Tom: Wanna get drunk for free on the city of Milwaukee?
Jake: Yes. When?
Tom: First Friday in Feb.
Jake: Ooh. I work man.
Tom: So take off. It'll be fun
Jake: Yeah I guess I could do that.
Tom: K I'll give you more info when I know about it.
Short & sweet. 'Drunk' and 'free' in the same sentence? Say no more. Tom is currently a recruit in the Milwaukee Police Academy. He is one of 24 young gentlemen selected who are the future of the law in Milwaukee county. As part of their training, they need to test the drunkenness of 20 lucky individuals. It is good to know people! 2 weeks prior to the event, I get another IM:
Tom: So what do you want to drink?
Jake: I get to choose?!
Tom: Yeah - the cops who set it up go out and buy it.
Tom: But no beer.
Tom: Cuz it doesn't get you drunk fast enough.
Jake: Haha ok. Vodka tonics.
Jake: Yes dude.
Great. So vodka tonics it was. I was extremely excited to do this. Fast forward a few weeks, and it's the Thursday night before the event. I drive to Tom's place in Milwaukee because I'm going to go with him to work in the morning. Of course there was a massive snowfall, and it takes about an hour longer than it should have. He informs me that we have to leave his place by 7am. This sucks ass, because the last time I woke up at 6:15 was the summer of 2002 when I worked at the Racine County Public Works department. At any rate, after hours of playing Call of Duty 4 by myself, I went to bed around midnight.
Groggy and confused, 6:15 seemed like I achieved 45 minutes of sleep. We get to the police department a bit before 8, and Tom directs me down to the cafeteria. Unfortunately for me, I was pretty much the only person in there for about 3 hours, because the drunk show didn't start until 10. I couldn't drive there myself because for some reason, cops don't want 20 drunk people driving from their HQ. I figured the other participants lived in the Milwaukee area and wouldn't come until it was time to start (I was right). So I read the paper for 3 hours. Excruciating. I came to the conclusion that the paper is just a very eloquent version of television. I hate watching news on TV because I find it super depressing. The same depressing news stories are in the paper - they're just polished a bit more, like a pompous prick would tell them to you at a coffee shop. I needed a drink.
10:00 rolled around and I was directed to the "Tavern Scene" room on the 2nd floor. The police department seemed more like and old school or an outdated church than a police station. The second floor was littered with enthusiastic new recruits - with their freshly ironed navy blue slacks and hiiiilariously ugly huge-brimmed police department hats. These things looked like they were straight from the 80's, and would make any cool cat seem like a fucking square. The Tavern Scene room was exactly that - a classroom converted to a bar. Complete with Jukebox, Gambling machines, a pool table, and of course, a long wooden bar with the standard mirror on the wall behind it. 20 or so guys and 1 girl (no she was not cute, nor did she get cute throughout the day) were strewn around 5 or 6 tables filling out paperwork and awaiting instructions. 2 officers eventually came in to lay down a couple of ground rules and to explain what we were going to do. We were going to drink - but we weren't going to be told how much alcohol would be poured into our drinks. This disclosure was to avoid 'competition within the drinkers'. I laughed out loud. The cops were going to write down on a chart who was drinking what, and how much of that alcohol was poured into each of their drinks. We were not allowed to go on bathroom breaks without a chaperone. Were they afraid of the puke & rally? I don't remember their rationale. I think it was because they didn't want the drunk people to get lost, which happened on numerous occasions they had said. We all laughed out loud. The officer explained that it wasn't a race, and the guys who drink too fast usually don't make it for 4 hours. One guy got so drunk once that he thought the door to get to the hallway was THE WINDOW. Seriously, how drunk do you have to get to not know the difference between a door and a fucking window? I've been hammered before, but never enough to fail to recognize the dissimilarities between a door and a window. With that said, we were given the standard red plastic solo cups, with our names and what liquor we were drinking written in sharpee, and the drinking commenced.
You can imagine how awkward it might be drinking in a small room disguised as a bar inside the Milwaukee police department. It's kind of like having a pig roast at a PETA convention. I started chatting it up with one of the two officers behind the bar about his job. I don't remember much (this will become a common theme in this post). What I do remember is the amount of liquor he showed me when he opened up the liquor closet. The gin I was drinking (switched to gin & tonics moments before we started) was from a house party they busted a few weeks ago. They had a whole case of 1/2 liter Gordon's Gin at their disposal, and instead of making the guilty party dump it out - they decided to take it for the test. Awesome. The vodka of the day: Fleishmans. The Gin: Gordon's. It's gonna be a rough day. A few of the guys started complaining, and one of the officers said, "You could have brought your own. Didn't your recruit tell you that?" The place was in an uproar. You would have thought they were kicked out or something. Ungrateful bastards. A large, meathead looking guy struck up a conversation with me an hour into it. I'm omitting his first name, but the guy's last name was Stoner. Ha, awesome. Stoner was a firefighter. This firefightin jackass was pounding rum & cokes. I think he had 5 between 10:30 and noon. So much for pacing yourself. What I was unaware of, was the bad blood between firefighters and police officers. Cops don't like firefighters, and vice versa. The more firefighter drank, the more he would talk. And the more he talked, the dumber the jackass sounded. Eventually the cop just walked away in the middle of dude's sentence. Originally firefighter was cool, but the more I drank, the less of his voice I wanted to hear. Strange. By noon, we were all social butterflies, drinking and talking about anything and everything with everyone. Our blood-alcohol levels were tested at noon, 2:15, and finally 3:15.
