Chloe writes about being in smoky bars until the wee hours of the morning. That's sometimes a bit troublesome for your average far-away parent to read. She's 16 and that's just not possible here in the Pacific Northwest, nor should it be. It's illegal to sell alcohol here after 2:00 AM, no bar is going to risk its liquor license on groups of underage drinkers, and Washington state is nothing if not paternalistic when it comes to its citizens' consumption of alcohol. Which is why kids here drink in their cars or at their sister's house or behind the gym. Then they get in their cars, drive drunk, and sometimes end up killing themselves, their friends, or the innocent fifth grader in the other car who had the misfortune of being on the road at the same time as an underage idiot.
The island where Chloe's home school is seems to have a disproportionate number of teenager drunk-driving tragedies. Every year after dances, especially, the school district collectively holds its breath, hoping they won't get an early-morning call from the fire or sheriff department. The fire chief implores parents to take the problem seriously, telling them, "The last person you want to see on your door at three in the morning is me, and that's the last place I want to be." The island mentality is partly to blame: parents believe that as long as their kids stay within the bosom of their island idyll, they'll be safe. While driving drunk on way cool twisty, hilly roads. Those parents are morons who have been lulled into abdicating their responsibility as parents.
But. In Spain and many other places in Europe and around the world, teenagers drink. Lots. Legally. But. They don't drive. They don't have driver's licenses, let alone cars. In fact, most of them don't get into any car, even as a passenger, after drinking because they've all walked to the bar. They might twist an ankle while drunkenly stepping off a curb, but they won't shatter their friend's pelvis and kill their classmate's little sister by flying into a telephone pole after catching air on that last hump, which, unfortunately, was right before the hairpin corner.
So, I don't want my kid drinking at 16. But what I really don't want is my kid or any of her friends in a car when any of them have been drinking. Because I realized as our son got older that it wasn't enough to worry about your own child's safety, but, dammit, you had to also worry about their friends because losing one of them would be devastating too. There's long been the opinion that kids whose parents rent limos for their senior proms are spoiled, overly indulged brats. I won't, and didn't, let my kid go unless he or she is riding in a limo. I'll just have to trust that the limo driver is sober. Limos, from what Alicia told us, are not a concern in Spain because they don't have school dances. No, they're all at the gala at the bar, after buying their tickets with the coupon for two free drinks from their schools.