On our way back from dinner the other night, we found ourselves in a funnel of cars being directed through a sobriety checkpoint. It was Friday night, and it wasn't the first time we had seen such a production. A police car sat in the intersection, blocking the clean exit onto the freeway, and we all lined up headlight to taillight to wait for our turn to be scrutinized. I saw a few people make a wild and ill-advised turn or two to avoid being caught in the vortex, but most of the drivers ahead and behind us fell into place and waited their turn to be asked, "Have you had anything to drink tonight?"
There was a time when I would have been the one making a break for it. I drove motor vehicles with unfair amounts of pollutants in my system on numerous occasions. I drove "small" enough times that I felt that I was "good" at it. It wasn't just me, either. I regularly took family and friends along for the ride. I got pulled over once, for running a flashing yellow light. The officer who stopped me looked at my license and asked if I had a brother who was a cop. "Well, yes I do," I replied in my best attempt at appearing overtly sober. He let me go with a warning, and I remembered what my older brother had once told me: "I can't keep you out of jail, but I can get you a good room." I was lucky not to have to take him up on that offer.
I was lucky for a lot of years, and now, pulling up to the sobriety checkpoint, my wife rolled down her window and presented her license to the smiling policeman. When asked, she proudly announced that she had not had a drink that night "and it's been twenty-one years since my husband has had anything to drink."
"Congratulations," said Officer Friendly as he handed the license back through the window. Congratulations indeed. Maybe I should offer to drive a little more often.