• Drinking is science. I don’t mean it’s a science (though some would say that), I mean that it’s subject to the laws of science. Of course an app is not a breathalyzer and provides only a general estimate of what your blood alcohol level is at any given moment—but still, when you start looking even approximately at how your BAL rises and falls over the course of an evening, you start to appreciate the difference between the subjective experience of “drunkenness” and the objective amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. The extent to which you feel drunk has a lot to do with where you are and who you’re with and when it is, but the extent to which you are drunk is a much simpler equation: you put booze in, your BAL goes up. You wait, it goes down. As your BAL goes up, naturally, your personal judgment about exactly how drunk you are becomes less accurate—so what might subjectively feel like a “buzz” might accompany any BAL from 0.02 (about one beer) to 0.10 (rager). Science!
• Size matters. I got the idea to use a drink-counting app from a friend who weighs dozens of pounds less than I do. We were out at a bar the other night, and after our group shared a round and a couple of pitchers, we compared our apps: I was cruising along at a comfy 0.06, while she was soaring to well over 0.10. I’d known that being a physically smaller person makes a difference when you’re going one-for-one with, say, a 6’4″ guy like me, but I hadn’t realized how much of a difference it can make—it was like two people of the same size going one-for-one, but one of them drinking cans of Bud Light and the other one drinking bottles of strong IPA. It made me think of all the social situations where a mixed group of people are “keeping up” with each other in terms of rounds of drinks—when in fact, on average, the women are racing ahead in terms of BAL.
• Beer makes you fat. The app I use also counts calories, which is eye-opening. I knew where the term “beer belly” came from, but I thought that was just for guys who sat around watching sports and drinking Busch like it’s water. Then one night I came home and looked at my app and realized that by drinking four IPAs, I’d basically just added a Chipotle burrito to my day’s diet—except with much less nutritional value.
• You’re in control (until you’re not). When I was in grad school, student health services handed out Nalgene bottles printed with the message, “69% of Harvard students keep track of how many drinks they consume in one night.” The bottles were generally snickered at (69, heh heh), but I’ve thought about that bottle since trying this drink-counting app. Like a lot of people, I learned to drink during college, where there were basically two settings on the booze switch: PARTY ON and PARTY OFF. This app has made me realize how much that formative experience has stayed with me—I’ve tended to think of myself at any given moment as “drinking” or “not drinking,” when in reality there are a lot of gradations along that continuum. You can choose what alcohol you drink, how quickly you drink it, and what else you drink (hello, water) at the same time—and that can make a huge difference.
People get a lot of shit for paying attention to their phones instead of what’s going on around them, but when it comes to drinking, I’ve discovered that paying a little more attention to what your phone is telling you and a little less attention to what your surroundings are telling you isn’t such a bad thing after all.