Advice for Awkward People

On college-aged toddlers

Ruth Scherr, India Price Apr 23, 2017

Dear Ruth,

I just experienced my first Carnival ever, and it was a blast! On a more serious note, though, Carnival was pretty enlightening in that I realized I'm not really sure how to deal with drunk people.

As I navigated the various carnival activities, I saw my fair share of drunk people. Most of them were accompanied by a friends who seemed to know exactly what to do to get their friend home safely. After a while I started thinking to myself, "Do I know what to do if my friend needs help?" I'm worried that, at some point in my college career, someone is going to rely on me to make sure they're safe and sound.

I know the basics. Make sure they drink enough water. Don't let them go anywhere alone. But is there more I could be doing?

Best wishes,
Somewhere Off-Beeler, Evaluating Reason?

Dear SOBER,

So you've (theoretically) found yourself in possession of a pretty drunk friend that needs taking care of. Congratulations, I guess. You're now in charge of a toddler with a more extensive vocabulary and probably longer limbs.

Just like with toddlers, you want to make sure they're properly fed and hydrated. You already mentioned water, and you're right, because we all need water to live, and even though they've technically been drinking liquids all night, alcohol is a notorious dehydrator. You want to get them some food as well, though. I hope your friends are smart enough not to go drinking on an empty stomach, but just in case they aren't (and even if they are), some food will go a long way towards soaking up some of the alcohol in their system. They may not think they're hungry, especially if you've been out for a while, because excess liquid usually tricks us into think our stomachs are full, but once you get food in front of them they'll usually give in.

Now, to the prospect of getting them home. We don't let toddlers walk home alone, so we don't let drunk friends do it either. If, again, your friends are smart, they will have made some kind of plan for getting home before you went out — but plans can change, and sometimes they aren't even made, so here's your best course of action. Assuming it's very late at night or very early in the morning, an Uber or a Lyft is going to be super expensive, so I'd avoid it if you think you can. If your friend is still in reasonable control of their body, you can probably manage anything shorter than a 20 min walk. (Anything over that and I'm not really sure why you were planning on walking home in the first place.) Three's company in this case; having an extra (mostly) sober person with you will make your walk a lot easier and probably a lot less frustrating. There's definitely something to be said for having a partner in eye-rolling exasperation. If you can get them into their own bed, and they seem fine — they haven't passed out, they're still responsive, they still remember everything — then they're probably fine to leave. If they're coming home with you and they fit the above criteria, then find them a relatively comfy place, tell them a bedtime story, and set an alarm for, ideally, 3 p.m. the next day.

If at any point of the night, they pass out, start vomiting regularly (i.e., more than once), or are particularly zoned out or unresponsive, call EMS. If they're underage, amnesty exists, and even if for some reason it doesn't apply, it's still better for them to have an underaged drinking citation then to risk their health. And if they don't agree with you in the morning? Well, maybe don't go out with them again.

Have fun with your college-aged toddler,
Ruth