A unique thought: It only takes one to ruin lives

There’s a song by The Kinks from 1966 called “I’m Not Like Everybody Else.”

The title of the song is repeated several times in the rock anthem, and it was a popular refrain among teen-agers in the 1960s. The worst thing one could be back then was plain-old average.

Some things never change.

Ask anyone you know if they are like everybody else, if he or she could be considered your stereotypical American, San Diegan, mother, father, attorney, school teacher, etc. Of course, no one will admit to being like everybody else.

We are proud to exclaim to the rest of the world that we are a nation of unique individuals. We don’t look, think, act or sound alike. Our differences are what make us interesting.

There are a few important ways in which we are alike. We want to live in peace. We want to be happy, healthy and safe, and we want our loved ones to be the same. We like to celebrate and have fun, and enjoy all the good we’ve experienced in our lives.

Many Americans look forward to three-day weekends like this one. Families and friends can gather, relax and enjoy each other’s company. Crank up the barbecue, open the ice chest and crack open a beer, it’s time for fun.

And we do have fun. We laugh a lot, we eat too much and we drink too many cold ones. When the day’s over, we pack ourselves and our gear and our loved ones into the car and head for home.

Not so fast. How much time has elapsed since that last drink?

Every year, the police and Highway Patrol officers and other emergency personnel warn us not to drink and drive. They tell sobering stories of young children killed by drunken drivers, and sometimes the driver is the child’s parent.

“It all happened so quickly,” the driver would say later in court. “I really thought I was OK to drive.”

That points to yet another way in which we’re alike. We like to think we can handle our alcohol. We don’t feel inebriated enough to hand over the keys. The truth is, however, that it can take as little as one drink to impair our judgment and our reflexes. And that one drink can change your life - and the lives of others - for the worse forever.

Everyone knows we’re not supposed to drink and drive. The problem is using that knowledge in our own lives. No, we’re not like everybody else, but we have to be just as vigilant and honorable as we’d want everyone else to be when it comes to drinking and staying off the roads.

This Memorial Day weekend, have fun, enjoy the freedoms we’re afforded thanks to the sacrifices of our servicemen and women, and if you’re going to drink, call a cab. Please.