4 Things to Help Make This New Year's a Good One

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With the clock ticking away, counting down the hours until 2014 gives way to 2015, many of us are planning our festivities for New Year's Eve, while others are planning on staying in to avoid the hassles associated with the holiday. So what are some strategies available to us to make sure that January 1, 2015, starts off on a good foot, and not with a mountain of regret?

4. Don't Drive Drunk.

New Year's Eve is sort of a strange holiday, in that it's one of the few nights of the year when Americans seem to collectively think it's okay to celebrate by getting completely sloshed in a sort of drunken, Bacchanalian rite of ringing in the New Year. There aren't many other holidays that are so closely associated with heavy drinking, to the point that a common response among people choosing not to join the drunken revelry is "I'm staying home; New Year's Eve is amateur night."

And that's probably not a bad strategy, according to The Texas Department of Transportation. Last year there were 218 alcohol-related DUI automobile crashes, resulting in ten fatalities and 76 injuries over the holiday, an astounding 25 percent increase from the years before. There will be more officers patrolling the streets looking for drunk drivers, so planning a night out at bars or drunken parties is a risky proposition for anyone who might drive afterward. No one wants to celebrate the New Year in jail for causing a wreck or getting pulled over in a drunk-driving sting.

So what can a person who's planning on celebrating with a few drinks do? Well, the responsible thing is to go out with a designated driver, or to rely entirely on cabs. Either strategy is easy enough to put into motion, and having a sober friend along has other advantages. Some of us probably can use someone with unimpaired judgment to keep us from engaging in other irresponsible or embarrassing activities on New Year's Eve. It's probably not a good thing to start drunk-dialing an ex or stripping off articles of clothing in a world where almost everyone has a camera and a Facebook account.

The same plan can be used for those who will attend a house party or two, but party throwers should also be prepared to police their friends and not let anyone impaired leave the party driving a car. I always kept a spare room set up for people to crash in overnight. It's way better than allowing them to drive off to a potentially tragic fate. Pro tip: Requiring everyone to surrender their keys as they arrive can work. I conveniently and temporarily "lost" quite a few sets at parties I threw over the years.

3. Idiots Will Probably Use Fireworks Inside the City. Be Prepared.

A lot of people enjoy fireworks. I don't see the appeal of firing off small-range explosive devices, or at least haven't since I was a teenager, but a lot of people do. That's fine, to each his own. There are laws against using fireworks in the city for very good reasons, and in a perfect world everyone would abide by those laws, but let's face it, we all know it's not a perfect world, and quite a few of us probably have some idiot neighbor who fires off the damn things despite living in a heavily populated neighborhood inside the city limits.

When I lived in an older Inner Loop area a few years ago, there were definitely those types of idiots around me. I still recall going outside on New Year's Eve to see some fool allowing his kids to shoot bottle rockets out of his backyard, and watching them land on his neighbor's roof where they were exploding. The cops were called, and after about 20 minutes, the aerial show suddenly ceased. The police are very busy on New Year's Eve, but I've always found them to be very polite and helpful when it came to these kinds of calls. In the past I've also tried to directly confront the person shooting off fireworks, and I don't advise that. An encounter with a possibly drunk and belligerent neighbor who already knows well enough that he is breaking the law isn't necessarily going to end well, so calling the authorities is probably the best strategy.

People who intend to be the folks blowing off fireworks inside the city should be cautioned that the authorities take this stuff seriously, and the days of getting a warning are largely over. Even allowing one's kids to have fireworks can result in huge fines, and there are people like myself who WILL call the cops. Just something to keep in mind.

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2. Bring in Your Animals. Even if They're "Outside" Pets. The sound of fireworks scares the bejesus out of dogs and cats, and every year, a bunch of them will escape from people's yards over the holidays. It's one of those sad things that a lot of folks don't think about, but many of those pets won't be found, and disappearances spike dramatically on New Year's Eve and the 4th of July. Besides, there's the potential that they will run off and never come back.

1. Know the Lyrics to "Auld Lang Syne." This isn't going to make New Year's Eve any safer, but most people don't seem to know the words to "Auld Lang Syne." Yet we mumble through it every year, usually slurring its mysterious lyrics in a word salad along with other people who also don't know the words to the damn thing. Here they are, for those who want to look like holiday pros:

"Should old acquaintance be forgot And never brought to mind Should all acquaintance be forgot And auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne, We'll take a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne

And surely you will buy your cup And surely I'll buy mine And we'll take a cup o'kindness yet For auld lang syne

We too have run around the slopes And picked the daisies fine We've londoned many weary foot Since auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne, We'll take a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne

We too have paddled in the stream From morning sun to night But the seas between us broad have roared From auld lang syne

For auld lang syne, my dear, For auld lang syne, We'll take a cup o' kindness yet, For auld lang syne We'll take a cup o'kindness yet For auld lang syne"

Keep in mind there are variations, but when everyone else drops out or murmurs his way past the first stanza, you'll still shine. The song was adapted from a Scottish poem written in 1788, which is why the lyrics are so odd. The phrase "Auld Lang Syne" loosely means "For the sake of old times."

We all want to see in the New Year without hurting ourselves, or anyone else, and without setting the neighbor's house on fire or waking up in jail. It's possible to let loose a little, have fun with family or friends, and, with a little planning, start 2015 with no more regret than a hangover, as long as we have a plan in place to keep the holiday a safe one for us and the people we care about. Have a Happy New Year, everyone.

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