Blow Into This

Drinking and driving is not funny. At all. What’s funny is when people get stopped for DUI, because a) they’re already being stopped and they’re off the streets and everyone is safe now, so it’s OK to find humor in a previously scary situation and b) the excuses people give as to why they were weaving and going 6 mph the wrong way on the highway are probably fodder for some hilarious cop shop conversation.

There is a c) and it’s the hysterical mug shots that people get taken when they get arrested for DUI. There are so many Web sites of pictures of DUI mug shots that there are some devoted just to ironic t-shirts that people wear in their DUI mug shots. Intensely specialized, but funny when you get into it. I’ve sprinkled some of my favorites into this blog, for your amusement, because I love you all and want you to be happy.

Despite the fact that I was a teen-ager in the ‘70s when it was legal to drink low beer at 18 (an age where we had driver’s licenses but little if any sense) and in college in the ‘80s (a decade when it was all about us and how much fun we were having excessively), I never got a DUI. My old friend Jay used to say that men were victims of gender profiling and that if a cop saw a car weaving, he would look first to see if it was a man driving and only then would he put on the lights and siren. He had a point. Once, after a late shift at the paper, a bunch of us went out to a bar and then to breakfast, so at about 3 in the morning Jay and I were driving separately back to Columbiana County from Youngstown. I wasn’t far behind him when he got stopped and asked to walk the line and touch his nose. I think I may have beeped and waved as I drove by.

Only once was I actually stopped for suspicion of DUI. Lucky for me, I was not actually driving while under the influence, so the story was immediately filed under Cool Stuff That I Got to Experience Without Going to the Joint.

I was living in suburban Washington, DC, with two kids, 5 and a baby little enough that I was still breast-feeding. I’m no earth-mama, bottle-bashing, Le Leche lunatic or anything, but I was a proponent of breast-feeding when my kids and their health and well being were at stake. (Remind me to tell you about my short fling with Le Leche League sometime. The phrase “out of my league” comes to mind.)

As if having a baby wasn’t enough, I had also had a gallbladderectomy or whatever the operation is called when you have your gall bladder removed. Shortly after the baby was born, a delicious piece of fried chicken caused my stone-ridden gall bladder to shut down.  “I warned you,” it said right after it turned off the lights in there. “I’ve been talking to you for two years and you ignored me, eating ribs and things wrapped in bacon. You said right after the baby was born you’d get me out of here. Well, missy, he’s a couple months old now, so you better do it.” It threatened to take my liver with it, as well as some other organs that I’m pretty sure I needed.

So after 9 months of pregnancy, what seemed like 8 months of labor, a difficult birth, a three-day-long gall bladder attack, near liver failure, gall bladder surgery, kick-ass recovery, and successful purging of anesthesia from my system so I could feed the baby, you could say I was ready for a drink.

Our good friends George and Arlene came to visit from Youngstown and I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to going out with them, putting on real shoes with soles, going to a real restaurant and having one glass of wine.

“I’ll be the designated driver,” I said and everyone cheered. It was the perfect plan. It gave carte blanche permission for my husband and George and Arlene to drink themselves silly. Silly yet responsibly.

So we went to Old Town, to a nice Italian restaurant where I had a pasta dish that had huge, whole cloves of garlic in it and I savored every sip of that one glass of wine. The rest of them drank with the wild abandon that comes with the knowledge that you’re in a restaurant without a children’s menu and with a designated driver. A few hours after the last drop of chardonnay had been extracted from my glass, we hit the road.
I was driving George and Arlene’s rental car, which had something wrong with it - I can’t remember what, maybe the license plate wasn’t lit or there was a tail light out or something. We didn’t care. We had been real grown-ups long enough that we didn’t get that heart freeze when we saw red lights 6 inches from our bumper.

When I saw the red lights, I was about 100 yards from turning into my street. I pulled over and told my three passengers to pipe down. They were having the time of their lives in the back seat. A female cop came to my window and when I got the window about 3/4 down, she jumped back and did a mock, overacted WOAH! much like you would see in a community theater production of The Music Man.

“I SMELL ALCOHOL!” she yelled. (“I say you’ve got trouble! Right here in River City!”) She was averting her face and raising her arms like the smell coming from our car was going to harm her precious DNA. The Three Amigos in the back seat started laughing.

“Alright, calm down,” I said with the newly acquired authority of a mother of two.  “I wasn’t drinking. They” - and I jerked my head to the three in the back seat - “were drinking, but -"

“SHE’S OUR DESIGNATED DRIVER!” Arlene yelled from the back seat. George was fumbling around for the rental car agreement and a cigarette.
The cop went back to her car and called for backup. I couldn’t believe it. Backup. For me. A woman who had the social life of a Carmelite nun. So we all had to wait while the backup came and when it came, it ended up just sitting in its squad car with lights flashing, which helped make this little scenario visible from space.

When the copette came back to my window, she had what looked like a large asthma inhaler in her hand. “Blow into this and blow really hard,” she said. So I blew.

She took it from me, looked at it with her cop flashlight and the results were apparently not what she desired, because she threw it over the top of the car into the woods. And I don’t mean an overhand softball toss. She winged it with some real force. There was some anger there just beneath the surface. And probably some bitterness over being passed over for promotion for not getting enough DUI arrests on Saturday nights. Plus the uniform issue.

I waited to hear someone from the back seat say, “You littered!” and we’d all get hauled in for disturbing the DUI quota of a policewoman.

“Can I go now, because I’ve got a baby to get home to,” I said, maturely and responsibly.

She let me go and I got home in time to nurse the baby and not tell the babysitter any of this. The streets of Springfield, Virginia, were once again safe from wild gangs of nursing mothers and the woods outside my neighborhood were littered with disposable breathalyzers that registered no alcohol.

And I didn't have to get a mugshot taken.


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