Wednesday, March 26, 2014

I'm Not Drunk

I was tired and ready to get home so the flashing blue light in my rearview mirror was annoying. I knew I hadn’t been speeding and I had used my turn signals so had no idea what they were pulling me over for.

When the officer reached my window, he said, “Please step out of the car, Ma’am.”

“What?” I asked. I had never before been ordered out of my car when stopped.

“Please step out of the car.”

I still didn’t know what was going on, but when he stepped back I opened the door. Of course, I tripped getting out and almost fell. I would have if he hadn’t caught my arm and pulled me against his chest. 

“Thank you,” I mumbled. I knew my cheeks were blazing.

“No problem, Ma’am.”

“Will you tell me what this is about?” I asked.

“We need you to blow into this please,” he said, and it was then I noticed his partner standing at the end of the car. “We need to check your blood alcohol level.”

“But I don’t drink,” I said. 

He and his partner exchanged a glance that I was sure said they had heard that before. 

“If that’s true, we can all go home soon, Ma’am,” he said and held the Breathalyzer out toward my mouth. 

I went ahead and blew in the contraption. I knew I wasn’t drunk. I hadn’t had anything to drink in years and had only drunk three times in my whole life.

I saw the confused look on their faces as they saw the results. I smiled, thinking I was fixing to be allowed to leave. That’s what I get for thinking.

“It seems our machine is malfunctioning. I’m sorry for the inconvenience, Ma’am, but can you step out here to the line for me?”

I sighed and followed him to the center line. “Why do I have to do this? I know I passed your Breathalyzer.”

“The results are inconclusive, Ma’am, and since you were swerving over the lines while driving, we need to do these simple tests.”

Simple tests he said. Oh, they looked simple enough when he demonstrated them, but for someone like me who suffers from vertigo and dizziness, they weren’t simple at all. 

He wanted me to stand on my left foot, close my eyes and touch my nose with my right hand. I tried. I really did.

It took me several tries, and some assistance from him, before I was able to stand on one foot with my eyes closed without falling over. When I finally mastered that part, I held my arms out to my sides as he had done. Then things got really interesting.

When I tried to touch my nose with my finger, I started falling. I ended up poking myself in the eyeball and being caught, for the humpteenth time, by the officer so I wouldn’t hit the ground.

“I have vertigo,” I tried to explain.

“Ma’am?” the officer asked.

“My balance is bad because I have vertigo. That’s why I can’t pass the test. I’m not drunk.”

The officer at the end of the car cleared his throat and shook his head. 

“That may be, Ma’am,” the officer beside me said. “But we need to confirm it. Will you consent to a blood test to check your alcohol level?”

“I don’t think I have much choice do I?” I asked. 

“Not much, Ma’am.”

“Okay, let’s get it over with.”

He took my keys and drove me while his partner followed. We went to the local clinic. I’d been there a few times before for colds. I hoped nobody would recognize me, but what I was worrying about most was the fact that I had been out all day and hadn’t drunk any water in a few hours. If I was dehydrated, they would never get blood from my veins.

The officer told the nurse what he needed and she set about getting everything together. When she came at me with the needle I stopped her.

“You’ll never get that thing in my vein,” I told her. 


“They always use the butterfly needles. My veins are small, they move and they are deep. That kind of needle won’t work.”

The nurse smiled and looked at the officer. The smile told me all I needed to know. I wasn’t surprised at all when she said that she would like to try anyway. They all think it’s operator error and not my veins until they see for themselves.

I left the clinic thirty minutes later. I looked like the walking wounded. The nurse had finally quit after five sticks and used a cheek swab test. I wish she had started with it. 

“Vertigo, huh?” the officer said.

“Yep,” I answered. 

I had explained about the vertigo getting worse when I was overly tired, and after spending the day with my dying father, the stress and fatigue were at an all-time high. The nurse had me do some tests that showed I really did have vertigo and they were satisfied. The officer had said he was going to drive me home, that I didn’t need to be behind the wheel. 

“You sure you have time to drive me home?” I asked.

“I’m off afterward. My partner will do the paperwork.”

I looked sideways at him and remembered the feel of his chest all the times he had kept me from falling. He caught me looking and smiled. I ducked my head, but then thought what the heck. What did I have to lose?

“In that case,” I said and winked. “Would you like to come in for dinner?”

His smile grew and he said, “I think I better. Who else is going to catch you when you fall into the oven?”