I was completely surprised when I saw the police lights flashing in the rear-view mirror. I'm always surprised when I'm stopped by the police. But they always come up with a good reason.
It was around 2:30 in the morning.
“Hello sir! Do you know why I stopped you?”
“No. I have no idea. Why did you stop me?”
“You were swerving on the highway.”
“I was swerving? I'm sorry. I didn't realize it.”
“Did you consume any alcohol this evening, sir?”
“Ummm, yes I did. I had some beer.”
“How many beers did you have, sir?”
Well, let me think. The evening began after the CIRA (Center for Iranian Research and Analysis) conference in Washington. It was around 9:30 and many of the participants were in the hotel restaurant. I didn't want to pay the $50 dinner ticket, and I was meeting some friends in an hour. I sat at the bar and had a beer.
Then I met my friends downtown at the Daily Grill. I had three glasses of beer there. No. Two-and-a-half. Then we went next door to Andalou — a basement full of people dancing to loud house music — and I had a bottle of beer there. And finally, before I left, someone handed me a shot of vodka or something. It tasted nasty. I didn't drink all of it.
“I had two glasses of beer.”
“Okay sir, may I see your driver's license and registration?”
I knew I was in trouble. I tried my best to act normal and cooperate.
“Can you please step out of the car?”
I stepped out and walked toward the back of the car.
“Do you have any weapons, sir?”
“No I don't.”
“Please put your hands on the trunk and spread your legs.”
I did. And the officer tapped my body to make sure I didn't have a gun or …
“Okay. I'm going to give you a series of tests to make sure you're in driving condition. The tests are very simple. If you have any questions at any time, let me know. Do you understand, sir?
“Yes. I understand.”
“Okay. Here's your first test. I want you to touch your thumb with your fingers on your right hand – twice. Like this… Do you understand?”
I didn't really understand.
“Do you have any questions?”
“Okay start touching your thumb with your fingers.”
I did. But I wasn't sure if I did it right. Did I do it once or twice? I couldn't remember.
“Do you want me to do it again?”
“No. That's fine.”
The officer took notes. I couldn't see what he was scribbling.
“Now. I want you to stand on either foot, lift the other slightly and count to thirty.”
“One, two… three, four, five…”
I wobbled a bit, but I didn't put my leg down. I guess I did okay.
“Okay sir. Now I'm going to give you one more test. I want you to walk nine steps, toe to toe, turn, and walk back nine steps, again, toe to toe. Do you understand?”
I did it. Yes!
“Arrrright. Now, there's one more test…”
One more test? Please let me go…
“The breath test.”
“The State of Virginia gives you the right to refuse a breath test. But you may also choose to take it. Will you take a breath test?”
I don't know why I said that. Why didn't I just say no? Maybe I was trying to keep the impression that I was perfectly fine. I was perfectly stupid.
“Are you sure you want to take the breath test?”
“Yeah. Fine. Go ahead.”
It wasn't fine. I knew I was going to get caught with too much alcohol in my breath. I was terrified. But I didn't show it.
“The legal limit in the State of Virginia is 0.8. Here's a fresh tube. I will take off the plastic and place it in the breathalyzer. Take a deep breath and… blow hard.”
I blew as hard as I could. Like a good boy.
As the officer waited for the result, he asked me if I was going back home to Oakton.
“Yes I am.”
“How long will it take you?”
“About ten minutes.”
“Only ten minutes from here?”
“Well, I don't really know where I am exactly right now.”
“Where did you have your drinks?”
“First at the Daily Grill on 18th Street. And then at Andalou's.”
“Andalou? I've never heard of that place.”
“It's right there on 18th street. A few doors up after the Daily Grill. Right before California Pizza Chicken.”
“California Pizza Chicken?”
“Yeah. Right next to California Pizza … Chicken.”
I meant California Pizza Kitchen, of course. But I couldn't say it right.
The officer looked at the measurement on the breathalyzer. It showed 0.7.
It had to be a mistake. All that alcohol and I'm still under the limit? I wasn't about to complain. I was so, so, so happy.
“You lied to me, sir, didn't you?”
“Let's cut the bull shit, okay? You had more than two glasses of beer, didn't you?”
“Ummm, I didn't intend to lie. I… “
“But you did lie. Now why would you do that?”
“I'm sorry. I …”
“Listen to me. You were THIS close to getting arrested for drunk driving. I would've put handcuffs on you.”