Many moons ago, back in Washington, DC, Susanne and I hosted a New Year’s Eve party. Without verbalizing it, we’d grown too old to find a night of uninterrupted dancing to a set of booming woofers interesting, much less achievable. I recognize that for some—I’m looking at you, 20somethings—it’s a painful realization. But my point isn’t about watching ourselves lose our Youth Cards, it’s about what happened after this party. At the time we lived a dozen blocks from Union Station, so I offered to give a couple of our guests a ride to the Metro, where they could travel the rest of the way to their homes. And we were nearly hijacked by a marauding band of zombies. No wait, they were merely drunk.
They clamored to my car, moaning and it took me a few important seconds to make out what sound they were making.
I shook my head. We’re not a taxi. Then I noticed they were everywhere, in the street, puking on the sidewalk, wandering around into each other. I thought I’d driven to the train station and instead we’d run right into a den of drunkards. Nasty drunkards.
It is of no import that my car looked nothing like a taxi, and I understand that DC doesn’t have a uniform color for cabs. They growled and cursed at my refusal to give their drunk asses egress or entry. I’m lucky nobody pulled a sign out of the asphalt to thrust against my windshield. And so with this experience as context, let me present a few guidelines for determining if the drones you encounter this New Year’s are people who are several sheets to the wind, or the end of human civilization.
Staggering People—Sure, both drunks and zombies have ambulation impairment, so it can be hard to tell at first glance which is which. You may have to observe the behavior for a few paces. Drunks will look more teetering and unbalanced, and zombies will show a very unnatural gait, especially if a supporting limb or their back is broken. Drunks may also be giggling as they attempt forward movement because everything seems so darn funny to them in 2011, but zombies will nearly always look like they’re having no enjoyment at all, unless they’re sinking their teeth into someone’s brains.
Word Use—The downside of this as a filtering tactic is the proximity you may need to have to the target, so you’re risking puke or a zombie encounter, and I can’t recommend either. Zombies find themselves severely limited in terms of vocabulary, to things like “Ah,” “Oooo,” general moaning, and the overhyped “Braiiins.” Drunks will say any manner of things, up to and including cursing, and depending on their level of intoxication, may slur their words. Make sure they’re just groaning and not really saying words before you feel free to blow them away with your ZombiLiminator or whatever you bought at the last ZomBCon meeting. Killing people, even as annoying as drunks can be, is a crime.
Don’t Try This at Home—One risky but surefire way to find out what you’re dealing with is to ask them to close their eyes and touch their nose. Drunks will fail this test, but zombies won’t even attempt it.
Spontaneous Vomiting—Clear sign of drunk and not zombie. Zombies don’t really have a functioning gastrointestinal system anymore.
Ripped or Dirty Clothing—This is nearly unusable as a strategy for determining drunk versus zombie. Drunk people fall down and rend or soil their clothing all the time, and especially in urban areas, they can get disgusting fast. Zombies will more than likely have bloody clothing, either from attacking innocent people or from whatever zombie attack originally infected them, but drunk people can get bloody from a fall, too. Use this indicator only in light of another one, and make your best judgment.
Well, I hope this helps if you find yourself outside on New Year’s Eve and into the early morning of 2011. Or make friends who are old fogies, and just stay inside.