Friday, April 22, 2016

Maybe She Should Have Just Said No

It was the late Nancy Reagan, of course, who first used the phrase "Just Say No" in a public service announcement context. That context was to discourage people from using illegal drugs — but, really, it could be seen, in hindsight, as good advice whenever people did things that would have been better left undone.

It wouldn't necessarily have to be illegal behavior, just something that turned out badly.

As the episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, "Never Again," began on this night in 1956, a woman who had repeatedly pledged to stop drinking — and repeatedly broken that pledge — found herself in a strange bed with a bandage wrapped around one of her hands.

She concluded that she must be in the hospital — but she had no idea how or why she had been brought there. For that matter, she had no memory of what had happened the night before, only that she had been at a party and there had been lots of drinking — but not, she was sure, by her.

Whether you've been in her shoes — or in the shoes of those around her — that is probably a familiar scenario. It might not involve a hospital in your experience, but the rest of it ought to ring true if you are an alcoholic or are close to one.

And yet, the woman was certain that she hadn't been drinking the night before.

But, if she hadn't been drinking ...

Why was she in the hospital?

And why was her hand bandaged?

Gradually, she began to remember. She had run out of the party and found a taxi outside. She got into the taxi and went home.

Her boyfriend arrived shortly after she did, and they had a long talk. The woman decided she wanted to go back to the party. Her boyfriend worked with many of the people who were at the party, and she wanted to keep their tongues from wagging.

But when they got to the party, the woman found herself in a conversation with a young man who kept encouraging her to drink. He said he was the brother of the hostess, and she was the "life of the party," in his words.

She was clinging to the woman's boyfriend, and the young man, unaware of the woman's identity, spoke about how his sister was mad about the fellow, but he was going to marry "someone out of the business."

She was "a drunk," his sister had told him, and she was biding her time until the relationship fell apart.

As she listened, the woman lost her resolve to not drink — and she went on a binge with this young man, barhopping around town.

But her boyfriend tracked her down, accompanied by the hostess. Then he tried to take the woman home, but she fell and broke the glass she had been holding, cutting her wrist. That explained the bandage.

About this time, a nurse came into her room, and the woman said she was all right and wanted to go home. She mentioned the word hospital, and the nurse told her it wasn't a hospital. It was the city jail. She had been brought there because she had killed a man the night before.

She looked at the window and, for the first time, noticed the bars on them. That confirmed where she was.

Who had she killed? the woman wanted to know — and, at the same time, it seemed she didn't want to know. Perhaps she already did.

In typical Hitchcock fashion, she was told that it was her boyfriend who had been killed. His throat had been cut with a brandy glass.

I know. It sounds a bit predictable now, doesn't it? But in the context of the times in which it was made ...

From that point, my guess is that she probably had no trouble keeping her promise.