I've mentioned this before. I have an English friend who lives in California. When he introduces me, he says, with a very proper Cockney, "This is my friend, Scotty. Stuff happens to him."
Now, I'm not one to argue with one that astute. I mean, stuff does happen to me. All the time. (Oddly, not so much since I've become the proverbial "good son" and have taken up taking care of me Mum. I work forty hours. I take care of the property. I work on my motorhome (which was given to me because I asked the universe for a motorhome and the universe just spit one out, all 27 feet of it, for free.) I take my dogs down to the lake. I check my e-mails. Surf the net. Watch 24 on dvd. Write posts on my homepage. Friday nights I spend with the boys getting paid and knocking back a beer or two... )
Not too much stuff happening lately. Not really.
In fact, if I didn't know better, I would say that stuff has moved on. I would say that somebody else is having stuff happen to them because stuff isn't happening to me. I'm being let off easy. I'm not having to keep my wits. Life is being gentle on me and I'm not minding it so much.
Don't get me wrong. I like stuff. Stuff never hurt me seriously and always kept life more than interesting.
Stuff is what life is made of.
See what I mean?
This is a picture of the house I owned before my Mum got sick. I sold this house pretty much at the same time I started making daily excursions to the hospital to help my Mum breathe and to learn to be a nurse of sorts. If you'll notice, the house looks like an explosion hit it, my truck looks like it is trying to break in half so it won't have to carry any more debris, and my favorite beer is sitting in the foreground on a piece of folded steel I designed as a concrete form for something weird.
As a few of you know, I remodeled this house by myself (for the most part) two and three years ago. I have finished photos I'll post someday. But the house is not what I wanted to tell you about. Today, I was thinking about stuff, and, aside from my Mum getting sick and doing a few months in the hospital and all of the ensuing drama and bum wiping and bed rearranging and meals on wheels and nurses coming to her house...
My life has been pretty tacit and temperate.
In fact, what I wanted to tell you about was the last time stuff actually happened to ME.
I mean, really, isn't that what narcissistic ramblings are all about?
I've been pulled over four times in my life for "weaving". In over twenty five years of driving, four moments out of all that time some cop decided I wasn't keeping a straight and true path down the road and suspected a Dooey (DUI or DWI).
The first time was because of a water bottle rolling around underneath my feet and threatening to get stuck under my brake pedal and/or accelerator pedal, and I was trying to steer and reach down to get it at the same time. You've all done this, so the cop was understanding and gave me a flashlight in the eyes test and let me go.
The second time was because my favorite baseball team was on the radio, Barry Bonds was at the plate, and my reception started to go out. You've all done this-- tune your radio while driving-- so the cop was understanding and gave me a flashlight test and let me go.
The third time was because I take my two dogs everywhere I go (when possible) and my female collie likes to try and eat the crumbs I drop in my lap which often fall smack square in the twixt of the twins-- if you get my drift-- and a long slender collie nose with lashing tongue down in the general vicinity of the extremities can cause one to tack untrue down the road. This has probably happened to all of ya'll once or twice, and the cop was understanding and gave me a flashlight test and let me go.
The last time I got the flashlight test, I was standing on the front porch of this exploded house, holding a beer in one hand and trying to steady the balance of a cop with the other, as the cop was standing up on two blocks of wood I had stacked together to help him look into my eyes.
Now, I am willing to wager, that most of ya'll have never had this happen to you. You see, this was the stuff I've been talking about. This was an odd event occuring on my front porch, and I was right smack dab in the middle of it.
In fact I was the center of attention.
I had three Sherriff's cars all lined up on my driveway. I had lights flashing. I had neighbors gossiping. I had serious looking young officers just an itch away from pulling their guns and making me put my hands up against a wall and all of that bad boy cop show crap while I tried finishing my chewing on a very tough piece of sandwich meat and washed it all down with a beer.
"Holy Crap" I thought. "Stuff is happening to me again."
I had worked a long hard day until after five and then gone in to town to do some grocery shopping.
