I did not arrive high to my friends’ New Year’s Eve party. However, I did take the bus rather than drive, and I was prepared to walk home later, figuring I might imbibe something interesting at the party and might wind up staying there until well after the buses stopped running for the night. I love to walk anyway, and my friends’ house is only a few miles from my own.
But I didn’t get high at the party, nor did I stay long. They were piping in the Billy Strings concert from Louisiana on speakers and on a big screen, and while I get that Mr. Strings is a brilliant musician, bluegrass has never been my particular flavor. So after about 45 minutes of saying hello to people, exchanging hugs, and making limited amounts of small talk over the music, I did a quick goodbye round, hugging friends a second time, and then heading for the closet to grab my jacket. I figured I would be in plenty of time to catch a bus home after all. And bus rides are free on New Year’s Eve in Portland. I love that.
But first I checked in with my buddy Darryl, who was sitting quietly in a chair, a blank expression on his face. He told me he wanted to leave too, but there was a small problem – he was too high on THC edibles to drive himself home. He had made a little mistake earlier and taken more than he’d realized. And he lived across the Willamette River, several miles away.
I said, “Well, I’ll probably be home in 45 minutes or so, depending on how soon the bus comes. I’m not high, so I can jump in my car when I get home and come back here and pick you up and drive you home if you want. Or if you just want to come with me now and sleep in my guest room, that’s fine.”
Darryl thought about it. “You know what would really help me? It’s a big favor but … could you drive me home in MY car now instead, and then I’ll call an Uber to drive you home when we get to my house?”
I agreed, though I felt some small trepidation about driving Darryl’s car. As a rule, I’m skittish about driving other people’s vehicles, especially newer cars like Darryl’s Tesla which runs in ways my body doesn’t entirely understand. My own car is a 1990 Geo Prizm, and many of the things I do when I drive my own car, like, say, slowing down on downhills, happen automatically in the Tesla. The Tesla has a mind of its own, and the GPS talks to you, which I hate, so I had Darryl turn it off.
Also, I was ever-so-slightly nervous because, though I wasn’t high, I was driving without my license or any other form of I.D., having deliberately left my wallet at home, figuring I wouldn’t need it and that there was a non-trivial chance I’d be high as a kite later, so why risk losing it?
Anyway, we made it to Darryl’s house with no glitches. I was proud of my designated driving performance, and Darryl gave me generous kudos for it too. Unfortunately, though, when Darryl checked his phone, we learned that no Uber driver would be available to fetch me before 5 a.m.
“Well,” said Darryl. “You want to sleep here tonight?”
“No!” I said emphatically. “I want to go home. Do you also have Lyft by any chance? Or can you just call me a taxi? Do taxis still exist?”
Darryl spoke to the artificial intelligence within his phone, inquiring about taxis. (I still don’t completely get it about people talking to Siri and her descendants. Freaks me out a little. I’m old school. I just google stuff.) I don’t recall now if the answer came back ambiguous or if it didn’t come at all, or if Darryl simply spontaneously chose not to wait for the answer, because he put the phone down abruptly and said, “I’ll just drive you home. I’m feeling better now.”
“But aren’t you still high?”
“Yeah, but … I think I’m probably fine now.”
“Well, let’s wait a little while,” I suggested, and Darryl agreed.
We went inside and had some snacks. I read out loud a few pages from Barack Obama’s presidential memoirs, which I had gifted Darryl for Christmas and was hoping he might actually read himself at some point. Darryl played me a couple of songs by an obscure ethereal folk artist whom he thought I’d find interesting. And then I announced I was ready to go home and asked if he felt ready to drive, and he did. So back in the car we went.
I was grateful that Darryl was gracious enough to drive me home; he was grateful I’d been gracious enough to drive him home first. As we got on the highway, Darryl handed me his phone so I could scroll through his playlists and select music for us to listen to there in the car. I noticed, looking at the phone screen, that it was 12:01 a.m.
“Hey, happy new year!” I said.
Darryl chuckled. “Happy new year!”
And we exchanged a brief fist bump, though he kept his eyes responsibly on the road.
My friend Darryl is actually a highly accomplished singer-songwriter and recording artist. Here is a song he wrote many years ago about an entirely different type of New Year’s Eve.