It’s Just Not Worth It

There’s nothing funny about drinking and driving. You risk creating a tragedy for yourself, other people, and their friends and families. If you get caught, your insurance rates are bound to soar and you just might end up on the bus. Alimony threatens to become a new term that applies to your life.

But these aspects of a DUI have all been written about exhaustively. One thing that is rarely discussed, however, is how embarrassing a DUI is.

A few years ago I witnessed a DUI arrest in front of my apartment in Bend, Oregon. One night a guy that lived a few units down from mine got pulled over by the police, right in front of our building. When I strolled out to my porch to investigate, he was standing outside his car, facing a cop and answering questions.

Attracted by the cruiser’s lights, a crowd of gawkers loaded onto their porches to watch. My apartment building was one of five that faced the street in a dense residential area comprised of Soviet-style, four-story buildings. So, the potential audience for the spectacle was big. It was the middle of summer and the air temperature at 9:00 pm was perfect for watching an impromptu show.

I glanced around and counted close to two dozen voyeurs. They were laughing and yelling toward the street, giddy with excitement.

The police officer removed the flashlight beam from my neighbor’s face. He walked ten paces away, stopped, and then turned around to face his study subject. He put one hand in front of his bulging chest and then flexed his fingers, signaling for the driver to walk toward him. He raised the flashlight, adjusted the setting to high, and pointed a wide beam of light onto the guy’s mid-section.

One of my neighbors hustled back into his living room and fired up the stereo, blasting out Johnny Cash’s I Walk The Line. As the driver stared down at an invisible line on the pavement, someone shouted, “You can do it, man, you can do it!” The guy ran a hand through his hair and then started walking very slowly with his arms raised at his side for balance, like an infant trying to walk on his own. He staggered a few times while trying to place one foot directly in front of the other, heel to toe, as directed. With each stumble people would laugh or shout “Oh-oh,” expecting the guy to topple over.

He managed to get to the end of the “line” without stumbling. But the guy still faced a formidable challenge — spinning around before walking back to his starting position. The crowd around me went quiet with anticipation. The guy eased into the turn, moving slowly and carefully. But at the last minute he took one unsteady step backward for balance, losing points like a gymnast blowing the dismount.

The crowd moaned.

The guy failed the test. The policeman grabbed him by the elbow and escorted him to the cruiser. When he loaded the guy into the back seat, the crowd let out a big cheer.

The police car pulled away with the guy staring straight ahead through the mesh divider.

I watched the cruiser drive away and thought to myself: It’s just not worth it. Ever.

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