When you're doing this scale of a remodel, money seems to disappear out of your pocket like you have a couple of girlfriends and a delinquent son or two. I mean, every penny that came in, shot or snuck out and went to purveyors of construction materials and deli sandwiches.
I was constantly so broke I was eating noodles with butter for dinner on many a hungry night. When a chunk of money did come in, I would stock up on things like peanut butter and beer to carry me another couple of weeks down the road.
The house I bought was about three miles up a "country" road, one that I would consider "empty" (coming out of the Bay Area), but one in which these local Sherriff's considered "a major thoroughfare".
This difference in perception led to my facing the possibility of being handcuffed and led away to the local jail where I was sure to meet the guy I caught sitting in my truck one day riffling through my things (I caught him by slamming his legs with my door and pinning them, but that's for another day). Never say to a young and serious local Sherriff's deputy trying to undo the one foot advantage you have over him in height, with attitude and a "stern demeaner", that "you've got to be kidding!"
It doesn't fly real well. It makes the little uniformed guy get all red in the face and want to DO things to you. It makes for a tense moment and a lesson in just keeping the mouth shut. I didn't stop there, either. I made another remark about adding a commuter lane. I was getting in a conversation that I wanted out of.
Here is what happened in a nutshell, from start to finish.
I went to the store and spent two hundred bucks on groceries and bought a twenty four pack of my favorite Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.
The drive goes something like this. Down a steep gravel driveway. Down a country lane that services maybe twenty five houses. Out onto Azalea, a two lane road that connects two other two lane country roads. I mean, we're talking about a rural road servicing a rural setting. There might be one car per two thousand feet when it is busy. Sometimes they bunch up, three or four cars all squeezed together, but then there would be half a mile til the next car. Get the picture? And that's during busy times like between five and six at night, when people are coming home from work.
After Azalea you get on a busier two lane road (still a sleeper, if you're from a reasonably sized area) and this takes you into downtown Grants Pass where a Safeway and Albertson's awaits.
Got all that?
And then in reverse.
I am coming home with two hundred dollars of groceries away from Grants Pass on a two lane road that heads out of town. I turn right on Azalea, which is a quiet two lane road that connects over to another two lane road after about six meandering miles. And here is where it gets extremely complicated and where my transgressions were noticed by the very alert and astute Small-Town Sherriff's department and where I made many near-fatal judgement errors.
I was hungry. I could feel that my blood sugar had dropped below the no shake zone. I hadn't eaten much all day and I had worked extremely hard. As I approached the turn onto Azalea, I had fished around in the bags of food that I bought and located a tub of pasta salad that I had purchased at the deli for part of a no cook dinner I was going to have. I pulled it out of the plastic bag, opened the tub, and then realized that I had no fork or spoon or anything resembling either to eat it with. I made the turn onto Azalea and began rumaging around on the floor of my truck for any possible implement I could get the dang squirrely noodles in my mouth with while I drove down a quiet two lane country road with my two dogs both eyeballing every move I made lest I drop something twixt my twins and a tongue was necessary to extricate it...
See the dilemma?
I found a nail. A sixteen penny green coated sinker. I could use that like a skewer, is what I thought. I slowed the truck down to below thirty (it is not safe to drive at high speeds while trying to stab squirrely noodles with a sixteen penny nail while both your dogs are trying to edge up closer into your lap and you are steering with your knees... at least, that's what I thought.)
And then a white SUV and behind that, a small Honda crammed up against me.
Shit. I steered over to the shoulder to let the cars pass. The SUV did not pass. The shoulder disappeared so I moved back out into my lane. I continued eating. I was shaking with hunger. Ever shake with hunger?
I veered over to a wide spot and still, the SUV would not pass. I went back to my pasta salad. My collie Wenzel was stabbing her nose between my legs and coming up with stuff, and this was making me swervy on the outside. I veered over at another wide spot to let the two cars get around me, and this time, the little Honda overtook both of us. I turned into my little country lane and so did the SUV. Shit. Now I would have to deal with HIM some more. I sped up and tried to drive more normally until I got to the bottom of my gravel driveway and then turned up one of several forks, glad to be on home turf where I could crack a beer and cruise up my driveway nice and slow, admiring the little evergreens I had transplanted and noticing wild stuff growing that needed to be burnt or sprayed.
