Safe Rides is needed, but is not easy

While most high schoolers look forward to dances at Arch Street (which we are worriedly anticipating will be canceled because of the recent incidents of allegedly intoxicated teens there) or the occasional concert in New York City, any high schooler will attend, at some point or another, a house party.

In its way, it’s an inevitable part of any student’s high school experience.

House parties are synonymous with underage drinking and drugs, and I’m not trying to refute that claim. This column isn’t an attempt to somehow “expose” these house parties, or talk about the wild illegal activity that goes on at them. Rather, I am trying to describe a “house party experience” that I had.

This past Friday, I volunteered for the Greenwich Red Cross Chapter’s Safe Rides program. If you haven’t heard of it here are the basics: Instead of having kids try to drive drunk home from a party, they can call the Safe Rides number and the chapter dispatches a driver and assistant in a Red Cross car to pick them up and drive them home safely, teaching them about making good choices and removing potential dangers from the road.

It was the first time I’d ever done this and I was hesitant at first. But I eventually decided to go instead of spending the night in. About eight kids from my school gathered in the Red Cross building and plugged in the Safe Rides phone. Within five minutes we had our first call and I sat in the passenger’s seat, working the radio, while my friend drove.

We drove from the building right off exit 5 to around the Greenwich-Stamford border. The kid we picked up clearly wasn’t inebriated or at any party. Instead he was just trying to get a free ride. However, I can’t criticize him because I can’t say I haven’t thought of doing it myself. We got back and within 20 minutes, after filling out a sheet about the passenger we delivered (which doesn’t record a last name since the entire service is anonymous), we had another pickup.

In our Red Cross Honda Odyssey we rode down I-95 to exit 3 by the Greenwich-Port Chester border. This one was actually a party. Music blared from inside and the two kids we picked up were, of course, drunk. I was honestly sick of it already, but the 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. shift was just beginning and Greenwich’s drunk teens were in need of a safe ride. So my friend and I continued.

We played music and tried to stay awake while we dealt with drunk high schoolers in the backseat who give terrible directions. And we had to constantly refuse the requests to “stop at McDonald’s” or to “stop at the Mobil so I can get a light — you guys all right if I smoke in here, right?” (I’m not kidding about that last one … we had to deny him).

All in all we hit about five parties, and drove over three hours. By the end of the night we had both truly experienced the roads of Greenwich. We made it to the depths of Riverside, the Avenue, back country, Cos Cob, Byram, Chickahominy and traveled the length of U.S. 1 and I-95 several times.

Doing Safe Rides wasn’t exactly my idea of a good time. There was hardly any time at the chapter office because calls kept coming in. We got home extremely late. I was with kids that smelled like beer and pot so much that I was worried my parents would smell it on me. But all in all, I was glad I did it.

I got to drive all around town and really see everywhere in Greenwich. We got to help out some kids who were clearly not fit to drive home. The night made me appreciate Greenwich, not just for the neighborhoods and places we visited, but for the fact that we have a program like Safe Rides.

 

Henry Haig is a junior at Brunswick School.

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