Drinking, Driving and Quality of Life
Have you ever had two cars totaled in mere seconds? While parked in front of your house?? It happened to us and I believe it speaks to an issue that’s raging now in Ocean City, NJ at the moment… alcohol.
We’ve been vacationing in Ocean City, NJ for over thirty-eight years. It began with weekends when we first lived in the Philadelphia area and gradually progressed to two weeks every summer even after we moved seven hours away. With all the moving we’ve done Ocean City became the comfortable constant in our life. It was always like coming home.
When we moved back to Philly in ’92 it was great to be close enough for day and weekend trips again. The town hasn’t changed much over the years and we like that.
Ocean City was founded in 1879 as a Methodist retreat. That conservative ethos remains to this day. It has always been a dry town, meaning no bars or liquor stores allowed. Until 1986 there were Blue Laws that forbid businesses to open on Sunday.
I have to admit it didn’t bother me all that much having Sundays for quiet time with family and no one begging to visit an arcade or ice cream shop. The ‘dry’ aspect didn’t bother us either.
Fortunately there are huge liquor stores at the mouth of each bridge going into Ocean City. Our kids believed they couldn’t cross the bridge into OC without a case of beer on their laps.
In 2000 we bought a house in Ocean City. Best investment we’ve ever made. We’ve never objected to the law forbidding alcohol sales. We bring our own. There’s a referendum to change that law, just a bit, on the ballot in November.
The restaurant association of OC has been fighting to allow BYOB, which to most means Bring Your Own Bottle but to the opponents means Beware Ye Of Blasphemy. There is a lot of Armageddon rattling going on.
Back to the accident…
When we bought our house in March of 2000 we enjoyed as much time there as possible and looked forward to enjoying the fall because we could. Rentals normally run from Memorial Day to Labor Day so often you miss the sweetest time of year.
On a warm Sunday in October we were relaxing on the porch sipping wine and enjoying the quiet long into the night with our son and daughter-in-law. There were only five cars visible for blocks and three of them were ours. It was heaven! Around midnight we finally gave in and went to bed.
At 2:00am we heard a crash and a car alarm. Dave sat up and said, “Someone’s breaking into your car!” I said, “This car doesn’t have an alarm.” (I had just gotten it four days before and driven it only twice.) It was an older VW Cabriolet.
“Oh shit! It’s my car!” he yelled as we got up and ran for the porch.
At first glance through my groggy eyes I thought, “No, both cars are here, no one stole them.” Then I realized my car wasn’t where I’d parked it and Dave’s was on the neighbor’s sidewalk!
A neighbor came running over and told us she’d seen the car that hit us because he stopped to assess his damages before running/driving away. The cops found him by her description and following the oil trail.
He was a seventeen year old local kid who had just left a party around the corner and was too drunk to handle the turn onto our street.
The point is this… Ocean City is not a ‘dry’ town and never has been. We prefer to drink at home on our porch and not have to worry about driving. Most of our neighbors do too.
When we want to go out for a nice dinner however we have to hire a cab and go to the mainland. There’s the rub for the restaurants in OC. Fine dining never survives long because most people who appreciate a great meal prefer having a nice glass of wine with it.
The conservatives in OC believe this will cause more drinking in town. They refuse to admit it goes on all the time and not just with those of legal drinking age.
I would not like to see bars or a liquor store in OC. I don’t believe the restaurant association wants that either. They just want a fair shot at competing with restaurants on the mainland and I think that’s fair.
I will be happy to walk to a restaurant in the summer with a bottle of wine and keep the money in our town rather than take it elsewhere.
Have you experienced a dry town? I hope you haven’t had two cars totaled at once but if so please share!