Letters to the Pilot

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Try church-hopping to replace the BV barhop

Eric Nelson's fine story in the Pilot-Tribune on Feb. 4, 2003, about BVU's binge drinking problem resonated with me all weekend. Now, I will categorically deny recent problems with this substance myself (I'm a Medical Marijuana Advocate, recall), but I will just as categorically admit that once upon a time, some 30 years ago or so, I found myself "barhopping" in Storm Lake and making acquaintances with Buena Vista College students (now that is dating me right there, right?). In response to his article, I must first note what I found most interesting from that Feb. 4, 2003, bit:

1) Alcohol equals the inability to make rational decisions.

2) BVU now has a "Substance Free" dormitory (aren't they all supposed to be "substance free?") This sounds like the "drug and alcohol free" zones touted in some prisons.

3) Bartenders say maybe they shouldn't let anybody in under 21. (Please pinch me if they aren't mandated to card everybody at the door already?)

4) Maybe the bars should end their avowed "Binge Night" policy - duh!

5) One bartender even said they were told; if a patron is visibly over the limit and stumbling or falling down they should: a) cut that person off, or b) make drinks a little weaker, or c) make sure friends get the person home safely. Actually, folks, the law already mandates liability to the bar owner if the bartender does not "cut the patron off." Making drinks " a little weaker" (and therefore more profitable) will probably just cause a fatal accident really soon - that bartender needs to go to ALCOHOL 101!

6) Good bouncers are necessary for crowded bars because there is alcohol involved (by definition, that is, you know, because things get broken, people hurt).

7) I really like the apparently defined terms "Wet Campus" and "Wet but Responsible Campus" (the second one is called an "oxymoron," I think. See #1 above, eh?)

8) I learned a new one from the guy that said he was not a "sugarcoater," then stated his "positive correlation of alcohol and raucous behavior" and then that because of alcohol "normally levelheaded people became pretty erratic."

9) Glass bottle drinking is banned because of the broken glass problem inevitably to follow.

10) Bars are one of the few connections to the community that most college student have (along with Wal Mart, of course).

That all having been said (and believe me, this type of story must be told!), like I said, this resonated with me all weekend as I hopped around to my own favorite "haunts."

The thing is, about a year ago I started to try to attend at least two churches each Sunday. Yes, I became a "Churchhopper" and I'm proud of it - really I am. In Chicago, most churches are far-flung and far-between, so I could only get in one or two, at most, assuming a little coffee time in between, and a straggler Sunday School class or two here or there.

So after reading this story, I decided to see just how many churches I could hop to on any given Sunday, since Storm Lake is blessed with this densely populated church district. Why I counted at least five within the space of a single hit (a single gesture of parking the car, that is). The best strategy, I think, for the neophyte churchhopper (oh, that rolled out nice, didn't it?) would be to start out at one end, and work your way across the pack, one by one. So Sunday I looked in the Storm Lake Pilot-Tribune for the directory of times, and I decided to start with St. Mary's (for you academically schizophrenic people, the outta-towner University students, that is of the Catholic variety, since they have an 8 o'clock mass, and a good one, too). Then I was a "late walk-in" to the Methodist franchise, (my boss never gets mad at me when I intend to attend, late but not never) where I came in just in time to get the tail end of the sermon and a really fine film clip from "Scrooge" with Bill Murray.

Now, I don't know if those Methodists do this every Sunday, but when I followed the exit crowd (they always lead you to coffee and sweet rolls, you learn that fast on the circuit), low and behold, they had a full three course breakfast all set up. Then I walked over to the Presbyterian church, the one I was born into, no less, for the Bob Dylan inspired Sunday School class given by Tom Daniels, but don't get me started on that guy again. After that session concluded, I went right on into the sanctuary for another rousing sermon about miracles. OK, so my first time out in Storm Lake in a long time, I hit FOUR church events, without really trying, and that is just what I am here to tell you about right?

It's called churchhopping, and here is what I want to say about it, really:

Those BVU students that never get any real community involvement in the FOUR or so years they drink here in town, might want to start getting to know a good church or two - we've a whole bunch of them here, really.

The Storm Lake city fathers should encourage Churchhopping, as an entertainment event, if for no other reason so as to discourage kids from thinking there is no real entertainment in town (and believe me, I don't think there are any real competing events planned on any given Sunday morning, that is!)

There might be tourist class visitors (you know, with shorts, T-shirts, golf bags, cameras coming and going). Now I'm not saying that the church can't turn on the blue light special sign, meaning that they don't want people coming in or leaving while the sermon is on, that is. You know, some restrictions still apply.

Who knows, this sorta plan might work after all to get more of those golf widowers to at least make the quick stop in the church on the way to the links, now that it is socially acceptable to eat and run, eh?

But seriously folks, we all agree that alcohol consumption, especially routine, especially in excess, especially in young people, especially where the young people are in a strange community where they don't feel especially welcome in the local institutions (other than bars or Wal-Mart, that is) causes great harm to themselves, the community and perhaps more than a few unlucky people trying to merely drive safely through the thicket of inebriated bingers on their way from one bar to another. Alcohol is known as a potent excito-toxin, meaning that binge drinking bums out thousands of brain cells on contact, no less...

The new crowd on Sunday mornings won't get outta hand. Let's just get going to give these college age people some new entertainment in town, OK?

Paul Peterson,

Storm Lake