Bracing for the Tour de Franzia

A couple of weeks ago, I received a letter from the dean at my daughter’s university. It wasn’t an update on the blooming cherry blossoms or the latest award-winning professors, but rather a serious warning.

In an effort to prevent any alcohol-related disasters, the dean’s letter asked parents to discuss the dangers of an event that takes place on campus each spring called the “Tour de Franzia.” I read on.

Apparently, the event involves teams of students drinking a box of Franzia—a 5-liter box holds the equivalent of 42 drinks—while going to various campus locations. Sounds like an intense, drunken scavenger hunt to me.

The dean urged parents to discourage students’ participation in this Springtime tradition, only three years old. Needless to say, the worries are many—from intoxicated students crossing busy streets to alcohol poisoning.

And the consequences go beyond the college campus and into the surrounding community. He writes: “A dramatic number of students required hospitalization for acute intoxication or injuries, flooding the emergency room at [the local] hospital and disrupting its normal operation.  Many of these students had potentially lethal blood alcohol levels.  Although our principal concern is the safety and well-being of students, we were also dismayed by significant damage and vandalism, numerous complaints from neighbors living adjacent to campus, and disrespectful treatment of the Public Safety officers and other staff who attempted to monitor and address concerns that arose during the event.”

Does the dean really believe that parents have that kind of influence with their college age children?

When my daughter returned home for Spring Break, I mentioned the letter—a warning e-mail was also sent to students—and asked her what she thought about it. Let’s just say that her reply made it clear she is indeed looking forward to the upcoming Tour.

But what so many college kids don’t realize is not only how dangerous these extreme drinking events can be, but also that binge drinking costs the health care system half a million dollars in blackout-related emergency room visits each year at the average large university, according to newly published research reported in U.S. News on

In a report published in the  journal Health Affairs, Marlon P. Mundt and Larissa I. Zakletskaia surveyed nearly a thousand students at five universities. During a two-year study, 30 percent of the men and 27 percent of the women visited the emergency department at least once, some with major injuries like broken bones and head or brain trauma. Of the 404 emergency visits reported by 954 participants in the study, about one in eight were associated with blackout drinking, the researchers found.

Mundt and Zakletskaia called binge drinking that can lead to a blackout–usually defined as drinking five or more alcoholic drinks by men or four by women during one occasion–“a pervasive public health problem” among college students.

“Fifty percent of college students who drink report alcohol-induced blackouts, and alcohol abusers in general put a heavy burden on the medical care system,” they wrote.

So while I imagine the Tour de Franzia will carry on as it has in recent years–despite the warnings and urging of the college administration–I imagine that every parent will pray it goes without the serious incident that these statistics suggest.

Photo source 1

Photo source 2 


What’s Past is Past?

BE026929by Susan La Scala Wood

If you’ve never admitted you’re an alcoholic, does that mean you never were? I only ask because back in my college days (okay, and those last two years of high school, too), I may have been known to “throw back a few.” I’m talking the cheap stuff (usually a choice between Tickled Pink champagne, Captain Morgan and Natural Light beer), but only because we couldn’t afford the good stuff.

Not that we would have known the difference. Back then, it wasn’t about savoring a fine wine so much as it was about getting shit-faced (for lack of a better term).

I say “we” because drinking always happened in a group. “We” decided what “we” would drink not to mention who would buy it (which generally involved a silky blouse and a boatload of makeup). “We” was comfortable. If we got drunk, got sick and woke up not really remembering a whole lot, we did it together. And not one of us ever raised the concern that we might be alcoholics. After all, don’t alcoholics drink alone, in the coat closet, the basement, the laundry room? And, it’s not like any of us could have downed a fifth of vodka like Meg Ryan did in “When a Man Loves a Woman.” We couldn’t even imagine it.

No. We needed mixers, big time. Plus, we could stop. At any time. Well, unless we were at a party and we spotted our crush. Then, stopping might be a little out of our control. But otherwise, sure, we could slam on the brakes, put the cap back on the wine cooler and go on home.

So were we alcoholics? Some might say “yes.” Some might say “no.” I guess what I say is, “Does it matter?” Eighteen was half my life ago. I’m a very different drinker now, and I didn’t get there by standing in front of an audience of alcohol abusers, abstaining entirely, or following twelve steps. That’s not to say I didn’t have a problem with alcohol. I think not remembering the events of one night is a problem. And I’d admit to blanking many more times than that. But somehow I changed course, we changed course, without trying too hard. I think what happened is we grew up. We realized we didn’t like feeling like crap, saying stupid things, having regrets. We realized a fine wine paired with the right cheese beats beer through a funnel any day. We realized who we were and that we no longer needed a numbing security blanket.

I never admitted to being an alcoholic, and I’m not sure that means I never was. But where I am in my life right now, I’m not sure I care.

Susan La Scala Wood is an award-winning advertising copywriter. She is currently working on her second novel, and has high hopes for getting this one published. If she does, she will celebrate with a bottle of Prosecco, with friends, of course.