do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.”</em>

—Ernest Hemingway

I drank too much alcohol on September 6th. My beloved Utah State Aggie football team was playing their first home game of the season on that day—and I showed up to tailgate early and well stocked. By halftime of the game, I decided to walk through Logan to sober up. I did–but not fully. As I tend to do when tipsy, I became very reflective and introspective. I am that rare human who becomes nicer and more mellow when drunk. And so I decided to extend a peace offering to someone I was in conflict with.

Bad idea.

My benevolent offer was harshly rebuked. It may well be given that since it was a Saturday night that this person was also imbibed; and thus, unwilling to accept any olive branches. I cannot say for sure. It does not matter now. The situation is over with and my sincere act did not harm me in any way.

There are many different types of drunks. The giddy drunk. The violent drunk. The sit-in-the-corner-and-stare-at-everyone-quietly drunk. The sloppy drunk. The loud drunk. The frisky drunk. And, the worst of all, the “I love you guys” drunk. Those drunks…oy! They hug you 20 times, squeezing your shoulders and repeating how great a friend you are until you want to kick them in the shin and run away. Tell me how great I am when you sober up.

As stated above, I am the type of drunk that usually is much friendlier, more open to suggestion and genuinely less scornful of the world I live in. But two things have made it so days like the 6th of September are much more rare for me: Age and Utah.

Power drinking is a game for the young. I am 44. It is not only embarrassing to be fall-over-drunk once you hit the age of 40, but it also takes longer to recuperate. And Utah has made it harder because the options to drink are much less available than in the 49 legitimate states in the Union.

But really, isn’t that the point? Utah, run by legislators who appear to take their marching orders directly from the LDS Church, continue to hold on to laws that are so banal, arcane and convoluted that it is nearly impossible not to feel like a pariah simply because of a desire to digest a libation now and again.

I have become studiously immersed in knowledge regarding Utah’s nutty liquor laws over the past few years. It is impossible for any logical human being free of prejudice not to believe that these laws were enacted and are enforced for no reason other than to punish people for indulging in a pleasure forbidden by the religious dogma of the dominant church in a theocratic state.

The Mormons that run this place do not like drinkers. It’s that simple.

When a perspicuously reasoned argument is made to counter these heteroclitical liquor laws that are mostly unique to Utah, the one retort is regurgitated verbatim and ad nauseum:

Our laws stop drunk driving.

Do they? Is there any legitimate source in Utah that compiled data that shows if those caught drinking and driving came from bars or from private residences? If people are drinking in a home, the liquor laws here do nothing except invite national ridicule and impeded on tourism. I see the type of characters who pick up a 30 pack of Keystone Light at Smith’s. They tend to be people that do not think rationally when sober. When drunk, their belief in their own invincibility makes them blind to the law. They chance getting caught driving drunk. They are fatalistic morons who were born to lose—why else would anyone drink Keystone Light?

And this leads me to the point of this column…nearly 650 words gone. I want to offer a compromise that is bold in its premise but would ultimately be a win-win for the state and for those who just want to have a damn drink without being stared at like a museum exhibit.

Here it is:

We, the Drinking Utahns Incorporated (DUI), humbly request that Utah legislators in Salt Lake City allow all beer sold in the state to be full potency. We ask that bars and restaurants be allowed to serve alcoholic drinks (but not drinks to alcoholics) with whatever percentage of liquor they believe is profitable. We ask for the removal of eccentric laws such as the Zion Curtain; as well as laws regarding drink specials and happy hours. We ask for more liquor licenses be made available.

In return, DUI offers this bold suggestion. We will not fight, and will openly endorse, for the legal drinking limit in Utah to be lowered from .08 to .00. Yes, you read that correctly.

Point. Zero. Zero.

Absolutely no one in Utah can drink one swig of alcohol and be allowed to drive a motorized vehicle. “Judas!”, cries my fellow connoisseurs of intoxicating broth. Not so. I think this idea will free those of us who never have been stupid enough to drink so much that we were unable to safely man an automobile.

As I see it, the future data will be negligible regarding drunk driving in Utah. Those who are poor, drink large quantities of bad beer, or have legitimate problems with alcoholism will still get caught. The rest of us will finally be able to drink good beer and have a shot of liquor that is served in a glass instead of a thimble.

We would need one more concession. Utah would have to make it easier for taxi services to pop up all over the state. No Republican state likes to regulate small businesses to death to the scale Utah does. The state could also allow for bars-restaurants-night clubs to offer their own shuttle services without much interference.

It is a great compromise, one worthy of conversation. If the goal of Utah’s liquor laws is truly to stop drunk driving, and not as a means of punishment for people who reject the premise of Section 89 of the Doctrine and Covenants, then it is worth a try.

Point Zero Zero in exchange for potable normalcy. It might work. And then we can figure out how to stop the real danger correlated with the consumption of liquor: idiotic drunk texting.

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