The Best Field Sobriety Test

By Jimmy Ewing

From what I know of the facts and figures; I can’t officially recommend drinking and driving as a pathway to success in life. The statistics seem rather grim. That being said, a few of my wilder friends claim to do their best dirt-road driving under the influence even today and, to hear some of my elder male family members tell it: drinking and driving around was just “what you did” as a teenager on a rural Georgia Friday night. Back then the sport, while newly illegal, hadn’t yet acquired the stigma or significant penalties attached today.

Perhaps that activity’s early popularity is what ultimately led to some of the stiffer driving laws we enjoy in modern times. I can’t disagree with the rationale, and I strongly encourage you to abstain, but suppose it’s roughly 1969 and you’re young, dumb, rural, and in possession of a big block Pontiac encased in 6,000 pounds of American steel with broad Dupont racing stripes; a case of PBR and a trip around the County might be just the activity for you. Again, I’m not advocating we relive the golden years of your youth—I’m just pointing out, it may have happened.

At roughly this time in history, the local sheriff observed a vehicle—in which my uncle was a passenger— driving “erratically” through an intersection well after midnight leading the sheriff to conduct a traffic stop. It turns out, that the entirely sober driver had, quite by mistake, dropped a lit cigarette straight down the front of his short-sleeved button-up at just the wrong time and had lost sight of the road while frantically flailing at the small fire that had begun about his midsection, but that is neither here nor there. My mother, whose car it was, was at home in bed. My uncle, whose car it was not, had an open beer between his knees in the backseat; his buddy was driving and his other buddy (“Daryl”), who had also been drinking, was riding shotgun.

The sheriff (who knew the father of each family represented) leaned in the passenger-side window, exchanged the usual pleasantries, asked after my grandfather and the health of the family, then abruptly queried, “You boy’s been drinking?” 

“No. Nossir. Not a bit sir.” They responded, angelically, in unison.

“That right, son?” Said the round-shouldered, paunchy sheriff through his handlebar mustache, singling out Daryl who, from experience, he knew to be the weaker vessel of the trio and who also, by now, had a thick dew of perspiration adorning his wispy, trembling mustache. “I bet you been drinking, ain’tcha boy? I know you’re not the kind of man who’d lie to the law, are you?”

“Yessir. Err. That is – nossir we ain’t. I mean we ain’t the type to lie,” the fumbling response wafted back to the sheriff on a Pabst-scented breeze.

“What about the drinking part? That bit seems more relevant to this here discussion; don’t you reckon?” he replied.

“Oh nossir. Nossir ain’t no drinking going on here. My Daddy’d kill me.”

“That so?” mused the Sherrif, inclining his head in Daryl’s direction and leaning further into the pitch black interior of the 1968 GTO (yellow). Well if you boys ain’t been drinking then, son, we’re just about done here, but before you go I’m going to need you to blow right here into my ear” he said, placing his left ear in easy striking distance of the horrified teenager and waggling his earlobe invitingly.

Daryl, stunned at the turn of events, sweating feverishly and doubtless having urinated a tiny bit, cast about quickly for support. Finding none, he furrowed his brow, leaned into the lawman’s shoulder, and, gently as a lover, pursed his lips and sent the faintest breeze wafting into the peacekeeper’s hairy ear-hole.

All hell broke loose.

“SON, WAS THAT YOU BLOWING IN MY EAR?!?!?” The sheriff screamed, standing bolt-upright and slamming his fist down on the roof of the car.

“NO SOBER MAN IN HIS RIGHT MIND WOULD BLOW IN A LAWMAN’S EAR LIKE YOU JUST DONE! BOY, I AM A HAPPILY MARRIED MAN. I OUGHT TO LOCK YOU UP AND THROW AWAY THE KEY FOR THAT. YOU BOYS MUST BE DRUNK. BLOWING IN MY EAR LIKE WE ON A DATE? YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND SON. YOU ARE ALL UNDER ARREST!”

It was the most brilliant field sobriety test ever administered.




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