PlazaJen: Passion Knit

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Checkpoint Charlie

Have you ever been through a sobriety checkpoint? I've seen those commercials on TV, where the voiceover man, presumably a warden at the Prison for Drunk Drivers, berates you in a very scary voice and promises that if you drink and drive, and we catch ya, you will be sent to prison immediately, where you'll be forced to clean up vomit every day and raped on the hour. The visual is always some college-aged dude squinting into the bright light of the flashlight and there are GUNS EVERYWHERE.

So last night, after the commitment ceremony rehearsal, we carpooled up to the HinterNorthLands (hey Judy!) for the dinner at the groom & groom's house. It was awesome barbecue, and I had a couple of beers with my dinner, and because we kept waiting for the cap pistol to be shot, indicating we could finally go eat, my first beer started making me feel loopy, and I announced several times that I was going to start chewing my arm off. I also kept telling Roger to keep up with me because, I guess, I've taken over the bossy role and demand that he drink as much as I. Plus it's handy if he gets done at the same time because he'll bring me another drink. I am that lazy.

So we had a plate of BBQ, and it rocked, and I had a SECOND plate. Which also rocked, but now I was slowing down, and I didn't finish my beer, because I had transformed into the Veruca Salt girl from Willy Wonka and was waiting for the Ooompa Loompas to show up and roll me to my car. Plus, I was the driver. I joked that David could take over and drive, but I knew still, I'd have to get home from their house, and so it just seemed like a good point at which to stop. We sat and chatted with people for a while, played with Jimmy & Kelly's beautiful baby, and then eventually left. Roger & I put Lewis & Clark to shame, because every time we drive up north, we convince each other we're going the right way, regardless of if it's correct or not. Amazingly, we wound our way out of the subdivision and right onto the street where Sheridan's is. YUM. YUM. YUM. It's frozen custard, because it's so fatty. I had a cone (I like a cone) and it was so tall, I thought I was gonna get it all over the interior car roof. So I drive us back to Roger & David's house, drop them off, jump back on Hwy 71, and head towards home. I even thought, "There've been some gang shootings on this road recently, I wonder if I should jump off and take another road." But traffic was rolling along and I decided to keep with the straight shot home.

Then traffic slowed to a crawl, and a stop. I was in the left lane, and saw police lights. I was convinced it must be a bad wreck, or worse, another shootout. As we inched along, I realized it was more than one lane shut down, the whole damned highway was closed, with cones and everything. I'm thinking, man, this is a hell of an accident, it must be over that hill because I can't see anything. And then I see two motorcycle cops (my FAVORITE!) in the dark, in the second lane, and I think that looks funny, like they're waiting to catch somebody.

THEN. We're all exiting and concentrating on not hitting each other, because there are like, 200 cars going into & through this bottle neck of the exit ramp, and there's a little government sign on the other side of the road that says, "Sobriety Checkpoint Ahead." And everything in my stomach turns to soup. Because now I have to decide, am I going to tell the truth? Or am I going to lie? I can hear the question from the tv commercial thundering in my head, "Have you had anything to drink tonight?" and I look at the clock, and it's almost 10:00 p.m. and I've had two beers (three hours earlier) and two huge-ass plates of food, and an ice cream cone that contains more calories than Lindsay Lohan, Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton consume, combined, in a week. And I can assure you, I am not impaired, but I do have cramps and I need to pee, and if I have to get out of the car, I'm going to be shaking so hard I might just lose control of all my bodily functions and then I'd be blogging from prison about how some lifer named Wanda has made me her bitch.

These checkpoints are not set up for diffused lighting photography, in case you think you might try to get some portraits taken while you're there. They have generators, they're big lights up on scaffolding-like stands, and there are two cops waving you into two lines, and there is a whole line of cops with their flashlights, spaced out to examine the next block of cars. And they've all got guns. And they're wearing gloves and hats. It's VERY formal. I, of course, get the guy who isn't dressed the same as everyone else, and so I assume he is the Baddest Motherfucker of the Checkpoint, and I am extremely sober and nervous. BRIGHT LIGHT in my eyes, thank god I'm not a gremlin.
"Good evening, ma'am" (FUCK I am old. MISS. MISS. Just one more time before I go to the Big House.)
"Can I see your driver's license?"
I am now extremely friendly. I start to chirp. "Yes! This is very exciting! I've never been through one of these before!" And I can't get my license out of my wallet, because it never comes out of the wallet, and I'm a little palsied as I FORCE THAT GODDAMN PIECE OF PLASTIC OUT before they think I'm a Columbian drug runner.
"Have you had anything to drink tonight?" he asks while I'm wrestling with leather and plastic and a three-inch card.

Moment of truth. Kindof.
"I had a beer at a barbecue, about four hours ago."
Because I can't lie outright. I just can't. I did when I was 6, but I thought I was saving my mother from being hauled away. I hand him my license.
He inspects it. I have my old address on it still. OH GOD. I hope I don't have to deal with that, too. "Do you still live in Kansas City?" he inquires. "Yes."
Now we're gettin' down to business, wherein he will establish that I am not drunk because I have copped to drinking earlier that evening. I continue looking at him, and he bends down further.
"Keep facing me, but I want you to move your eyes and look to the right." Thank god he moved his hand to indicate that it was to be MY right. I didn't want to have to have that conversation. (Your right? My right? Ociffer?)
I slide my eyes over, then back.
"OK, you can go, thank you very much, drive safe."

I drove off, happily, of course, and all I could think was: James will know why this is a conclusive test. And he did. I guess our eyes are very fine-tuned when it comes to motor control, and they're a good indication of how in-control you are. If my eyes had jerked, it would have indicated a lack of control. I did a little search this morning, and lo & behold that particular test even has a name: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN). I wonder how many people didn't pass, and that's scary, too.

So, I'm glad to say I'm not blogging from the pokey, and I am SCARED STRAIGHT. I'm kind of glad I went through the experience, but I'm really glad I didn't have to stand on one leg. I'm a big girl, and I don't do one-legged stuff well. But I'll admit, I did run through the alphabet real quick-like in my head while I was being waved "into position". And now, when I feel really out of control, I'm going to go look in the mirror and slide my eyes from side-to-side. At the rate I'm going this holiday weekend, I'll be in the bathroom until Tuesday.
posted by PlazaJen, 10:25 AM