December 20, 2003


Do you know what I'm talking about?

Ok, I didn't end up in Japan again after all, but I did still have to go to DC. Tonight at about 11:00 PM I was driving through Reston, VA, when I noticed a large number of police cars with their light blaring on Baron Cameron Road, or perhaps it was Eldon by this point, I'm not really sure since I haven't lived here for five years. I'm only on this road since I decided to take my guests a different way home to show them more of the area. Anyway, as I pull up to where the police are standing about I have the good sense to roll down my window.

The police officer asks me if I have been drinking this evening. I said, "Yes, I have been drinking. I have had a bottle of wine tonight with dinner." The officer asks me to pull over to the left through to where the cones are. I do so and stop the car and the officer asks me to pull forward to the first cone. "No problem," says I, as I pull forward. I pull forward about three cones, roll the window up and stumble about to unlock the door. No doubt that impressed everyone, though I will freely admit to always struggling with where the door locks, the door latch, the lights, the trunk release, etc., are every time I get into another rental car, but I doubt that anyone cares.

The officer asks me to get out of the car, which I do, and before she can ask I hand her my driver's license. She explains the situation to me and advises me that she is going to ask me to step through a number of exercises to determine if I am intoxicated. "No problem," says I. Did I mention that there are two guys in my car, one in the front passenger seat and one in the back seat, both virtually passed out? I'm sure that the officers noticed, though neither of them said anything. Had they asked, I would have informed them that these two gentlemen were Japanese nationals who had flown in the night before from Tokyo, and in addition to sharing the wine with me for dinner, they were, in fact, suffering from extreme jet lag. But no one asked. Probably because no one cared.

Anyway, after stepping into the road behing the rental car, I casually recited the alphabet -- without singing it -- as requested, stood on one foot, pointed my right big toe toward Arcturus and counted to 15 and back to 1, and then tilted my head back and successfully touched my right hand to my nose, my left hand to my nose, my left hand to my nose again, and finally my right hand to my nose. Finally, another officer walked over and said that he wanted me to breath into this tube for fifteen seconds. He explained that it was not admissable in a court of law and that he had to inform me of that fact. Then I breathed into the tube as he requested. Harder, as he insisted. The officer showed the meter to the other officer, but not to me. The other officer asked me what I had to drink again and I said, "We shared a bottle of wine that evening with dinner and that I had had a beer about 7:00 PM before that."

At this point I wasn't sure what was going to happen. In fact, from the moment I knew what was going on when I rolled down the window I didn't know what was going to happen. I had been drinking. I didn't think I had had too much to drink, but I've had no experience with this sort of thing before, so I really didn't know what to expect. I started wondering what was going to happen to my guests from Japan if I was arrested, and then what would happen from there.

Then the officer said, ".046."

The first officer asked if I was from out of town. Perhaps my Missouri driver's license gave it away, but I said, "Yes." She handed my driver's license back to me and told me to drive straight back to my hotel and go to sleep. The second officer said that .08 was the legal limit and that I could go.

I got back in the car. Both my passengers were out of it. They didn't wake up until the second time I roused them from their slumber at the entrance to their hotel I am looking forward to their questions in the morning as they twirl the events from tonight around through the haze they are feeling now.

I had two thoughts about this evening's "experience." The first was what our troops in Iraq must go through every time they stop someone, not knowing what to expect. They have my respect and undying thanks. The second was in my reaction during and after the event. I felt nothing. I didn't get nervous, I didn't sweat, I wasn't cocky, and I wasn't obnoxious. I just felt nothing. I went through the motions like I was buying groceries. I don't think this is a good thing.

Posted by Charles Austin at December 20, 2003 12:52 AM

Sucks, doesn't it? I know and you know that drunk driving is a BAD THING, especially at the holidays when the amateurs are putting lampshades on their heads. BUT...

I firmly believe that checkpoints are constitutionally wrong, in spirit if not in interpreted Constitutional law.

I also don't like the utter waste of perfectly good, crime-fighting manpower. I would bet the sentiment is the same on their side of the debate. DUI is a crime, certainly, but it is so low on my priority list for the police in modern America as to be indistinguishable from things like 'buying new McGriff the Crime Dog suit.'

Posted by: Scott Chaffin at 12:49 AM