By A.V. Sherk – email@example.com – Asst. Sports Editor
On her first Haloween as a 21-year-old, Kathrine Hughes never expected her evening would end in the UNC Asheville drunk tank.
“For me, since I didn’t get in trouble, it was really cool,” Hughes said. “I got free pizza and a ride home, neither of which I would have had if I wasn’t taken away. The campus police were really nice, and completely professional the entire time.”
The Sigma Nu Halloween party is an event of epic proportions and a celebration not to be missed. Every year students cram on the bus and their wild ride begins the moment they step off. For Hughes, the party started early.
“I was getting my costume ready all day,” Hughes said. “Me, Casee, Sophie all dressed up as the three Sanderson witches from ‘Hocus Pocus.’ I started drinking at 8 o’clock — gin and tonics — my fave.”
When Hughes arrived at the party around 11 p.m., she didn’t expect it to be as packed as it was. With the music pumping, throngs of costumed party-goers choked the dance floor.
“When I got there, I had a bit of a panic attack. It was so crowded, like, I couldn’t walk it was so crowded,” Hughes said. “So I immediately got a drink from the bar, because I was like, ‘Nuh-uhn. Not dealing with this.’”
After stepping outside to catch her breath and smoke a cigarette, Hughes said she returned to the party and started dancing. Her fellow witches, Casee Nelson and Sophie Ferguson, arrived at the party early and left around midnight. According to Hughes, it was the Long Island iced tea that did her in.
“Casee had been watching the bartenders pour the drinks,” Hughes said. “They had been putting a lot more alcohol in there than they typically would have been. Sophie and I were the only ones (in our group) that ordered drinks from the bar, and we were the most intoxicated out of all of our friends. I mean five drinks aren’t going to make me blow that high, I have a pretty high tolerance.”
At around 1 a.m., Hughes left the party. As she stepped off the Sigma Nu party bus Hughes believes she fell, and that’s why she was pulled by campus police. Drunk as she was, Hughes said she infered this by the multiple bruises acquired in her not-so-lofty descent from the party carpool.
“I obviously smelled like alcohol because I just had a drink, and (campus police) were like, ‘We’re just going to take you over here for a little while,’ and I was like, ‘Sure, why not?’And then they just sat me down and told me, ’Hey, you’re being drunk tanked for a little while,’” Hughes said. “I told them I was 21, and I must have been the only 21-year-old in there, because everyone else had pink slips.”
Inside Brown Hall, the UNCA drunk tank harbored a motley crew of inebriated students, some less cordial than others, according to Hughes.
“It was basically a bunch of drunk people sitting around yelling and crying, all of us in costumes,” Hughes said. “(The officers) had boxes of pizza, chairs and a breathalyzer kit set up. They were checking IDs for people who were visibly drunk and asking if they could breathalyze them. There were about six people, and then the officers would escort one out and another would come in. The girl that was being belligerent was just yelling at the officer, and the officer kept asking her to calm down. She was yelling, ‘No! I’m not going to calm down!’ I was just trying to ignore this awkward situation, and I don’t know who but someone was taken away in an ambulance. At one point I noticed a stretcher behind me, and then I saw the ambulance outside. I assume someone blew dangerously high, and they just took them away for health’s sake.”
Hughes said she found herself the most stable drunk in the room, and chose to support a girl who seemed especially distraught.
“She got there before I did. They sat me down near her to breathalyze me, and I noticed that she was crying. My immediate instinct when someone is crying is to comfort them, so when the breathalyzer was having problems I asked if I could have a moment. When they said sure, I immediately turned to her and asked if she was OK and started rubbing her back,” Hughes said. “She wasn’t making much sense, and I could tell she was much more drunk than I was. She had a citation filled out, and the whole time she was crying about how she ruined her friend’s night and there was this boy there that she liked and that she probably made a mess of herself. She was wearing all black, so I think she was going to be a cat or something. All her make-up had washed off by that point because she had been crying. The entire time I was like, ‘No, it’s OK,’ and she asked, ‘Am I pretty?’ And I said, ‘Yes, you’re pretty.’”
According to Hughes the girl was clearly distraught, scratching at her forearms, and so Hughes reassured her and texted her friends to let them know she was safe. Hughes even accompanied the girl to the bathroom, because the intoxicated occupants were not permitted to go to the restrooms alone.
“The cops let me take care of her because they could tell I was more sober than she was,” Hughes said. “They can’t let us go to the bathroom by ourselves because we might run away. So I took her to the bathroom and cleaned her up a little bit, and when we got back it was clear she was doing a little better. I mean, I’m not going to leave a crying girl by herself.”
Hughes said she dimly remembers an officer driving her home in the wee hours of Nov. 1, another free service of the drunk tank. After they exchanged names and pleasantries, Hughes said she remembered thanking him. Though his name, like many details of that Halloween night, escaped her when she awoke hours later.
“At first (my friends) were worried about how I got home because I didn’t have my cell phone on me or anything,” Hughes said. “I was definitely drunk when I woke up. I stood up and immediately was like ‘Can’t walk. Can’t. No.’ But at least I didn’t have a hangover. Everyone thought it was hilarious, because I was the only one that got drunk tanked. But they were glad I got home safely.”