I'm big, so if I tell you I downed a beer in a few seconds after a long hot day of working, it shouldn't worry you. Twelve ounces goes down pretty fast when you are thirsty and your throat is full of construction dust and you've got pasta clinging to whatever it finds in your throat that has dried out from breathing dusty air all afternoon.
And the second one was even better.
Though this beer survived the unloading of the groceries and the putting away of all the refrigerables and made it back out to my truck where I tossed it on the passenger floor next to the twenty-two other beers still in the box.
I grabbed a third beer to help me eat a deli sandwich with, and went upstairs to my computer, which I turned on and began reading while I ate.
I love to read. It is what attracts me to the computer. It is what relaxes me. It quiets my mind and let's my over-exerted body rest. I sit in a big comfy chair, put my feet up, click away with one hand while I eat and sip a beer with the other. If I want to say something computerwise, I put the keyboard in my lap, put the food and drink down, and tap out words with three fingers on each hand, looking down at the keyoard the whole time, trying to make my sausage and potatoes fingers keep up with my mental mouthing of thoughts (which is like a race betweeen Gary Coleman and Shazam, but I'll get into that some other time...)
So there I was, fifteen minutes of off-duty bliss, reading and tapping, sipping on a third beer and munching on a chewy deli sandwich... when three Sherriff's cars come up my driveway, lights all flashing, and park right behind my silver Nissan 4wd truck.
Ever notice how some cops in uniform look like they are trying to well themselves up in size like a scared cat whenever they have to do coply things like knock on a door and investigate a crime?
There was one of those. He was the lead Sherriff on this, too, which made the whole thing much more difficult and gave the scene a rather puffed up feel to it. Know what I mean?
I mean, the reason they were here in these numbers, is because the white SUV driver turned out to be one of them. He was an off-duty Sherriff and had surmised that I must have been three sheets and a pillowcase to the wind because of all my weaving and slowness. He radio'd it in and three cars responded and here they were, all in a row, all in my narrow driveway with no way to turn around unless I moved my truck (and a difficult back-up because the driveway got steep and turned right where the gravel got loose, meaning you had to back-up without trying to slow or stop on the hill, and if you tried to stop because you were going crooked you slid off the driveway into a ditch and I would get my truck and pull you straight again.)
So... puffed up Sherriffs, the lead guy a foot or more shorter than me and with a big attitude. A truck with a twenty-four pack of beer on the passenger floor, two opened and empty. A third beer in my hand. A report by a known and diligent officer of the law...
Take a look at the photo I posted. This was the basic condition of my house, although I believe I had replaced many of the windows by then.
Stuff was stacking up against me in a hurry.
Although they were all puffed up and I was happy, content with a belly full of food and two and a half beers, the third one in my hand when I stuck my head out the front door and hollered "Hi! Can I help you?", and things were dire, and the evidence was stacked aganst me, I had no clue that I was in trouble.
"Is that your Nissan?"
The short puffy cop felt the engine-- TV cop trick he had picked up, to be sure-- and then he lifted up the two empty beers and rummaged through the case a bit, mostly for effect.
"We got a report of a possible DUI. Were you driving this vehicle?"
"I just got back from the store, why?"
"You didn't know you were being followed by an off duty Sherriff did you?"
"He radio'd in because you were weavin' all over the road. Have you been drinking, sir?"
I looked at the more than half drank beer in my hand. I was not gonna lie outta this. He had me there.
"A LITTLE BIT? We have a report that says you were all over the road. One of our best officers followed you to your driveway and called us. That's why we're here. You are under suspicion for driving under the influence."
A light bulb went off in my head.
OK. So no "light bulb" went off. That would be like having a brain tumor suddenly affect a nerve. That's not what happened. More like an Aha! moment where you suddenly see the hidden item in the picure. Only I was the item, the surprise, hidden in the trees. I was a weaving drunk in the eyes of the local law...
