Nervously, I took a deep breath and blew as hard as I could into the breathalyzer. "Colin, you just blew a .035," the Utah Highway Patrol officer said. I watched him write something down on his notepad. I had been drinking—heavily—so, obviously, I was feeling a little nervous. He turned to me and smiled. "Now, go on and get yourself another rum & coke."---
For once in my life, an officer of the law was encouraging me to do something I have no problem being a part of: getting obliterated (for a good cause). You see, on Dec. 11, my fellow City Weekly writer Eric Peterson and I were picked up from my house by a UHP officer in a patrol car and escorted to the Salt Lake Community College Larry H. Miller campus. But unlike McLovin's storyline in Superbad, the idea was that we participate in the UHP's wet lab, which is basically a controlled classroom setting that allows Utah cadets to witness real-life drunks (some of these cops have never smelled alcohol on a person's breath) and get some practice in issuing field sobriety tests.
It's also a fantastically bizarre place for volunteers. Imagine, if you will, a bar where cops serve free doubles for four hours straight; there are plenty of snacks, like animal crackers, pretzels and Doritos; and there's upbeat music coming from a CD called Dance Mix USA Vol. 4.
When we first started drinking (at 10:30 a.m.) an officer came in and said, "Man, it's too quiet in here. How about a little music?" She then turned on the stereo, and Montell Jordan's "This Is How We Do It" came on.. At that point, I knew this was a great watering hole.
Though one of the cops did say, "This is not a state-sanctioned party," it sure did feel like one. The next four hours involved Eric and I bonding with strangers/volunteers, passing the time by arm-wrestling to settle arguments (like whether or not Kias are reliable automobiles), cops tending to finished drinks and saying things like, "We don't want any empty glasses," and, of course, participating in occasional blood-alcohol tests.
Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to film anyone in the booze room ... er, roadhouse ... er, wet lab. Also, we weren't allowed to film any of the other volunteers or cops, minus a couple of officers who agreed to be on camera. So, working with what we had, Eric and I checked in with our camera guy, Mike, after every drink to let him know how we were doing.
Here's how it went down:
Secret Handshake EP. 9 from The Secret Handshake Show.
As you probably saw in the video, my colleague Eric talked a heaping amount of horseshit about how he was drunker than me and how he was going to pass this test with ease, yadda yadda yadda. But to his credit, that's what we were asked to do. The mission was to get so blotto that we would have no problem stepping into the role of stereotypical "drunk Utah asshole." The more hammered we got, the more helpful it was for the cadets. If anything, the cops were pleased with our performance.
But jokes asides, it was a pretty sobering experience to participate in an exercise of this nature. If you weren't aware, the national DUI blood-alcohol average is a whopping .15. This is a disgusting amount of alcohol when you think about it. My last breathalyzer before doing the sobriety tests was .156 and I felt like I was going to vomit. Before I went into the room full of cadets, I kept muttering inspirational movie quotes to myself in a sad attempt to sober up. But it didn't matter.
Now, I know what some of you jabronis are thinking—that you could have passed that sobriety test. Well, you're dead wrong. You will fail—especially the eye exam. Walking in a straight line? Maybe. Punching through a chainlink fence? Definitely. But staring at a pen? It can't be done. If a cop hovers a pen in your face, game over. There's no way in hell you can muster up the willpower to have your eyeballs focus on a slow-moving pen. It sounds easy, but it's literally impossible.
Though most of the local-media outlets were also invited to the UHP Roadhouse experience, only Provo's Daily Herald showed up—well, I suppose you could also count Fox 13 (which appeared at the very last minute and grabbed a clip of Eric telling the camera to "don't drink and drive"). But Eric and I were the only "journalists" willing to get drunk for science and education. Yes, it was extremely tough on our bodies. But sometimes you have to make huge sacrifices for the betterment of your fellow man.