A Sobering Experience (or) Chauffering the Shitfaced
by Dave Constantin
When EW first approached me about writing an article on how to survive as the designated driver, I thought, “you’re barking up the wrong tree, muchachos.” But later that morning, after I sobered up a little, I decided to go for it. Of course, to do this thing right, I knew I’d have to get inside the mind of a designated driver. Become that which I’d only read about, or seen on TV. I knew it could be one of the most difficult assignments of my journalism career. But with EW throwing, literally, suitcases full of money at me, I knew I could rise to the challenge.
First off, I needed to round up some hard-drinkin’, chain-smokin’, hell-raisin’ human guinea pigs to act as comic foils to my proverbial straight man. But where could I find anyone so shameless, so depraved, and so insane as to let me write an article about them behaving like idiots in their most vulnerable state, then print that article in a paper likely to be read by more than 100 people? Why, the EW intern desk, of course.
For those of you who don’t know, every six months or so, EW receives a new batch of interns. Usually they’re brought over on container ships from some Nike-owned country, deloused, then taught to sort mail, make coffee and discern when it’s appropriate to ask the editor for a bathroom break (helpful hint for future interns: It’s not when he’s on the goddamn phone). Of this last shipment, only two hearty souls survived the Darwinian nightmare of a four-month ocean voyage in a poorly ventilated steel crate. I’ll call them “Tim” and “Danny,” because I can’t come up with any good fake names. Lucky for me, these two drink as they live: like motherf’n Vikings.
My plan was simple. We’d all get together on a Friday or Saturday. I’d shuttle the boys around to some of the seediest bars in town. They’d get sloppy drunk. And I’d soberly record what transpired. Bar fights, tearful confessions, projectile vomiting, who knew what magic this night would bring. Then, on the Friday before my deadline, we suddenly abandoned our weekend plans. We had received word that Wednesday was “Coyote Ugly” night at The Lone Star Bar and Grill, and Tim and Danny insisted we go. Danny kept talking about how his “personal heaven” would be a cheap steak, a baked potato and a room full of drunk chicks table-dancing to Billy Ray Cyrus albums. I had to indulge him?
When Wednesday rolled around, Tim and Danny were well prepared. They had quite a buzz on by the time I picked them up at their “intern yurt” (which is really just an overturned dumpster with holes cut out of the sides for doors. Rustic, but cozy). On the way to the bar, Tim kept saying how he “loves this song,” and that I needed to “turn it up.” But I didn’t even have the radio on. Danny kept laughing hysterically, then getting really angry, then falling asleep, then twitching a lot. Designated driving was turning out to be way cool. And this was just the beginning.
We followed the sweet aroma of axle grease and sweat straight into the Lone Star’s parking lot, which seemed curiously deserted for a Coyote Ugly night. Inside, a lone bartender stared absently at a muted TV screen, while an elderly woman, hunched in a dim corner of the bar, fed quarters into a grimy slot machine. “Where’s all the action?” I asked the bartender. She responded with devastating news. The DJ called at the last minute: Coyote Ugly night had been canceled! I saw Danny’s knees buckle, but he grabbed hold of a bar stool and managed to hang on. The news was just too much for Tim though. Silent tears streamed down his cheeks, soaking his shirt collar the way I’d hoped beer vomit would.
We were banking everything on Coyote Ugly night, and it blew up in our faces. A heavy cloud followed us home that night as I thought about what I could turn in to EW the next morning. I was deep in thought when Danny puked all over himself in the back seat. And just like that, it hit me. This was designated driving. My work here was done. I pulled up to the yurt, pushed the interns out of the car with my foot, then headed home to write, feeling like a million bucks.