Sunday, December 21, 2008

Dirt road field sobriety tests

The creamy powder shots of Turnagain feel a bit fresher when you think you might have spent the weekend in jail instead of ripping fresh lines.
I had myself pretty well convinced for a heart pounding 20 minutes I'd be making a return visit to Wildwood, the jail outside Kenai, Friday night, this time however, I would have hung around for a bit longer, 70 hours longer, to be exact.
Friday evening Joe and I went up to the local bar for drinks and a little socialization. I stuck with my usual two beers in as many hours, as, though the bar isn't two miles from the lodge, I was driving.
With the holiday season in full swing, local PD have been stepping up their efforts to get drunk drivers off the roads. Last week we ran a multi-part series on DUI and the consequences in the Clarion.
As I pulled out of the bar a trooper sped by heading in the same direction.
"I've only had 2 brews, I'm good but I'll hang back all the same," I thought.
I noticed a car on my tail was riding close but I'm about to turn so I didn't mind. As I turned on my signal and moved into the center lane to turn down my road, sure enough, red and blue lights behind me!
There were two troopers working the bar, they were probably just sitting watching for people leaving.
So anyway, I throw the keys on the dash, roll down the window and the trooper comes over. I'm just curious to see what I've been pulled over for.
I guess the light over my license plate is out and that was enough.
I'm real straight with them though, the trooper asks and I tell them I had two drinks.
After clearing my license registration and insurance, the trooper comes back and of course, wants me to do a field sobriety test.
Now I know I'm not going to blow a .08 or anything, but here's what came out of the DUI series; you don't have to. That's right, you can get a DUI below .08 if the officer feels you're impaired. One officer interviewed in the story said he knew who was going to jail within seconds of the sobriety test. This is the whole point of the tests after all.
Holy crap, I was so scared, I knew I felt safe to drive, but what if they disagreed. That was it, I'd immediately spend the next three days in jail.
The first test they had me do was the line of sight, following the trooper's finger with my eyes while he high beamed me with a flashlight.
This is one of the most telling tests, as they're looking to see if you can maintain your focus or if your pupils involuntarily snap back or twitch.
This is hell, and by far the hardest. The officer holds their finger at the edge of your peripheral vision for 5 seconds and then moves to the other end, back and forth several times.
Imagine being asked to turn you head 90 degrees in one direction, then turn it 1 degree more, and hold it there. Your muscles want to pull back to a more natural position.
This is true with your pupils too, perhaps more so as the muscles are smaller, weaker, and more easily influenced by alcohol, even it's only a little bit.
Next they had me they had me do the heal to toe walking a straight line. Only problem, I was on a dirt road, so the straightest line was a snowy unlevel tire track. I didn't like it
I stood on one leg while extending the other for 10 seconds, no problem there I thought.
After each test though, one of the troopers would mouth something into the radio. I couldn't hear what though.
Then came reciting the alphabet from e-p. My heart was beginning to race, and of course, I stumbled almost immediately, on g. I regained myself and finished up, but I knew I'd biffed it.
Finally they asked me to count backwards from 69-54. With the cold and fear now causing me to shake visibly, I just wanted this to be over already, and started counting almost the second the trooper stopped talking. I realized immediately I didn't know where I was supposed to stop. 59 sounded about right as I tried to think, and count backwards in my head.
I finished, pleased with my effort, when the trooper said into his radio, "failed counting test."
"I said stop at 54" He said.
I apologized and said I'd misheard him, which was somewhat true; more that my pounding heart muffled out his directions.
He and the other trooper told me to hang tight, walked 10 feet away next to his running vehicle and consulted on my performance.
They were so close I could almost hear them, but the engine drowned out their words.
I could see the one officer who'd been observing the whole thing just nodding in agreement to everything the one who gave direction and mouthed results was saying.
I just watched, wide eyed not believing this was happening.
"Oh god," was all I could think, "I'm going to jail, I'm losing my license, the dream's over, I can't believe this."
They came back after what felt like an eternity, though was probably less than 10 seconds.
As I prepared to turn and face the vehicle, they pleasantly thanked me for my cooperation and told me to have a nice evening.
I was golden. I almost couldn't believe it.
I explained that I worked at the Clarion and that we'd just done this DUI series. I couldn't help thinking the whole time how funny it was that Mike and Scott spent a night last week doing a ride-along with the Kenai PD hoping to get some shots of someone performing a field sobriety test, with no such luck.
The troopers laughed and said if I wanted to get a camera we could do it again. I was set on that!
I then asked a question I was a bit worried to pose. I wanted their professional opinion on my ability to drive with the two beers over the past two hours in my system. It's something I've always wondered about as it's my rule if I'm driving, though until Friday night, it'd never been put to the test.
They offered to give me a Breathalyzer, which, as I started breathing through and immediately realized would have been hysterically ironic if I blew over a .08!
I believe however, that the trooper may have laughed slightly when he told me I was at .015, not even a quarter of the way there.
They confirmed what I've always practiced, that someone built on my light frame can consume and remove one beer an hour and maintain a .02. While .02 isn't much, I can now safely say that much past that and I might feel OK to drive, but I wouldn't want to prove it.
I got back in the car, and Joe, who was a bit more tipsy than I, thought the whole thing was just hysterical. He knew I was fine, but felt the need to tell me how annoyed he would have been if he had to walk the last half mile home.
"I was freezing, crapping my pants thinking I was going to jail, and you were worried you were going to have to walk a measly half mile!!" I laughed hysterically.
Holy smokes, I was pretty wound up afterwards you can imagine.

