Wednesday, March 17, 2004

A Sobering Afternoon

"D - E - F - G"

Traffic passed by my open window. Rain dripped onto my arm. Outside my window, on the street, the rain pelted officer Leopold's head. He didn't give any indication of caring.

"H - I - J - K"

Five minutes ago, I'd finished walking through the rain to my car, climbed in and drove up the street, looking for a good spot to turn around. I knew there was an intersection I could do so coming up, but wasn't sure where it was.

"L - M - N - O"

The lights startled me as I drove through Forest Park back in the direction I came. I pulled over - and winced as the spotlight shined straight into my mirror, blinding me. I raised it up and rolled down my window, wondering just what the hell I'd done.

"P - Q - R - S"

"Hi. I'm officer Leopold. What's your name?"

"Brian. What can I do for you sir?"

"Well Brian, I pulled you over because you looked uncertain at that left turn - and you crossed the line."

"Oh. Well, I'm not too familiar with this section of the park and I wasn't sure where the turn was exactly."

"I see. License please?" I handed the license over. "So Brian, where are you coming from?"

Oh shit, I thought. "Dogtown. I was just headed back from the parade."

"Have you been drinking?" he asked.

"I had a few earlier, but I stopped drinking around 3:00." It was 6:15, and I had stopped drinking three hours ago. Was I over the limit? I didn't see how.

"Why don't we do a field sobriety test?" he said. "Can you recite the alphabet starting from the letter D?"

"T - U - V - W"

So I did. And I counted backwars from 53 to 32. And I was scared shitless the whole time, fearing I would panic and miss a number. Or get them out of sequence. Or just plain make him think I was drunk and wind up in handcuffs.

"X - Y - Z"

The tests passed (at least I assume so, since I wasn't dragged off in cuffs), the officer returned to his car. I thanked him as he left. Later, as I thought about it, I became irritated - angry even. Why the hell was he wasting my time pulling me over? Did he have nothing better to do? Then a thought hit me - how many actual drunk drivers have had these thoughts after being pulled over? Maybe I shouldn't have been driving. Maybe I wasn't safe. I'm sure I was, but how many drunks have thought that before staggering to the car and plowing into a family of four?

I drove home feeling like I was walking on thin, cracking ice; do I look drunk? Am I drunk? I didn't try turning the streets between Dogtown and my house into my own personal NASCAR course. The offier was doing his job - and doing it well. And I'm happy he pulled me over - and a little ashamed that I was irritated about it later.

Some people - like the friends I was with tonight - would view this as THE MAN trying to keep us down. Some would think of this as police harrassment. I don't. In the end, when I finally made it home that night, I realized that there's a decent chance I shouldn't have been driving. And that's a sobering thought.

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