Thinking on Drinking

Much to my amusement, I was carded this evening for a non-alcoholic beverage. It’s sort of funny to me that I’ve gone from never, ever being carded to being carded every time I even think about touching alcohol. Or even something that looks like alcohol, apparently. Since I so rarely imbibe and I don’t drive, it’s a major nuisance for me, since my id is usually sitting in my desk at home under a pile of wadded bills and a grocery list or two.

It would appear that the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control is getting frisky again, or that I’m looking youthful. Since I’ve been feeling particularly bitter and surly lately, I suspect the former. I’m not quite sure that the thought process for the ABC is, although a local restaurant owner once told me that most of the investigations are based on actual complaints. Since many places around here are fairly lax, especially places with high turnover, perhaps self righteous citizens are calling in ABC complaints left and right. The ABC is hiring, for those of you who have a passion for law enforcement. And if you want to read the ABC’s stance on underage drinking, here it is (.pdf format).

I am not a big fan of the ABC. I understand that prevailing laws in the United States take a firm stance on drinking below the age of 21, but I do not like the enforcement tactics used by the ABC. For one thing, they rely heavily on minor decoys, which I think is super slimy. Their minors tend to be female, attractive, and reasonably close to the legal age; pretty much a recipe for securing a violation. Incidentally, they also have a task force for “Teenage Party Prevention, Enforcement, and Dispersal.” Because the only thing worse than underage drinking is forcing underage drunk teens to drive home from a party.

Look. I’m not belittling the issue of underage drinking. I don’t think it’s a hot idea, and I certainly don’t think that drinking and driving are a good combination, ever. But I do think that this country needs to reevaluate the drinking age. In many other nations, for example, the drinking age is 18. I think that’s a reasonable age. Especially if we relax restrictions about drinking at home, so that kids can experience alcohol under parental supervision, and learn that it’s not terribly exciting, all told. 21 seems like a high drinking age to me, when you join the military at 17 with parental permission. Shoot all you want, but don’t drink!

I’m actually surprised that the alcohol lobby hasn’t succeeded in getting the drinking age lowered. You’d think they would be all about it, since 18-21 is a hot market. Why is it that we make rather dull things elusive and seductive, thus encouraging people to try them? Is the alcohol lobby secretly afraid that sales might go down when 18 year olds can walk into bars? Teenagers are like cats; when you tell them not to do something, they’re damn well going to do it and we all know it. I don’t think we need to go as far as filling public fountains with beer, but maybe we need to rethink the way that we handle alcohol, as a society. As things stand now, the situation is far from healthy.