Gary Horton: A good message of holiday fear

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Good tidings we bring
To you and your kin;
We wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year!

Christmastime. What a great season! Joy and wonder all around. Warmth and family and fond memories and shared stories of our hopes for the future. Fireplaces, decorated trees and lights on homes. Holiday cheer with friends and good times abound.

You notice, however, that the sounds of sirens and fire trucks and ambulances never stop for the holidays. I’ll bet they increase. For with the comfort and joy and good times with friends often comes drinking — and with drinking comes accidents and with accidents comes death and everything counter to all the comfort and joy we hope for the holidays.

Just don’t do it. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t get in a car with a driver who’s used alcohol or any other intoxicating substance. Just don’t take the chance.

… Send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
– John Donne

“It’s only a short drive.”

“I’m ok, I feel fine.”

“At least I’m not driving.”

“I’ve done this drive a hundred times before.”

“There’s no cops around here.”

“I could drive this in my sleep.”

There’s dozens of excuses folks use to get into cars after using alcohol. Multiply that by just about any factor you choose during the holidays.

Accidents and injuries and deaths always seem distant, always seem like the “other” — until they happen at home, or close to home, or with best friends. Then we remember, then we correct. And then we warn others, too.

This is my message. This is my warning.

This past Monday we lost two of our finest at work. Two men, both UCLA grads, one a 10-year Marine veteran were involved in a midnight car crash after enjoying what was surely a wonderful holiday season day of golf and frivolity with close friends.

Their activities lasted into the late night. The host made beds for them to stay over, as it had been a “long day.” At some point a decision was made to instead drive home. Home was only a few miles away.

Both men are of great moral character. Both, huge contributors to society. Both, mentors, friends, builders, helpers, givers. The best of the best of the best. My friends. Our leaders.

I don’t know what happened and I don’t know why.

But the end story is both tragic and far too familiar. The passenger needlessly killed, the driver escaped without serious injuries. One dead, the other in jail, facing manslaughter charges. Two lives ended, but with one now in a living hell and the other passed away.

Grief abounds through our company. Grief wracks their families. The lost to society is incalculable. These men were contributors. They had earned their way in life and excelled at all they attempted. Loved, adored, respected. And their future contributions would be great.

But nevermore.

Not long ago we read of the wonderful mother of six whose life was cut short by a 21-year-old woman driving with a very high blood alcohol content. The mom was returning from UCLA, where she had been nurturing her two preemie babies under hospital care. The other driver made the very bad choice to drive under the influence and, in the process of that bad choice, killed a mother, destroyed an intensely close family — all, while ruining her own life, as well.

Just for some drinks.

Just for the lack of calling a friend to pick her up.

Just for simply not paying Uber $10.00 for a ride home.

All, for the loss of self-control.

And that’s really the core problem with alcohol, isn’t it? The lack of self-control. Those who may drink have experienced it ourselves — and in sober states we understand just how bad decisions can be so easily and badly made. Sometimes, with such tragic results as these two terrible stories.

Please don’t do it. Please don’t drink and drive. Please don’t get in a car with a driver who’s used intoxicants.

There’s so many alternatives. A quick call to a friend. A dedicated driver. An Uber, a Lyft, or a cab. Stay at the friends.

Or simply and obviously, don’t drink at all.

You’re no exception. You are not the lucky person who will never get hit, never drift off the lane, never get stopped, never whatever…

Once you’re in that car with alcohol behind the wheel you’re just a potential, mobile statistic. Your number called up, is just a matter of time and circumstance.

So, please don’t do it. Please don’t drink and drive. Don’t get in a car with a driver who’s used intoxicants.

Have a safe, sane, beautiful holiday. Have a safe, sane, wonderfully long life.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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