Sunday, June 12, 2016

Sobriety Checkpoint

Last night I went to dinner with my cousins in Cambridge.  My cousin Marcia is wonderful in many ways and one of these is picking out interesting places to eat--not to mention making the arrangements.  She is as good a planner as anyone I have ever met.

Our dinner reservations were for 845 and I got there about 830, sat at the bar and asked for a beer. My cousins arrived promptly at 845. We shmoozed some at the bar and then were seated.  It was a nice long dinner and we caught up on several fronts.  The waiters did not rush us and we lingered at our table until about 1130.  I had had the lone beer which I nursed the whole night.  Typically, I might have a second beer or if drinking cocktails a second during dinner, but last night just the one.

There are one of several ways to get back to Waltham from the part of Cambridge where the restaurant was located.  Boston roads are not like New York or cities set up like a grid.  They are paved cowpaths--not kidding.  My first years here I was driving around in circles and hoped I would somehow find some location that looked familiar. But now three plus decades later I sort of have it. I decided on taking a circuitous route that would take me onto Soldiers Field Road, and then get on the Mass Pike in Brighton--a section of Boston.

One thing that can infuriate and frustrate drivers in Boston is how roads change names when there is no reason for the names to be changed.  For example, a main road parallel to our home is south street. You can be on it for three minutes when the street becomes River Road and South Street disappears until a few minutes later when it is called South Avenue.  This can drive those who are following a GPS system mad.  You really have to know where you are.  Similarly, a major highway in Boston is Storrow Drive.  I have lived here for a long time and am still not sure where and how or why the road changes to Soldiers Field Road. On the other side of the river it is even worse.  A road that circles the city is called 95 until they call it 128 and then call it 95 again apparently on a whim. I digress.  Point is you have to know where you are.

I knew where I was.  I was on Soldiers Field Road in Brighton at about midnight when traffic on the highway stopped.  I thought there might be an accident but as I inched forward I did not see one. What I did see was a very large police presence.  Adjacent to this section of Soldiers Field Road is a large parking lot where I've parked my vehicle on many occasions as it provides access to the river for walking, picnicking, running, biking or just sitting on a bench.  I noticed last night at midnight that there must have been twenty police officers in slickers parked in the lot with some other vehicles.

I did not know what this was about until I got about thirty to fifty yards from two police officers who were stopping traffic.  At that point I saw a sign on the side of Soldiers Field Road that I had never seen before. The sign read "Sobriety Checkpoint."

Well, that was a first for me.  A routine stopping of cars on the highway to see if the drivers were loaded.  Had I had a second drink that night, or had the lone beer I had consumed closer to when we departed I could have gotten nervous, but I was stone sober and comforted to know that this stop was just going to delay my getting home til well after my bedtime.

When it was my turn to be questioned an officer shined a light into the vehicle and told me this was a sobriety check. I said okay. He used the flashlight to see if there was any evidence of consumption and there was not. I did wonder if he might arrest me for the array of junk all over and the peculiar placement of a basketball where the coffee cups are usually located. He apparently has seen worse.  He asked me where I'd been and where I was going.  I told him. He asked if I had anything to drink. I told him about the beer I had nursed.  And boy was I glad I had had only one, because it sure seemed that the slightest slur-even one brought on by anxiety would have had him telling me to pull into the parking lot where the officers were giving, I assume, more rigorous testing.  He asked me if I had had anything else to drink.  I was going to be a wiseguy and say I had a decaf and a glass of water which could have had been colder for a restaurant that was not really on the cheap side.  But I figured this was not the time. He paused considering whether one beer was enough to warrant more scrutiny or perhaps thinking that if I told him I had one I really had more than one.  But eventually he told me I could move on.

My reaction to the sobriety checkpoint might have been different had I been more seriously scrutinized or if I had been in a hurry. The whole thing of creeping along the highway and interrogation took at least 15 minutes and maybe longer. But given my sobriety and the fact that I was not in a hurry, I thought that this was probably a good thing.  The next time I am out and have to drive I might keep in the back of my head that I could get stopped by an army out to stop impaired drivers.  So I might stop at one as I did last night.  This practice could put a damper on parties and the collective taverns' bottom lines, but it will make for safer highways.

And then I thought of the sobriety check metaphorically.  Isn't it a good thing--or wouldn't it be a good thing if now and again we were stopped on our highways and some officer were to ask if we were thinking straight, acting in society's best interest, acting in our own self interest.

"Okay sir just a regular sobriety check.  

  • Are you following your heart?  
  • Paying attention to your kids? 
  • Working at a job that gives you joy instead of following the shekel?
  • How about sex? Are you taking care of your needs there? 
  • Do you have a decent hobby or are you just passing time doing things to keep busy before you kick?
Hmm. Sorry sir.  You have not convinced me you are acting soberly. You'll have to pull into the parking lot.  We'll have to check you out more thoroughly."

That would be a valuable sobriety check, no?

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