Archive for Thursday, May 24, 2001

Cold beers and a hot topic

May 24, 2001

Police officers know how to throw a great party.

After being approached to volunteer as a guinea pig for officers learning to conduct field sobriety tests, I had some skepticism. Why would John Q. Citizen such as myself want to head to the Douglas County Jail so area officers could make me touch my nose and walk in a straight line?

Oh, wait a minute free beer and a ride home afterwards? Well, OK, anything for the cause.

Five other volunteers met at the jail last Wednesday, donating their time to help train the officers. Actually, the thought of free booze served by members of law enforcement officers with no desire for a tip didn't hurt either.

First, the officers briefed us on what would transpire and what we should do if we felt queasy.

"If you start to get sick, don't put your hand over your mouth because it shoots on all of us," one officer said.

How quaint.

So there we sat, six strangers whose only goal for the afternoon was to become legally intoxicated. Each entered with an empty stomach, required for the testing. At first, the sound of rumbling stomachs dominated most of the conversation. But after two drinks, the climate changed to an uninhibited discussion between new drinking buddies.

The drinking began at 12:30 p.m. and continued until 2 p.m. During that time, I managed to belt down four beers and my fair share of peanuts. Then the testing came. In Kansas, a person is considered legally intoxicated after reaching a blood alcohol level (BAL) of .08. According to the breathalyzer, I was an easy .086. Um, oops.

We spent an additional hour to an hour and a half drinking (this is an estimate because my notes are a bit fuzzy at this point), but only two more beers made it into my already intoxicated body.

Near the end of the second drinking session, I peeled the label from my bottle of beer and slapped it on my forehead. If only mom could have seen me. I'm sure she would have been proud.

Another breathalyzer test showed my BAL at .106. Then came the fun part we stumbled into the next room where six groups of three officers in training were waiting to administer their sobriety tests.

The room was dark, simulating a police stop in the black of night. The tests, simple to the non-inebriated, were the standard touch the end of the pen, follow it with your eyes, walk a straight line and lift your foot six inches off the ground.

I failed miserably.

However, officers in training weren't the only ones who learned from the experiment.

When drinking, common sense must be the first of brain cells to go. Physical impairment begins at .04 BAL, though legal intoxication is .08. That means there are idiots getting behind the wheel and playing a game of Russian roulette with other people's lives even before being considered legally drunk. Here's some free advice if you've had anything to drink, get a ride. Call a taxi. Call your neighbor. Call somebody. More than likely, there's someone who would rather come drag your drunken soul somewhere than let you endanger yourself or other people.

If you don't have anyone to call, or are just too drunk to pick up the phone, then be rock n' roll and sleep in your car. The option of snuggling up with your steering wheel is much better than the alternative.

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