We’ll call him James……….because that’s his real name. He went out of his way for about a year to pass along this true story to anybody that had a few minutes to listen.
James is a barrel chested Texan raised in the “Big D” but is now living in Seattle. Over the years he had become a very successful manufacturer’s representative in the food industry. The rep business is one that demands and maybe even defines the concept of integrity. A relationship between representative and customer usually extends beyond the professional stage and often extends into the rep’s “what I believe in and what I stand for” persona. There’s too much money and trust involved in the industry to allow the flakes to stand tall in it.
James had made an appointment with a grocery store consortium up in Vancouver. He would show up at 3:15 PM to complete the details of an upcoming British Columbia-wide product release and maybe spend a few minutes afterword with them to further cement his relationship. After a thorough review of their requirements and a half dozen political jokes with their team members the time had slid to 4:45PM. One of the team members suggested that they take off a few minutes early and walk across the parking lot to a sports bar and ‘toss back a few”. Six o’clock came fast so it was decided to head off to a regionally famous restaurant, all on James’s tab since that’s the way the rep business is. Along with the food order it just seemed normal to include wine but the first bottle seemed to just evaporate so they ordered a second bottle.
After a healthy handshake James climbed into his car and headed for the border but now recalls that his answers to the border guard’s questions seemed a bit lackadaisical. After rolling up his window he drove up the I-5 highway’s slight incline and around the corner where the border patrol can no longer see us. At that point we all usually hear that tiny little voice in the back of our head that says something like “you cheated the government by not declaring the leather gloves you bought your wife” and we quickly respond by rationalizing that the cost of the paperwork to the government was probably more expensive than the duty. Hoping to get home in time for his favorite Dallas oriented TV show he set his cruise control at 80.
Time starts withdrawing from James’s consciousness just like it has for all of us drivers who have driven mile after mile of repetitive scenery. He couldn’t exactly remember what had happened over the last mile or even the last ten miles. All of a sudden he popped back into a totally conscious state because of an unusual and a bit terrifying sound. It was the right front tire throwing rocks up against the wheel well showing that he was in the process of driving off the road. Since drastic action was required he jerked the wheel to get the car back into the lane. “Wow….that was close…and embarrassing”. A quick glance in the right side mirror showed no evidence of witnesses and a glance in the left side mirror also showed nothing of concern. Just to confirm that all was well he looked in his rear view mirror and saw………..
blue lights right on his bumper.
Analyzing his predicament at that moment he could barely control the thumping in his chest since there was little doubt that the officer had seen his reaction to the situation and to compound the situation there would be alcohol on his breath.
“Good evening. License, registration and proof of insurance please.”
James said that his hand was shaking when giving them up. The officer walked back to the squad car and spent what seemed to be 20 minutes on his radio. The reality of the situation was starting to sink in since James was now realizing its potential impact. Not so much on his career, although that could be hugely significant, but more to his sense of innocence. The officer came back to the window and asked James to get out and follow him up to the front of the car. He instructed James to walk forward, heel to toe, for ten paces and then turn around and do the same thing back again. James said that he started off well but about four steps out it was almost like the pavement was very uneven and he had to put his foot down outside of the straight line. At the end, he turned around and started back but seemed like the same pavement problem occurred. The officer then asked him to extend his arms straight out and then bend at the elbow and touch his left index finger to his nose. Bullseye. A perfect touch. The right finger was not as cooperative and James said that he actually poked himself in the eye and it started watering.
The patrolman returned to his patrol car for again what seemed to be forever. James was now trying to grasp reality by trying to figure out what friend he could call up and ask to come bail him out after driving all the way up to somewhere, not sure, in Washington state. Would this friend actually agree to this and, by the way, try not to mention it to anybody? Would they mind bringing $260 in cash so that James could get his car out of hawk?
The officer came back and said for James to blow as hard as he could into a glass pipe looking thing. Apparently you have to convince the cops that you have actually given it your best effort so you do it two or more times.
“ All right….have a seat in your car”
James is now shaking to the core. What was happening inside was the reality of his mental change from the category of squeaky clean, like millions of Americans, to one of “that other group”. The police record would necessitate his sales demeanor from now on to have to be…..forced. “I wonder if handcuffs hurt?”
The patrolman came forward. He handed James his license back.
“I’m citing you for inattentive driving and speeding” Pay attention to your driving”.
He started walking back to his patrol car when something happened that, in my opinion, validated this whole process in this exact instance. James, very untypically, turned back and asked the officer “Excuse me officer, but why aren’t you arresting me?
“You just blew a .079 so I can’t legally touch you. We’ll get you next time”
Have questions or comments? Rich can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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