Sunday, May 20, 2007

A Poor Excuse for Vice Ridden

This picture is a poster from California illustrating Shoulder Taps, a project where teens hang out in the parking lot in front of a liquor store, with an ABC officer out of sight, and see if they can get adults to agree to buy beer for them This is one of the things I was doing with the teens I work with last weekend. I am currently the adult advisor for Teens In Action (a group of high school students who work to reduce underage drinking ) in Juneau and the administrative coordinator for the three TIA groups in the region. .

And sometimes I feel like a bit of a misfit. The non-profit which serves as the umbrella for my grants, as well as a number of alcohol and tobacco prevention grants, is mostly staffed by people in recovery. Which would qualify me if I were with TATU (Teens Against Tobacco Use), since I'm an ex-smoker. But, I'm not an ex-drinker. I hardly ever qualified as a current drinker.

I come from a family of people who don't bother to be tee totalers because we forget to drink. I once was having dinner at a Greek restaurant and decided that a glass of retsina* would go well with my meal, and realized that was the first time I'd had a drink in over 20 years. Not because I'd resisted the desire, but because I hadn't had the desire. I don't usually think of having alcohol any more than I would think of drinking butter. No virtue to it, just lack of interest.

Where other TIA leaders have been able to warn the teens of the perils of booze by telling about their own humiliating experiences, I've only been drunk three times, all one winter when I was living in Fairbanks, and if I told the kids about it they would laugh. Once I got up on the bar and led all of the patrons and servers in a round of children's songs. I was working as a Montessori teacher at the time, so we sang things like "I've got two eyes, they're both the same size" and "Where is thumbkin" and "It's not easy being green." Once I woke up my eight and six year old children and led them and my two roommates in a game of follow the leader over the dressers and under the beds. Once I was out with a gay French Canadian chef and we spent the evening picking out likely men for each other. And then, because the streets were icy and I was having trouble walking, I locked my knees and he pushed me home while I sang "Here we go loop de loo."**

Now none of that is very dignified. But I'm afraid to share it with the teens for fear they'll think it proves that alcohol isn't all that bad. Actually, when I was a hippy I was hardly any more into drugs than I've been into alcohol. I thought I was living a pretty decadent life, but partly that was because I was contrasting it with the complete small town respectability I had been raised with. And, as wicked as I got, the times soon caught up with and merrily passed me by.

* And you are undoubtedly thinking that retsina is an acquired taste, and how could someone who seldom drinks acquire it? Well, I like the taste and did the very first sip I took.

** My friend Joyce Zimmerschied was one of the roommates for follow the leader, Linda McKinney was with me when I got pushed down the icy street. So, of course, one day decades after these events, the three of us got together and they sat around regaling my children and each other with tales of when I got drunk!


Deja Pseu said...

teens hang out in the parking lot in front of a liquor store, with an ABC officer out of sight, and see if they can get adults to agree to buy beer for them

Isn't that considered entrapment though? What happens to the adults who agree to buy the beer? Are they arrested or just given a warning?

Maya's Granny said...

When we do it they get a card that tells them what could have happened if they had been caught actually buying alcohol for a teen. We have 14 year olds who look 14 and who say, "I'm 14 and they won't sell me beer. Will you buy it for me?" Unlike the poster, we don't let them actually buy, we only want an answer. Then we have a press release telling how many people we had to ask or minutes it took to get someone to agree. It is strictly to increase awareness, since teens get over 60% of the alcohol they get from adults.

Joy Des Jardins said...

I've never been interested in drinking....liquor, wine, beer...none of it really appealed to me. I will have an occasional drink at a special event, but it lasts me FOREVER. My vice is sweets. Now put some delicious cake or pasties in front of me, and I'm good to go. I guess we all have our addictions.

Kids trying to get adults to buy beer or liquor for them has been going on for a long time. I've never had it happen to me, and I can't imagine what rational thinking adult would be comfortable with it....remember, I said rational thinking.

Kay Dennison said...

An interesting program. And what sort of idiot would agree to buy alcohol for a child who he/she doesn't even know? I find that totally insane. Then again, I've come to the conclusion that sanity went out with common sense, common courtesy and common decency. All I have to do is read the headlines everyday.

Deja Pseu said...

Ah, got it. So it would deter someone from doing it the next time. What percentage of adults actually agree to purchase the beer?

Chancy said...

I very seldom drink anything alcoholic. Not even wine or beer. I have no objection to it but alcohol does not agree with me at all and at times has made me throw up violently, so I have no problem abstaining. :)

Maya's Granny said...

When we first started doing this, it never took a kid longer than 8 minutes to get someone to agree. This time we were out three hours and only got one person to agree. So, it seems to be working.

Mary Lou said...

I come from a family of alcoholics, so I rarely drink, but I used to drink when I was in my 20's. Not a lot, but I did go bar hopping . only place to meet single men in a small town!

J at said...

I think I'm the only drinker in the family...and I don't think I could ever become an alcoholic, because I always fall asleep too soon. :) But while I was learning how much it took to get me there, I'm sorry to say, I got drunk way more than three times. Blech.