If you knew me in college, you might remember that I used to be a designated driver for anyone who needed it. It didn’t matter who they were, where they were, or what time it was. If I got a call from someone who wasn’t safe to drive, I found a way to get them home. No judgments. No lectures. No drunk driving. It was a pretty good deal.
Now I’m back in Billings, and I’m going back to that. But this time around I have a few changes.
I learned some things in college, and there are issues with being a professional DD that I learned about the hard way. I’m going to list them here, and I’m also going to talk about how I want to address them. Obviously, this is just a side project and not my regular job. That’s why I’m bringing it up in this sort of format– because I want suggestions. And I’m probably going to need help. And, no matter where you are, chances are that your city already has some sort of DD service– or could use one. So let’s discuss it. Make the world a little safer, together.
Here are the problems I’ve encountered in the past:
1) Drunk Montanans Apparently Hate People With Foreign Names.
I caught on to this one pretty early. Apparently, a lot of drunk people don’t want a free car ride home from someone named Tahani. Apparently “Tahani” is a terrorist name. Who knew? Anyway, I eventually started giving business cards (read: note cards) to various bartenders I knew, but with “Anne” as the listed contact. Granted, I still answered the phone, but when someone asked for “Anne” I knew what was up and was immediately able to be in DD mode. That worked well.
Here’s what works better: Alliteration. That’s why my new note cards say “Deena.” Yeah. Designated Deena. Easy to remember AND pronounce– even if you’re drunk. And no one thinks Deena is a terrorist. Win-Win.
2) It’s Easiest If You Have Teams or Partners When Being a Designated Driver
Okay. This one is important. And it’s the one I need the most help for. There are A LOT of reasons to have a DD partner. First, people almost NEVER want to leave their car somewhere overnight. In fact, a lot of people were more likely to drive home drunk than call me if they knew I didn’t have someone who could get their car home for them. There’s nothing harder than hearing a person slur “nvermnnnd” before hanging up so that they can try to drive themselves across town. That’s where a partner or team comes in. If you have a small group of people working together, there’s always at least SOMEONE out there who can be your Second and go with you to pick up an intoxicated person(s) and their car.
Second reason to have a DD partner or team– intoxicated people throw up sometimes. And if you have one person driving the drunk “client” car and one person driving the sober person’s car– then you can let the inebriated ride in their own vehicle (and vomit there instead of out your passenger side window). Yeah, it’s uncomfortable for the DD, but it’s LESS uncomfortable than getting someone home at 2:30 in the morning and then hosing off your own vehicle before going back to bed. This isn’t a paying job. I can’t afford to get my paint redone every time I drive someone home. So– have a Second and let the intoxicated person worry about their own paint.
Third reason to have a DD partner or team– it’s safer. This one is pretty straightforward. Alcohol affects everyone differently. Some people get loud. Some get violent. Some get promiscuous. If you have a second person around (even if they’re in the other car) then you know you have backup if you need it. The entire point of being a DD is to HELP others– but that doesn’t mean that they’re always going to treat you as well as you’re trying to treat them. The point of being a DD is to make the streets safer– but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your own safety in the process.
3) It’s Often a Good Idea to Have a Second Phone
Usually I get to this point and people start saying “Really? Fake names AND burn phones? Are you sure this is legit?” Answer: Kind of. It’s a service that’s perfectly legal and practical, but that involves you actively working with drunk strangers. I cannot tell you how many times I got texts from people at bars who were looking for services that had nothing to do with designated driving. I don’t want that kind of thing coming through my regular phone number. So yeah– I have two phones. And, all of the people on my “Team” know my 2nd number and are saved as the only contacts in the DD phone. If I ever get a call and need help, I send out a mass text listing the location and the number of people that need a ride, and then wait for replies on who’s awake and near enough to help. That’s much, much easier to organize with one “Designated Designated Driver Phone” than through my main line. And, it means that there’s only one number floating around at bars around town– a disposable phone that cannot possibly be traced to any of the people who volunteer their time and gas to help others. It’s safer for everyone that way.
4) The Job Gets Expensive– Not just on gas, though that’s a big part of it. It’s wearing to get up in the middle of the night, find out what bar you’re going to, what the “clients” look like, how they’re currently behaving, and where they need to go–THEN contact other people until someone agrees to wake up and pick you up (or get picked up by you), drive to said bar, drive people home in their own car (while their directions SUCK), drop off whoever the Second is, go home, and go back to bed. It’s tiring. You see the worst part of humanity a lot of the time. You see people having fun and (at some level) it feels like they’re having fun at your expense. It’s a costly job, especially if you don’t charge a dime for it. But… I think it’s necessary.
So… This is an all-call. If you have suggestions for things that work in a DD program you know about, or if you want suggestions on how to start a program like this in your community, start posting comments. If you live in Billings, MT (or the surrounding area) and would be willing to help out in some way… Please contact me. Forward this around to other people if you think it will help.
And, most importantly, if you’re in my area and you ever need a ride home:
Call Designated Deena.
No Judgments. No lectures. No Drunk Driving.