Take a seat in Queenstown District Court’s public gallery and it’s easy to see why booze gets a bad rep.
The place is a factory farm for drunks.
On any given court date, I’d estimate 90 per cent of the cases involve someone who’s had too many.
And that’s not counting tragics who are just simply so completely schnozzled they can’t stand, walk or remember where they live.
In court, first up there’s your general drunken dicks – someone who pisses on a shop window, kicks a taxi, tells a cop where he can stick his truncheon, etc.
They’re mostly just before a registrar and then dealt with by way of diversion. Told, by some long-suffering copper, to clean the window, make a donation to charity, and stop being a tool.
Then you get to another level: violence and drink-driving.
Drink-drivers are the majority of cases being dealt with – mandatory ban and usually a fine for being a selfish git and potentially wrecking lives.
The violence, though, is proper sickening.
Street bawls, head kicks, fractured eye sockets, bouncers head-butted, bites, elbows, broken noses, glassings, assault with intent, assault with a weapon, male assaults female, family violence – a litany of ego-driven nastiness.
You can see why the government’s at pains to reduce drunkenness, especially when wider social issues are also considered.
I should say, I’m probably not the best person to write a scathing opinion piece on binge drinking.
Once, aged 18, I got so drunk on cider that I ran full speed and headfirst into a half-descended carpark barrier.
I connected only with my face, knocked myself out cold and can’t remember the hospital.
I’ve been mugged while drunk (hospital), head-butted while drunk (hospital), and spilt a full glass of red wine on someone else’s bride wearing a white wedding dress (major doghouse).
Most of these were long ago but in all cases, I was beyond what’s now considered an acceptable state in Queenstown.
It’s illegal to be very drunk in Queenstown.
‘Intoxicated’ is now defined by law.
You should be denied service and removed from a bar if two or more of your speech, coordination, appearance or behaviour are affected.
Indicators for speech are – slurring, difficulty forming words, loud, repetitive, forgetful, nonsensical, and unintelligible.
Indicators for coordination – spills drinks, stumbles, trips, weaves, walks into objects, unable to stand unaided, or sit straight.
For appearance – bloodshot eyes, eyes glazed, inability to focus, tired, asleep, dishevelled.
For behaviour – seriously inappropriate actions or language, aggressive, rude, belligerent, obnoxious to other customers.
A level below this – for example, being overly talkative and occasionally staggering – bar staff are supposed to ‘intervene’.
Maybe it’s for the best. I’ve been both a tragic and a general dick. And had some good-natured barperson refused to serve me it might have saved me from various indignities and hangover guilt.
On all these nights out, including ones in the resort, I’ve never hurt anyone or driven, stolen anything or been arrested – or, as one Australian did recently, peed in my mouth.
And the vast majority who go out in Queenstown each weekend are exactly the same.
Drinking, laughing, dancing: these are fun things to do. Being really drunk is also fun sometimes, although not always for the people out with you.
But what if, one night, our judgement was impaired and we ended up in court?
Maybe the idea of drinking till we are smashed should generally be consigned to the past.