(Short side story. Of all the guys in the room, I found "Zach" to be the strangest at first. They say don't judge a book by it's cover - but unfortunately, that's exactly what I did. He was a slight outcast at first, not really talking to anyone. He was dressed in girl-esque black skinny jeans and zip up striped black and white hoodie, and had black, bed-head shoulder-length hair. 'Unkept' would be a great descriptive word. An hour before the test ended, I struck up a drunken (I admit, I felt very drunk around 2) conversation with Zach. Turns out that he used to be a graphic designer for Hanson Dodge Creative out of Milwaukee - one of the head advertising agencies in the region. They currently handle the Trek Bikes account, a large client. One of my teachers from the portfolio school recently got a job there. Such a small world. Moral of the story is not to be a judgmental asshole. Zach was an awesome guy.)
Onto the field sobriety testing. Most of us were in bad shape around 3:30. The 2 officers in the room told us we would all get tested 8 times. We were to listen to the recruits instructions carefully, and act only when told to. My goal, obviously, was to be drunk and pass all tests with flying colors. Talk about wishful thinking. The 20 drunks, myself included, were spaced evenly throughout the length of the 2nd floor hallway, and were confronted by groups of 3 recruits each. First test - eye tracking. With my hands at my sides and my feet planted together, I was instructed to follow a pen back & forth with my eyes, while not moving my head. Easier said than done. I honestly didn't know how I did. In my mind, I figured I'd passed. Groups of wannabe cops came by, each trying to sound as authoritative and clear as possible. Holding the pen slightly above eye level & tracking it back & forth to detect 'something something stagmus'. Normal movement looks fluid and constant - drunk movement looks like your eyes are having a parkinson's-like seizure. The second test is walking the line. With one foot directly in front of the other, we were directed to walk heal-toe 9 times, counting each step out loud. Do this while looking down at your feet with your hands at your sides. When you reach 9, we were told to pivot on our left foot with short choppy steps until we faced the direction we came. These directions were confusing, even after the recruits showed us how to do it. When you're drunk, balancing with one foot in front of the other is hard enough as it is. Take out the ability to balance by sticking your arms out - aaaand you're in for it. I failed. My 'line' was more of a 'zigzag'.
The third test was the balance test. Wow. Where do I begin. Ladies and gentlemen - I dare you to try this one. Try it sober. Try it drunk. Try it after breakfast. Try it after dinner. You will fail. If I got pulled over after drinking 1 beer and blowing .02, I would fail this test. The pop quiz: With your hands at your sides and your head down, choose either foot to balance on. With the other foot, keeping it 6 inches off the ground and pointed downward, count 'one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three one thousand' until told to stop. I can't begin to tell you how hard this test is. ESPECIALLY if you've been drinking. I was dancing like a spanish salsa dancer. I don't think I got to 5 seconds during any one test. I may have not even got to 5 seconds TOTAL in 8 tries. One time, I was hopping so ferociously that I almost fell over into one of the recruits, causing them to put out their hands to 'catch me'. I was embarassed. I really was. I couldn't help but laugh at the time though. They knew I was drunk, I knew I was drunk...it was almost as if I was wasting their time. "No, recruits - you can skip station Jake, it's a lost cause". I should have told them that, cuz it was the truth. With all the drinkers freshly tested, freshly drunk, and in need of a bathroom break, the testing was over, and it was back to the tavern to finish our drinks and get our results.
The room was in high spirits, even though most of us knew that if this were real life, we'd totally be screwed. But this wasn't real life. This was fun make believe time, yaay! We were told how many ounces of liquor we consumed between breathalyzed times, and what our BAC was at those times. In addition, we were told how many of the 8 groups of recruits 'arrested' us.
My results: From 10:30a.m. - 12:05p.m., I consumed 6 oz of gin in 3 drinks. Technically thats 2 shots of gin per drink. Normal for most bars, I'm guessing.
This scared the shit out of me. Literally scared the shit out of me. At the first point of being breathalyzed, I remember feeling fine. Feeling normal. Not even feeling buzzed. .89. Couldn't believe it. I will NEVER drink and drive again. I URGE you to do the same. I honestly felt absolutely fine. Scary stuff.
From 12:05p.m. - 2:15p.m. I consumed a total of 8 oz of gin in 4 drinks. I also took a shot of Soco.
From 2:15p.m. - 3:15p.m., I have no written total for amount consumed. I think the final was 8 oz of gin and 2 oz of Soco.
BAC: .187 (second highest in the class, behind, you guessed it, meathead firefighter guy)
So there you have it. .187. 4 hours of drinking. At my 3:15 breathalyzer, I felt drunk - but I felt that I could keep drinking. I would have kept drinking had it been 12:30 at a bar somewhere. I bet you can guess how many times I was arrested. 8 of 8 groups arrested me based on my field sobriety tests. Most drinkers were arrested 8 of 8 times, but there were a few who escaped the law that day with 6 of 8 or 7 of 8 arrested. If memory serves correctly, I think one drinker was arrested 5 of 8 times. Which makes me wonder why the 3 other recruits didn't arrest that individual? WTF man? In conclusion, cars + drinking = don't mix. For your own good, don't drive after you've had a few. You'll regret it man. Tom laughed as he greeted me in the tavern room when the work day was over. He called me a drunk dumbass and that was that. As a memento of one of the most fun drinking days of my life, we were able to keep out mouthpiece from the breathalyzer. A sweet sweet token of success (failure?).