Here's the take away message from this funny little story though folks. The PSA commercials on TV, the radio and in the paper get redundant, yes, but I'm not fucking kidding, if you're over your limit, and you get pulled over, you're screwed.
We all have a limit where we're probably still good to drive, but when your ripped out of that warm little enclave of a car, shot in the face with a beam of light, and told to do activities, some of which are hard enough sober, you will get nailed.
I don't curse much in this blog, but feel strongly about this, so I'm leaving it here:

If you're past your limit, don't fucking do it, you will get caught, you will spend the night in a jail cell, your life will be hell for a rather long while after.

Ok, on a different note, here's some photos from skiing the Tincan in Turnagain.

Roadgap: a kicker on the lower slopes of Tincan appears to launch out over the pass.

Anthony on the second run

Josh makes some lines in the snow

Whisps of clouds streak over the Tincan Commons summit

Ethan stands on the edge of a windlip that we'll call 20 feet unless you were there. The tracks below are mine. I thought I was dropping 5 feet, hence the 'V' shape at my landing. I did what I'll call a folded cartwheel and rode it out, since you weren't there for that either. Ethan dropped it too, not realizing it was so large. His landing was similar.

Ethan makes the best of it


Saturday was the second shortest day of the year, this was the second option for Tuesday's cover art.

A good perspective of a half run. Not sure who was about to drop in.

Ethan demonstrates a medium, small and grand powder spray, respectively.

Anthony provides some perspective on the grade of the terrain

That's Ethan, he's testing the depth of the snowpack

Josh drops into the trees

A view of Tincan from back at the cars. It's easy to see how it's defined in two aspects. It's low angle low elevation tree slopes, and its upper bowls.

Here's a few shots of yours truly taken from Ethan's camera, thanks Ethan!

The first run we took was horrible. If you look you can see I've thrown my goggles up in an attempt to get any depth perception, the lighting, as the photo attests was miserable and it was hard to tell up from down.

Ethan has this photo titled, 'Oh shit!' Those would have been the words that came out of my mouth as I dropped off the windlip thinking I was decending 5 feet instead of 15-20.

These two shots wreak of creamy fast snow

Here's a few shots also from Ethan from last weekend on Magnum

Tuesday I'll be heading east, hopefully somehow avoiding the circus that all the major airports have become, though my hopes are dim. Nonetheless, there will be no post on Thursday. Have a great xmas guys!

1 comment:

McConnell "Macky" Franklin said...

Glad you passed! Incredibly ironic that you had just done an article on it! Love it!
And Happy Holidays to you too!