He can’t help thinking that this could have been avoided if he had exercised greater self-control. If he had not been sloshed, if he had not so badly craved a carne asada burrito, he would be at home right now.
Twenty minutes later Nate arrives. He is driving a friend’s Jeep that has no doors or windows. You can hear the engine from inside the station. Edward is mortified. He thinks that his brother-in-law’s choice of vehicle reflects badly on him. Now not only will he look like a drunk but also a loser who hangs out with questionable people.
“Thanks for picking me up in this piece of shit,” he tells Nate.
“You just got a DUI. I’d say that’s way more embarrassing than the car.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“At this moment, I’d say you’re the idiot,” Nate responds.
On the ride home, they compare DUI stories.
“At least I’m not the only screwup in the family anymore.” Nate hurls his final insult before dropping Edward off. “I hope you’re ready to fork over a ton of cash. DUIs are expensive.”
Before Edward walks through his front door, he pauses, bracing himself for the numerous consequences that will result from this night.
Edward’s DUI will cost him $10,572, not including the cost of losing his company car. The impound fee will be $270. The court fine, $1972. Department of Motor Vehicle fees, $195. DUI classes, $125, plus a $20 donation for the Mothers Against Drunk Driving impact panel. He also will spend $7990 on a lawyer who will discuss his recent vacation far more than Edward’s case.
The day after his arrest, Edward phones his boss. His boss is surprisingly calm when Edward tells him about the DUI. In confidence, Edward’s boss says that Edward is not the only one at work with a DUI. They both agree to keep it quiet.
Edward’s office is downtown — a 35-minute car ride from home. He depends on the trolley and bikes the rest of the way to work. Instead of leaving for work at 7:30 a.m., it’s now 5:30 a.m. One morning he wakes up late, and his wife and kids have to drop him off at the Fletcher Parkway stop.
“Why is Dad taking the trolley to work?” asks Edward’s eight-year-old son, who is in the Gifted and Talented Education program. He knows something is up.
“It’s Take the Trolley to Work Day,” Kate lies, while shooting Edward a dirty look. She’d rather not have to deal with smarty-pants announcing to his teacher that they had to drop Daddy off at the trolley station because he drank too much beer and really wanted a burrito.
For 30 days, Edward locks his bike up two blocks away from work so as not to invite suspicion from coworkers. He is forced to ride his bike to visit other company offices throughout the city. He arrives in his business suit, saturated in sweat and panting. He offers no excuse for his sudden problem with perspiration and heavy breathing. After a while, he stops hiding the fact that his bicycle has become his method of transportation. He pretends that he has suddenly become a cycling fanatic. He wonders if he should fully embrace his pretend hobby by donning spandex and sweat-resistant shirts. It’s hard to believe that any of his coworkers buy his lies. Edward wonders if they go along with it out of politeness, all the while suspecting he has a DUI.
When Edward gets back his license, it is restricted. For three months he is only allowed to drive to work and to mandatory DUI courses. He starts shopping for an affordable car. He ends up with a modest sedan. When his new license plate arrives, it has a number and letter followed by NO67 and another number. Edward marvels at the oddity, considering he was pulled over just off the 67 freeway. It seems like a divine message or a cosmic joke to remind him that he is a screwup.
Weeks after his arrest, Edward attends a mandatory Mothers Against Drunk Driving impact panel. The auditorium is filled with DUI offenders. There appear to be hundreds of them. Edward takes a seat in a middle row. One after another, men and women who have been affected by DUIs stream onto the stage to give testimonies about how drunk drivers have affected their lives. Many have lost loved ones. It’s obvious that some have been giving testimonies for years. Many have long made peace with their heavy loss. Toward the end, a man in his late 40s or early 50s mounts the stage. His hair is salt-and-pepper. He is wearing a crisp button-down shirt and khakis. He looks as though he could be Edward’s uncle or family friend. There is a common familiarity about his face. His hands are shaking a little bit. Edward can feel how fresh his anger is as he stares out at all of them, a roomful of morons. Edward finds it difficult to look at him. He wants to stare down at his feet or at the bald head of the man seated in front of him, but he forces himself, out of respect, to keep his eyes on the man.
He has never in his life felt such a terrible sense of shame. He is the selfish person who recklessly drove drunk. He may not have killed anyone, but he knows he is no better than the people who have. It’s in this moment that he is thankful for the DUI. All of a sudden he no longer views it as a financial burden, a time drain, or a factor of contention between himself and his wife. He realizes that it was a blessing to be pulled over that night because if he hadn’t been caught, he would’ve done it again. He wouldn’t be the example of what not to do. He wouldn’t have a testimony like this to share with his boys when they begin driving.
Months later, Edward is in a convenience store with a coworker. In line in front of him is the officer who pulled him over that night. Edward wants to say something. He wants to explain that he isn’t that person anymore. He has changed. He wants to invite the officer over for dinner or, at the very least, obtain his address so he can send him a Christmas card that displays the smiling faces of his children. Most of all, Edward wants to thank him. The cashier hands the officer his change. Edward lets him walk out the door.