Many of you may have seen the story in Wednesday’s edition of the Times-Tribune concerning Williamsburg Police Department Officer Brandon White earning the Drug Recognition Expert certification.
If you missed it, the gist of the story was White may now assist law enforcement officials in determining what category of illegal substance a DUI suspect may have ingested to cause them to be intoxicated.
He may also now testify as an expert in the courtroom — which really should assist in DUI convictions.
While a conviction doesn’t necessarily keep some of those guilty of DUI off the roadways, it may help deter future violations.
Overall — like Martha Stewart says — “It’s a good thing.”
I, however, didn’t need any law enforcement to learn a lesson about driving a vehicle while under the influence.
I also was very, very, very fortunate to not have been forced to learn the lesson through tragedy.
I was 18, and I was a wild child that freshman year of college.
I hung out with a group of folks who also got a little wild, and all of them were into boozing it up.
Of course, I was a big man (I thought) and followed the group’s bad example.
One night I had gone to a party, and had way overindulged.
It should go without saying that my judgment was impaired, but realistically that doesn’t cover it.
I remember leaving the party — it was approximately a half-hour or so from home — and I have a brief flash of my keys in hand while walking through the parking lot.
I don’t remember starting the car.
I don’t remember leaving the parking lot.
I certainly cannot recollect cruising along I-81 in Virginia to get home.
But what I do remember next was waking up the next day.
I sat up, rather quickly. I could see the car from my bedroom window, and peered out to see it.
It looked ok.
But I knew — just knew — that Somebody in the Great Beyond was watching out for me and anyone else around me that night.
I was definitely driving while under the influence of alcohol. Again, as I had to say last week, just because I didn’t get caught doesn’t mean it wasn’t illegal.
But even sitting here thinking about it now more than 20 years later, I feel it bears repeating — Somebody in the Great Beyond was watching out for me and anyone else around me that night.
It was a horrible feeling, that nagging, creeping feeling of a complete gap in time.
I never intentionally drove under the influence again.
However, when I was in my early 20s, I was at a bar, this time very much legally.
I was still a social drinker, but at the time never went beyond three beers.
I was hanging around some acquaintances, sort of chatting and talking.
Still milking my first beer of the night, I left for a few moments to visit the restroom.
All appeared normal when I returned to my chair, except maybe the people I was hanging with got pretty quiet when I returned.
I resumed drinking my beer, waiting for the musicians who were expected to hit the stage within minutes of that moment.
I finished the beer, and was getting ready to purchase another.
But something was wrong — the lights in the room were looking funny, and noise hitting my ears sounded broken and distant.
The intensity of that feeling continued to increase — as did my terror as to what was happening to me.
The musicians hit the stage, and the visual effects of the movement and the lights had me gripping the sides of the chair I was sitting on. I wanted to leave, but couldn’t get up from the barstool.
And I remember that group of people laughing hysterically at me, patting each other on the back and pointing at one of the group members.
Nothing could be done at that point.
That horrifying visual display went on for what seemed to be countless hours, and then the bar prepared to close and turned on some brighter lights.
That group of jerks was long gone — and I was on my own to figure out what was next.
I fumbled my way out the door, and somehow managed to get into the car.
I remember telling myself that I had to stay here to get under control.
The next thing I remember I woke parked at an interstate rest area — the sunlight beaming through the windshield killed my eyes.
I had no clue as to my location. After finding a map inside the rest area, I figured I had to have driven more than 100 miles from that bar.
And that was a conservative estimate.
Still under the influence of whatever it was, I started slowly drifting toward home.
It was a lesson learned — never, ever leave any drink unattended when you are out in that type of setting. I figure someone put something in that beer, and it happened when I walked away from it.
The point is, had a Drug Recognition Expert like Brandon White found me that night, I may have been arrested, but it would have been easy to determine that I had been drugged.
And maybe a couple folks would have landed themselves a seat in the jailhouse.
And on that note, I think a previous statement I made yet again bears repeating — Somebody in the Great Beyond was watching out for me and anyone else around me that night.
John Ross is a reporter for the Times-Tribune. He can be reached at email@example.com