I've never been charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence), but years ago I had a near-miss. I was truly DUI & got off easy.
How it happened. I'd been to a restaurant in the L.A. area with friends and had a good meal--Basque fare, complemented by an indulgence in cognac. And let's say I felt I could "handle it" vis a vis driving my English roadster home, some forty nighttime miles in the distance.
But to get on the freeway, I was missing an on-ramp. Instead, I was going too fast down a road to a quarry and had to brake & swerve before hitting something or worse. I spun out on gravel.
I regrouped, knowing with Hennessy's bebopping in my bloodstream, I needed things under control if I were to make it home.
Once on the freeway, I stupidly focussed on piloting the slow lane and keeping those white Botts’ Dots just so off to the left. At that late hour, scant traffic. All was well.
Suddenly, behind me, the red, white, blue lights of a California Highway Patrol cruiser's light bar. I was being pulled over.
If I was cognac-relaxed, I also had one overriding imperative: Don't let the officer know you’re drunk. Keep your mouth clam-shut. No telltale breath.
The patrolman asked for my driver's license. I wordlessly complied. He stepped away and came back on the passenger side.
He took out a flashlight and thoroughly checked out the interior of my MGA. I mean, he put his hand inside, above the passenger seat, shining light deep into the uncovered glove compartment. I thought at the time, He's looking for marijuana, he wants to bust me (this was pre-legal days). I sat there mute, my DUI’ed self obliging for him to chase that red herring.
Of course, for his own safety, he might have justifiably also looked for weapons.
His “plain view” flashlighting found nothing & he went to his cruiser for a few minutes, telling me to wait.
He came back with a written citation. I had been stopped because my left rear taillight was out. I had to get that fixed and show such to someone at the CHP office, out of which he worked, some twenty miles up Interstate 5 in Newhall. I had fourteen days.
I was relieved. I thought well of the patrolman. He talked calmly and spoke clearly about what he was doing.
Do I think he would have been justified taking me into custody if he went about the traffic stop differently & found out I was DUI? Absolutely. My life would have been ruined if my drive home went differently. If I'd spun out the MGA earlier, I could have also struck down someone in a crosswalk later.
Image credit: facebook.com/chp
Read Charlie Dickinson's story collection The Cat at Light's End, as an ebook in these downloadable formats:
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