"I was hungry." is what I told the Sherriff.
"I was hungry. I was eating. I had low blood sugar and I was trying to eat something while driving. I'm not drunk. I'm hypo-glycemic."
"You look like you've been drinking."
"I've had two and a half beers today. All since getting home. Those are the bottles. This is the third. DO you mind if I finish my sandwich? I'm still hungry. You guys interupted my dinner."
The puffy cop took the opportunity to give me the "I've met so many of you types" lecture, while I chewed and chewed on salami and tough and dry french bread, and the only thing I got out of the conversation was a few more sips of my beer, which I used to wash down the dryness of my sandwich.
"So, would you object to us giving you a sobriety test?"
"Sure, I don't mind. Do I seem intoxicated to you?"
The bigger and quieter cop who I had just noticed shook his head "no", like he was on my side in this, but it was obvious which puffed up little man wanted to perform the "test" on me and why. The other officers held back off the porch, and the only female Sherriff went to her car and started to slowly back down the driveway, using her brakes like she knew she needed them.
The little uniformed Sherriff pulled out a flashlight and told me to look into the beam, and follow every movement without moving my head. I did. The only trouble was, he was not tall enough to see what he was supposed to see, and he asked me to bend down a little.
"I can't see. Can you bend down a little?"
I knew an opportunity had arisen and I wanted to stick my middle finger in this little punks ego.
"I can't. I have a bad back."
He brought the flashlight down, outta my eyes. Rather than ask the taller guy to perform the test, he looked around for something to stand on. I suggested a couple of blocks of wood that were laying nearby-- two, four by four end cuts, to be exact. They were solid to stand on if you had great balance. Not so, stacked on top of each other, if you did not. I grabbed one and tossed it down on the porch. "Here. You might need the other one too."
The puffy Sherriff guy picked up the second block and put it on the first. He stepped up on his new little man stool. He got out the flashlight and shined it into my eyes gain. I followed along, without moving my head.
"It's not working," he said to the taller, nicer seemng Sherriff guy.
"You mean he's fine?"
"No! It's not working."
"Try it again."
The short Sherriff manuevered the light around and I followed it, while holding on to him to help him balance. I'm not sure what was supposed to happen, but whatever it was, it was not happening to me. Two recently consumed beers with food and half a third one poured into the gullet of a 260 pound guy, and there is no drunkeness. In fact, what there was was amusement. I got happy. This whole thing was starting to be really funny to me.
"Damn it! It's not working!" said the little Sherriff guy.
"I told you I'm not drunk. I was eating. I was driving slow..."
"Shut up! You were reported driving reckless by an off-duty Sherriff and I am NOT going to take your word over his."
"I was on a country lane with no traffic and I was driving thirty miles an hour. That's not reckless."
"That's not a country lane. You were on Azalea!"
"You have got to be kidding..."
"Don't you mouth off to me, boy! I ain't got time for your lip."
"I keep wondering when they're gonna put in the commuter lane down there."
"Shut the F--- up!"
The bigger, nicer guy looked unsure of his position on this. He was on my side. You could tell. But he had a small man as a boss. Trouble. The other Sherriff guys approached as if there was about to be a problem. I was in a position I wasn't too comfortable with, so I swilled the rest of my beer. The puffy air grew puffier and the little guy wanted to look me in the eye and stare me down, but he wasn't tall enough unless I helped him balance back on the blocks of wood. He put his hands on his hips and tried to think of something coply to say, and just then we all heard the female cop call out from down the driveway just a bit. She had walked back up without her car and I knew immediately what had happened.
"I slid my car off the road."
This changed everything.
Now the Sherriffs were all into another mode. There was a fellow officer down, in need of immediate assistance. Or some such thing.
"I'd pull you out with my truck," I said."But I've been drinking."
In the end, the short little guy wrote me up for a cracked windshield and a tow truck came and did what I could have done in two minutes. They had all waited down by the sharp and steep curve for twenty minutes at least, while I sat upstairs on my computer with my feet up in a comfortable chair, and watched the lovely lights flash through the oak and madrone trees in the dark...