The Law of Unintended Consequences

From the New York Times:

The tradition is “power hour,” or “21 for 21,” as it is known in some other places across the country: 21-year-olds go to a bar at midnight on their birthdays, flash newly legal identification and then try to down 21 shots in the hour or so before the bar closes, or as fast as possible.

It can be a deadly rite of passage. Officials in California, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, Rhode Island and Texas have reported deaths from such drinking binges over the last five years.

Colleges and cities have tried various tactics to stop the ritual, and now, hoping to deprive power hour of its frenzy, Texas and North Dakota are considering legislation that would declare that 21-year-olds reach the legal drinking age not at the stroke of midnight on their birthdays but seven or eight hours later in the morning.

And who caused this problem in the first place? The same politicians attempting to fix it now. All of my friends did the shot train when we turned 21, which involved lining up 42 shots, 21 on each side of the table. The birthday boy hits his side alternating with whoever steps forward to slam the shot on the other side, taking him from zero to sixty in less than half and hour. I was in high school when the drinking age was raised from 18 in my state and most of my class just missed being grandfathered in, so, needless to say, by the time we had the opportunity to legally go out and drink, we went overboard making up for lost time.

At my court hearing, the judge asked if there were any mitigating factors. (Among other things, I’d ended up in the hospital AND the police station on my 21st birthday, thanks to the White Buffalo and Big Chilly.) When I told him that it had been my 21st birthday, he sighed and put his head down on his desk before giving me the mandatory minimum. Hence the THUG LIFE tattoo across my stomach, or wait, maybe that’s Tupac. Anyhow….

European countries don’t have this particular problem because without a hard-and-fast drinking age, their youth don’t tend to fetishize it the way Americans do. True, their lack of an automobile culture reduces the inherent dangers of drinking and driving, but no law will keep a hammered 21-year old from driving anyhow, since a BAL over thirty is not exactly conducive to contemplation.

About the only thing dumber than the drinking laws are the little portable breathalyzers that you can buy now. As Tucker Maxx points out, they’re like waving a big red flag in front of a herd of really dumb, really excitable bulls. Then again, one could make a powerful case for them as modern evolutionary aids.