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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Breath-a-Phone

The bar was packed to the rafters. The Reverend Horton Heat was about to take the stage for some preachin'. Somebody had just bought the fifth or six rounds of Jager shots. The Cigar Store Indians were on tap for later in the night and the crew of HeCon: Atlanta was in full effect.

Much of the day is a blur. I'd just finished up a laborious three-day roadtrip to Richmond, VA, driven back to GreenVegas, drafted my XFL Fantasy League Team, apologized to my wife, and driven to Hotlanta. Once there, the crew of HeCon: Atlanta turned me into a blithering idiot. Before the end of the day I would be challenging an entire bar full of people to money games of billiards, cramming into an insta-photo booth with six guys, trying to defend G-Rob's honor against a short guy in a leather jacket, and stumbling into traffic.

Somewhere in the middle of it all, I found myself on the phone with Missouri. Not just a few people in Missouri. I had almost everybody in the state on the phone at one point or another. Most of the conversations began with the expected phrase, "Dude, I'm in Atlanta and I am wasted."

I'd like to to write it all off to misspent youth, but, in reality, this was only a few years ago. If it had only been annoying my friends in Missouri and racking up a helluva cell phone bill, it would've only been embarassing. Of course, that's leaving out the thing that almost got my cell phone privleges revoked.

We six guys stood in a loosely-formed circle, downing shots, buying expensive beers, waiting for the Rev to preach us something good. That's when I turned to G-Rob and handed him my cell phone.

"What's this?" he asked over the din.

"It's your wife," I said, as if it was the most reasonable thing in the world.

Yes. That's right. I had drunk-dialed G-Rob's house, perhaps forgetting for the moment that he was standing right next to me. His wife had answered and I thought, "Well, maybe G-Rob would like to talk to his wife, and what with him being all wasted and such, Mrs. G-Rob would certainly like to talk to him."

It was then (actually a couple of days later) that I had what alcoholics call "a moment of clarity."

I have a problem.

I'm a Drunk-Dialer.

It never used to be a big problem for me. In the past, everybody I knew was usually with me when I was drunk. But as I grew up and moved from state to state, most of my old drinking buddies were scattered about the country. I missed those folks and thought they'd love to share in my revelry.

So, as the years passed, I tried to confront my problem. In an intervention of sorts, my friends formed a short campaign of drunk-dialing me at all hours of the night. You know, just so I would know what it's like to be on the other end of the line. They employed all the old tricks:

"Man, I'm in X-city and I am wasted."
"Dude, I really wish you were here, man!"
"Man, this is just like the old days!"
"Hey, do you want to talk to my drunk friends? Here, let me pass the phone around!"

Looking back, I was quite the asshole. It's the things you don't realize until later that make you feel like a heel.

Much like the zenith of all addicitions, this one comes to a head in a particularly bloody fashion.

It was Christmas Party season a few years ago. My company had the most tiresome Christmas parties. All of the fun had been sucked out of them by corporate structuring and mandates. The only thing left to do was sit with my boss, drink scotch, and wait for it to be over. By the time we left, I was lit up, but acting at least somewhat responsible. My wife and I went to an after-party where I continued the binge. Within a couple of hours, word began to circulate that I had disappeared. When my wife found me, I was in a very precarious position.

That's right, friends, I was on the phone.

Now, I could've lied and said I was ordering a pizza or checking the time and temp. Hell, I could've lied and said I was on the phone with Marty. Or G-Rob's wife. But, as it is my crutch, I told the truth. I was on the phone with Stacy Lampe.

Lampe was a friend of mine from college. She and I never had a romantic relationship, though I'll admit pining for her during my freshman year. At some point during the evening, I got to thinking, "I wonder whatever happened to Lampe?"

The great enabler of all Drunk-Dialers is Directory Assistance. Within a few minutes, I had found Lampe's number and got her on the phone. Turned out, she was married like me. No word on how her husband felt about the midnight call.

At the time, I didn't see what the big deal was. However, as Mrs. Otis left me to stew in my own juices at the party, I began to realize that my Drunk-Dialing had risen to the level that it was affecting my family. I had to put an end to it. Right then and there.

Some friends decided that cell phone companies could make a mint if they'd develop the Breath-a-Phone, a cell with a built-in Blood Alcohol Content analyzer. Any BAC over .08 and the phone won't dial out except to 911.

It actually became a bit of a joke after that. Anytime I started tying one on, my friends would casually mention the Breath-a-Phone and I would dial back my silliness.

Since that time, I'm proud to say that I am now several years into Drunk-Dial sobriety. In the few times I've been able to get lit in the past year, I've only dialed out for taxi cabs.

Then, when I arrived at work this morning, Zip had e-mailed me an article.

Ever woken up one morning with a raging hangover that was promptly worsened by the memory of the drunken cell phone call to the ex at 3 a.m.?

If the memory is not painful enough, the aftermath--potentially involving apologies, restraining orders, a "friendly visit" from the ex's new partner (who is probably either a black belt in Zen Do Kai or a leading underworld figure) and sundry other humiliations--adds to the agony.

Amid the flurry of capped plans, bundling and discounting characterizing the pre-Christmas mobile marketplace, Australia's Virgin Mobile has sought to differentiate itself with a service tailored to help people avoid making those embarrassing drunken calls.

A survey of 409 people by Virgin Mobile, a joint venture of The Virgin Group and Optus, found 95 percent made drunken phone calls. Of those calls, 30 percent were to ex-partners, 19 percent to current partners, and 36 percent to other people, including their bosses.

The company said that, beginning Wednesday, Virgin Mobile customers could dial 333 plus a phone number they don't want to call when drunk. Virgin Mobile would--for a 25-cent fee--stop all calls to that number by blacklisting it until 6 a.m. the following day.

Finally, a cell phone company that recognizes the problems we DDers face.

Now, if I could just find a company that would keep me from doing shots of Jim Beam with G-Rob...now that would be a service I'd pay for.


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