The Holiday Party: Managing the Impairment

  • Published
  • By Al Jones
  • Air Force Safety Center, Human Factors Division
This year I'm determined to have the best holiday party ever. I know Lt. Col. Smith down the street is going to have his big production. That man is so insecure ... it's pathetic the way he's always trying to compete with me. Not just pathetic, but also sad ... so very, very sad. Pathetic and sad, that's what he is. He wishes he could be half as cool as I am. Everyone always says how great my parties are. Anyway, if I'm going to outdo him this year, I have to concentrate on the basics. I've simply got to come up with a better centerpiece. What was it Martha was saying? Oh yeah, "A footed clear glass bowl piled high with colored glass tree ornaments makes a pretty centerpiece, in place of flowers." How true, how true. 

I'm on pretty shaky ground here at the Safety Center ... one more incident and I'm bound to get fired. I need to make sure there are no safety episodes at my party. I'll need plenty of nonalcoholic drinks and at least three designated drivers. Capt. Wurmstein said he probably won't be drinking, but I know once everybody else starts, he'll jump in. He's not bringing a date this year; that's a real shock -- with his face, he couldn't buy a date. I better go ahead and get him a ride in advance, so he's free to have a few if he so desires. Last year he showed everyone how macho he was by climbing up on the roof and writing his name in the snow on my front lawn. He says "macho." I say "obnoxious." How he got up there without a ladder I'll never know. 

I've heard another tip for planning a party is to provide a wide range of food and activities for guests. Serve food that's high in protein and carbohydrates. Cheeses and meats are especially good, because they stay in the stomach longer, which slows the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol. So if I serve a lot of food, that should take care of any drinking problems.
Sounds good, but I should bounce this off Dr. Hughes. No need to waste that "know it all" psychology doctorate of his. Although he was way off the mark when he analyzed me as being a narcissistic buffoon ... I don't even think "buffoon" is a real medical term. 

Man, you can never get a simple, or short, answer from that guy. It's hard to remember everything he said ... I was dozing off after the first hour. All I wanted to know was if I was taking the right steps to make sure my guests wouldn't be impaired by the alcohol they drank at my party. Then Dr. "Downer" tells me, "If you drink any amount of alcohol, you're already impaired." What a nerd -- I bet he never has any fun. Oh well, at least he'll be one of the designated drivers. 

If any amount of alcohol introduces an element of impairment, I guess anyone who drinks has to manage their impairment. If it takes the average body about one hour to process one ounce of alcohol, you'd think you could drink four drinks in the first 45 minutes of the party and then be good to go four hours after you arrived at the party. Right? 

Not so fast. The body processes alcohol at a steady rate. So if you start at a higher rate, it will take a longer time to process. 

If you drink a lot, even after you process the alcohol, you still have to deal with the effects of a hangover. Been there, done that. 

What about my other invitees? Maj. Hinkle is a female, fairly petite and no sign of body fat, so she may process alcohol a little differently. 

Lt. Johnson is chunky -- I'm being kind -- he may process the alcohol differently, too. He may not feel the effects as soon, but the alcohol may stay with him longer. 

This is tougher than I thought. I guess there are no guarantees. The only thing for sure is that if you drink, you introduce some level of impairment. Maybe Doc Hughes was right (he's so smug ... I hate it when he's right). 

I guess the bottom line is I shouldn't fool myself into believing my actions will eliminate any alcohol problems. Still, I'll do my part to be a responsible host. 

If we're going to go from 6 to 11, I'll need to stop serving alcohol by 10. I'll have two guest bedrooms set up for anyone who may need to sleep it off. I'll have designated drivers identified and have the "Dial a Ride" number posted for everyone to see. I'll also keep an eye on everyone and ensure no one appears too loaded. 

I'll do everything I can do, but I guess anyone who drinks needs to know they are responsible for managing their impairment. A prearranged, designated, nondrinking driver sounds like the right way to go. If you're going to manage your impairment, the best option is making management decisions before you get even a little bit impaired. 

OK, now that I have that squared away, I've got to work on the seating arrangement. I don't need a repeat of last year's fiasco. I don't care what Maj. Musselman says -- flatulence may be perfectly natural, but it still ruined last year's party. He's definitely sitting out on the porch this year -- I can't let him near the fireplace again.