Yes, we should all have to pay for drunk tanks whether we drink alcohol or not, and here's why

We live in a culture which laughs off alcoholism and castigates veganism and ‘clean living’, and we’re all responsible for it

Shaparak Khorsandi
Friday 29 December 2017 15:51
Comments
I’m in no position to judge the 70 per cent of A&E users over the Christmas period who are there because they have drunk more than their bodies and brains could handle. I came of age in the nineties
I’m in no position to judge the 70 per cent of A&E users over the Christmas period who are there because they have drunk more than their bodies and brains could handle. I came of age in the nineties

News broke today that “drunk tanks” could be introduced across our cities to ease the burden on the NHS (which does not, as Simon Stevens is quick to clarify, stand for National Hangover Service). Drunk tanks are mobile units where paralytic partygoers, or, as my whisky-loving father calls them, “amateur drunks”, can safely sleep off a jug of cheap cocktails as a healthcare professional mops up their sick, wee and/or poo.

We need to look after our young drunks, right? Because c’mon! Who hasn’t woken up in a pool of their own vomit on the street looking up at St John Ambulance crew? Eh? It’s FUN, isn’t it? Just young people having fun, the sort when you black out, lose your shoe and piss yourself on the pavement. It’s a rite of passage! Or so we tell ourselves.

Sadly, I’m in no position to judge the 70 per cent of A&E users over the Christmas period who are there because they have drunk more than their bodies and brains could handle. I came of age in the nineties. Back then we didn’t have the adverts we see on TV now when you’re informed you are not meant to come home with sick in your hair. So how were we meant to know it wasn’t compulsory?

I matched the boys pint for pint without considering I was half their size and had had no dinner. I embraced the “ladette” culture of that decade wholeheartedly. Despite being full of shame and regret after most nights out, I would insist, through bloodshot eyes, treading on the soggy carpet of my own self-worth, that I was HAVING FUN!

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A quick glance at social media and I see many are declaring that the drunks themselves should be made to pay for these tanks. Why should those of us who are not drunk to that degree, in that particular high street, at that particular time, be made to fork out for those who are? Why should we have to pay to keep them safe?

It’s simple: we live in a culture where, if you turn up for work on a Monday morning and announce you are still suffering from Saturday night’s hangover – and if anyone knows of a small statue of a pony which has gone missing, it’s now in your bedroom and you have no idea how it got there – chances are your colleagues will smile indulgently, and praise your impressive disregard for your own health and other people’s property.

However, if you go into work and tell your colleagues that you spent your weekend meditating, doing yoga and trying out a new plant-based recipe book, chances are you’ll be seen as some sort of radical, hell-bent on imposing your utterly boring lifestyle on others.

While we have this cultural outlook, we are all responsible for those who do not take the advice on the label and “drink responsibly”.

We accept, in our society, that young people will, until they learn to hold their drink, throw up everywhere and have nights they cannot remember because “it’s all part of growing up”.

Learning to tie your shoe laces is part of growing up. So is learning that pretending to like the same music as someone will not make them fancy you. I’m not sure if getting hammered to the point of blackout every weekend needs to be. So why do we accept its inevitability?

We don’t let our hair down enough sober. We make friends when drunk at weddings then feel slightly awkward with them the next day at the breakfast buffet. If someone asks us how we are, we give a polite answer; we don’t put them in a position of actually having to listen to our feelings. Unless we have had a drink. Then we can’t stop banging on about our feelings before suddenly cutting our conversation dead because Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody” has come on and “I just have to dance to this!”

When I was 20, a friend stayed in one Friday night because she was too engrossed in her book to come out and get catastrophically drunk with the rest of us. I envied her. Fancy being so grounded that you can stand your own company on a Friday night.

I send myself demented thinking about my children having similar escapades as me when drunk. Climbing onto roofs, wandering off with strangers, stealing small statues… I don’t want this to be inevitable for them. I want what most parents want for their children: for them to be still, sober and glued to me until they are 97 and ready to venture into the world on their own.

So, if it isn’t possible to completely change our culture so that young people regard three camomile teas in a row to be the height of hedonism, then drunk tanks should be provided and paid for by the rest of us who perhaps could have done with them in our own hazy days.

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