Mark Byrnes/CityLab

4 things to consider when you're pretty sure you might vomit on your way home.

It's 3 a.m. on a Saturday, and it's time to go home. You're 30 minutes away from your apartment and that last shot of tequila is not playing nice with the nachos you scarfed down earlier. Face it: you stand a good chance of throwing up en route. And now you have to decide, with what's left of your lucidity, where you'd rather be if and when it, err, comes up.

In the back of a taxi? On a subway platform? When the time comes, you're not likely to be able to stop the forces of nature, but hopefully you’ll have the presence of mind to consider the following.

Safety. Walking home is probably the best way to minimize the social and economic consequences of barfing in public—the fresh air might even do you some good. But if you’re stranded in the middle of the night and you're inebriated, pounding the pavement may not be the safest option. As always, it’s best to travel with a buddy. If you do decide to go it alone, be aware of your surroundings, especially nearby trash cans for sudden-onset spewing. No one likes a sidewalk spewer.

And no matter how clear-headed you think you are, do not attempt to bike home. You’d be risking your own life as well as the lives of countless pedestrians and motorists. In Colorado and Oregon, you could even get slapped with a DUI for drunk biking. Now’s not the time to get your bike-share money’s worth.

Motion sickness. Does your stomach turn during even normal car rides? If so, riding home in a taxi might exacerbate your nausea. Be prepared to ask the driver to pull over whenever you feel sick, and if at all possible, bring something to use as a barf bag just in case. Whatever you do, don’t be a hero—if you overestimate your ability to keep it all down, it could cost you.

Cost. Some cities have mandated taxi clean-up fees to help defray the costs associated with inebriated riders. Expect to pay, for instance, $25 in Toronto, $50 in Chicago, $100 in Austin and San Francisco, and up to $150 in Savannah, Georgia. If your city doesn’t have a set clean-up fee, you’ll be subject to the whims of your cab driver—in which case, tip generously. You’re compensating the driver not just for the clean-up, but for the fares he or she will lose in the meantime.

Ride-hailing apps won’t let you off the hook either. Uber drivers can charge anywhere from $100 to $200 for clean-up, and Lyft drivers up to $250, depending on the extent of the damage. Plus, don’t be surprised if you receive a less-than-stellar passenger review.

If those penalties are too steep for you, by all means, take public transit. But bear in mind that doing so can significantly widen your potential splash zone.

Number of casualties. Sure, you’re about to have a terrible night (and morning after), but there’s no sense in ruining it for everyone. If you get in a cab, you’re only inconveniencing one very unfortunate driver. On a bus, you have the passengers to consider as well. In a subway car, you might get away with grossing out just one carful of people (who will probably flee immediately and allow you to shamble home scot-free). But in certain transit systems—like Austin's MetroRail, with cars coupled together into one vehicle—the whole train could be taken out of commission if you puke. Either way, you will endure the ignominy of Being That Guy/Girl.

On the other hand, you probably won’t remember this tomorrow. The bottom line is: ask a friend to help you, be as prepared as possible, and for the love of all that's holy, aim away from innocent bystanders.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A sign outside a storefront in Buffalo, New York.
    Environment

    Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?

    The Western New York city possesses a distinct mix of weather, geography, and infrastructure that could make it a potential climate haven. But for whom?

  2. photo: A vacant home in Oakland that is about to demolished for an apartment complex.
    Equity

    Fix California's Housing Crisis, Activists Say. But Which One?

    As a controversy over unoccupied homes in the Bay Area and Los Angeles reveals, advocates disagree about what kind of housing should be built, and where.

  3. photo: a high-speed train in Switzerland
    Transportation

    The Case for Portland-to-Vancouver High-Speed Rail

    At the Cascadia Rail Summit outside Seattle, a fledgling scheme to bring high-speed rail from Portland to Vancouver found an enthusiastic reception.

  4. A syringe sits on top of a car. Houses are behind it.
    Life

    The Changing Geography of the Opioid Crisis

    A new study shows that the country faces different opioid challenges in urban and rural areas.

  5. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

×