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Are We Still Mad Men?

February 16, 2010

Laura Sucheski
Are We Still Mad Men?

I've been watching a ton of Mad Men lately. If you don't watch it, the show is about the 1960s office and home life of a Madison Avenue advertising executive with a mysterious past. If you were to take a shot every time one of the characters does something horribly dangerous and now socially unacceptable (examples: smoking while pregnant, drinking while pregnant, drinking at work, sexually harassing secretaries/clients/friend's wives) you would be pass-out drunk by the first commercial break. It's great we're enlightened, right? The sad truth is that things have not changed much when it comes to drunk driving.

Exhibit A: a real conversation I had with some 5Cers:

Me: DC is great because the public transportation system pretty much eliminates the need to drive from bars to home.
Other 5Cer: Oh, hahah, I drive better when drunk anyway.
Yet another 5Cer: Hahahahahah!  (not horrified).

This is absolutely heartbreaking. Through alcohol education and increased legal consequences, we've changed most of the offensive Mad Men-esqe behavior. Everyone reading this article knows the legal limit. That leaves only social attitudes relatively unchanged since 1960.

The problem with drunk driving is that it's hit or miss, no horrible pun intended. If you drink while pregnant, it will affect your child. If you make sexually inappropriate comments to your secretary, it will affect your career. But usually, drunk driving doesn't have immediate consequences. Most of the time people drive drunk, they don't get in an accident or pulled over. Importantly, the drunk driver saves herself the awkward prospect of either sleeping in her car or arranging alternative transportation. Sadly, for most people, it takes a powerful emotional experience to realize that drunk driving is always a bad idea.

California produces conditions especially conducive to drunk driving accidents. We have no public transportation, lots of suburban sprawl, and few sidewalks. People love to exercise outdoors, so the roads are shared by drivers, cyclists, and runners. In my hometown, drunk driving deaths were horrifyingly common. A best friend's mother, an Ironwoman champion and elementary school teacher, was struck on her bicycle as she trained in the afternoon after school got out. She died four days later, leaving three young daughters, her husband, and our small town devastated. A high school classmate is in Folsom Prison[*] for killing two former classmates and injuring two others on the Fourth of July. All had just finished their first year of college at different UCs.

I thank God that Claremont's drinking culture is always within walking distance. I definitely don't have enough confidence in my peers at the 5Cs not to risk their own lives and others on the road. What do you think?


[*]Yeah, like the Johnny Cash song.

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