My Red Nose Experience

From: [here] Beer, Booze and Bars,
Issue: Jan 8, 2008

Christmas is over, but the sentiments of the season should last all year long, don’t you think? The good ones, anyway…not so much the greed and the self-righteous religiosity, but the generosity, glad tidings, and good will towards others.

We experienced some of the best that Saint John offers during the waning days of December, and all we had to do was go out and get drunk! I’m talking about a genuine red nose experience, and I’m not just referring to the bulbous protuberance on my face, which seems to become more Rudolphy every Yuletide, due to both my age and habits.

Several days before the fat guy arrived, we headed out for a few drinks and dinner, starting at The Saint John Ale House. As we drank from their wide selection of craft and import brews, enjoyed creative cocktails from Shawn Horgan, and dined on a spectacular 8-course tasting menu from Executive Chef Jesse Vergen, we also planned how to get home safely that night.

While I have expressed anti-MADD views in the past, I do believe in responsible drinking. I will drive after a couple of beers, but not after a night on the town. My wife had read about Operation Red Nose (ORN), a volunteer-run program that runs in larger centres during the holidays, so we decided to give it a shot.

ORN is actually a worldwide program against impaired driving that was started in 1984. I can testify how well it works, because, as they say, I’m also a client.

Essentially, if you are out on the town on selected dates, you phone their hotline and request a ride home anytime between 9 pm and 3 am. A team of 3 volunteers will meet you at your car and drive you and your car home. That’s right, they drive your car too! Which rocks.

There is no charge, but a donation will be accepted and put towards charity.
The program was offered in 2008 in Saint John, Grand Bay, Rothesay, Quispamsis, Edmundston, Moncton/Dieppe/Riverview, Oromocto-Burton, and the Acadian Peninsula on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings from late November to the end of December. It is over now, but it is not too late to talk about it, and praise it.

The program originated in Quebec City, organized by Laval University’s Swim Club, the Police Services, and CHRC Radio, but now has over 100 operations in Canada, and has spread overseas too. According to their website, they annually arrange more than 80,000 rides and raise more than $1,300,000 in donation to support various youth programs.

Perhaps ironically, the founding President (Jean-Marie De Koninck) has a beer for his last name, and a very good one at that!

Our personal experience with the Saint John volunteers was memorable. We hit a few more places after The Ale House, then called ORN from happinez wine bar at around 1 am, and they promised to meet us by our car up by the Aquatic Centre. We walked up and found them waiting in a car. Two of the amiable volunteers drove with us in my VW Beetle, which was somewhat tricky as it is a standard transmission and was in a parking garage with a sloped exit, and a pull cord to raise the door. Also, he hadn’t driven a stick for a while. So, after a few tries, and my casual (not cheeky, honest – I’d only had a few) suggestion to try 1st instead of 3rd gear, or let me drive it out, he managed it, and we arrived home warm and safe 20 minutes later, in our own car, which meant not having to make an extra car pick-up trip the next morning.

We had a great chat on the way home, and we were particularly impressed by their non-judgmental demeanour. I kept thinking to myself: “Why are these people doing this on Friday night when they could be out having fun? What is their ulterior motive?” A better question might have been: “Why am I always suspicious about people who seem too good to be true?”

I highly recommend you visit their site for details Hey, maybe you can even volunteer next year yourself, if you are serious about doing something useful about ending impaired driving. It might not help that red nose of mine, but it might just save a few lives.

Craig Pinhey was often left out of reindeer games in High School. Visit him at