After last week’s column about DUIs, a reader named Mona, sent me a one word e-mail, “Sobering.” I hate it when readers are more clever than I am. You’d think by now I’d be used to it.

I received a total of 26 e-mails, though some were not exactly complimentary. For that matter, some were not exactly cordial. Some felt that I was too easy on drunk drivers, while others were highly critical of MADD, not to mention me.

John Davis pointed out that, while I mentioned former President Bush (I love seeing “former president” and Bush in the same sentence) and VP Cheney’s DUI convictions, I neglected to include Ted Kennedy’s drinking problems. “I guess you don’t believe in accountability for your liberal heroes,” Mr. Davis wrote, as though I have a framed photo of Ted on my wall. Actually, I have one of Jack.

Sadly, Mr. Davis entirely missed the theme of the column and saw only politics. (And, as long as he was at it, couldn’t resist a dig or three.) I’m always mystified with e-mails that begin with an insult. No easing into the perjoratives, just open with “Dear Jerk.” I suppose by the time a reader is so irritated that they’re e-mailing they can forget their manners.

My column had nothing to do with liberals or conservatives. I don’t think that DUI victims’ families are much concerned with a drunk driver’s political leanings.

I specifically didn’t mention Bush or Cheney by name. I referred to our last president and VP as having DUIs, to illustrate how pervasive the problem is that our top two leaders were convicted of that behavior. And one of them, twice. (First name rhymes with “sick.”)

I received another rather critical e-mail from a Mr. McKwaig who contends that “MADD is the worst terrorist group in the world.” (Don’t you hate it when people are so wishy-washy?) I don’t know how to respond to Mr. McKwaig, other than to say that when al-Qaeda finds out they’ve been replaced by MADD, they may be a little crabby. And no offense, but is McKwaig really your last name?

John Kruzelock accuses MADD (and me) of distorting the numbers of DUI related deaths and suggests that I “should do my homework,” yada yada. You’ve got me, John. I can’t swear if it’s 16,000 or 18,000 DUI related deaths every year. I went to a few Web sites and compared numbers. But honestly, does the exact number really matter? Can’t we just agree it’s a shameful number of people, a lot of whom were totally innocent and got killed needlessly?

The overall point I was trying to make in the column, apparently unsuccessfully, was that life is difficult enough without some selfish slob adding to human suffering simply because he wanted another belt of booze before hitting the road. I can’t imagine any drunk driver saying afterwards, “The crash was a drag but that last Bud sure hit the spot.”

Clearly, drunk driving is a very emotional issue. For victims, it’s obvious why but for those on the “other side” it’s less clear. For that matter, what is the other side? Apparently, MADD is a single-minded, overly powerful lobby out to re-institute prohibition. Somehow, I doubt that.

And yet, Mr. Kruzelock asks rhetorically that, if a deadly collision were caused by a driver whose attention lapsed because he or she was using a cell phone, would MADD care? Frankly, I don’t even understand the question.

Any of the three e-mailers can rightfully claim I’ve quoted them out of context. To quote them in context would amount to about 10 times the 800 words I’m allowed. (Not to mention the possible bored-to-tears factor.)

Meanwhile, it seems like everybody who sent me critical e-mails has a strange last name. Kruzelock? McKwaig? On the other hand, nothing is more straightforward than John Davis so I stand corrected, although in this case, I’m sitting. (A bit of useless trivia, Hemingway wrote standing up. Maybe I should try?)

The vehemence of the e-mails reminded me of some I received when I advocated that our City Council pass an outdoor smoking ban. The latest version, banning smoking in multi-unit housing common areas, went into effect Feb. 26, though I have yet to hear about or see a single sign posted. Then again, the outdoor smoking ban in business districts went into effect almost two years ago, and there are no signs there, either.

Perhaps the responses from the two columns are proof that it’s dangerous to get in between a person and their addiction? Or perhaps it’s that my writing can be annoying? To test whether it’s me or not, next week’s column will be entitled “Puppies Are Cute” and we’ll see how much anti-puppy e-mail I get.

Jack can be reached at

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