By William Whitaker
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, August 26, 2004
While working at a newspaper in Ohio, I had the strange fortune of writing a story on an amateur baseball player famous for his temper and venereal diseases.
His name was Clarence "Itchy" Walker, and he was the reason an entire community had been without alcohol for more than 60 years.
According to many news reports and history buffs from Itchy's heyday, he decided one night to have a few drinks at a roadhouse and, you know, punch as many people as he could. He was shanked later that evening.
The episode so upset people living nearby that they launched a religious witch-hunt and shut down every bar they could, which was all of them. So what did people needing a drink have to do? They came to West Virginia. Wild, wonderful (as their license plates say) and very willing to accommodate your every alcoholic wish.
So maturing to drinking age in northern West Virginia, I developed a preternatural ability to effectively employ foul language and get out of the way of enormous fights. I also learned that the phrase "last call" carries about as much weight and respect as "plausible deniability." As a result I'm having trouble with the hoopla surrounding Tucson's new 2 a.m. cutoff.
There is no fundamental difference between a 1 a.m. and a 2 a.m. last call. Nor is there a significant change when 3 a.m. rolls around. However, 4 a.m. is when things get difficult.
Decisions made on the fly at this time of morning usually result in wearing a prison jumpsuit or a poorly planned joyride across back roads that inadvertently finishes three hours later in Pennsylvania Amish country.
Maybe I'm alone on the Amish thing.
The people who suffer from this new change are those in the hospitality industry, who likely view the extra hour as yet another nail in their occupational coffins. Police, too, will bemoan the change - and rightfully so - but any officer will tell you that DUI arrests are not a late-night-specific phenomenon.
There is no way the majority of Americans will ever develop a nonchalant attitude about alcohol consumption, which makes the additional hour such a hot issue. Conversely, young drinkers will never give the majority of Americans a reason to be nonchalant about imbibing.
This will be evidenced by the mass of students who will likely behave this weekend as if they have been given a new lease on life (you could probably throw me into that mix also, what the hell). They (we) will act as though we've been outfitted with new artificial "beer livers" that can be emptied as needed.
The real winners in this situation are students. Nothing can be more beneficial to college students than an extended last call. There is no better formula for pissing away financial aid and making mom and dad proud than getting wheeled into UMC around dawn with 20 or so shots and a quart of moonshine made with gasoline in your belly.
In an age that seems more sympathetic to the Women's Christian Temperance Union than the cast of "Animal House," it is surprising such a piece of legislation would even be considered.
Nevertheless, it's here now and what we decide to do with our new special gift remains to be seen. Whatever happens, it will probably involve waking up in a pile of sand at a children's playground in Oklahoma, smelling like a high school locker room and wondering why the phrase "I am Mariah Carey" is written on your chest in black Sharpie.
Or maybe I'm alone on that, too.