Previous entries in the DUI series can be found here.
I grew up in a dry, Catholic family in a Midwestern state, and I was just barely beginning to secretly navigate the world of alcohol by the time I graduated high school. So I did what anyone in my position would do, and enrolled at a party school in the heart of the Bible Belt, whose beautiful campus and sweet local community made it such that if you squinted a little and kind of plugged your ears, you could pretend you were at a small, private liberal-arts college on the East Coast. On certain weekends, however, the campus became so saturated with bros in neon tank tops, that you had no choice but to join in or physically retreat into total isolation. One of these weekends was the weekend of the Little 500.
The Little 500 is a bike race, but more importantly, it is an entire week where students just do not attend class in order to drink more efficiently. Students sit on their porches blaring pop songs, playing cornhole, destroying property, and funneling alcohol into every available orifice.
I was eighteen years old and the only party I found was one that had been advertised via Facebook. It was being hosted in a large empty warehouse a couple of miles off campus, conveniently located next door to the state police headquarters. Armed with a mixture of Smirnoff and Diet Fuze, I rallied my rag-tag gang of (mostly sober) friends and we confidently strode into a warehouse rave in the middle of rural Indiana. There were a lot of glow sticks, and I had to use the bathroom a lot.
An hour or so in, the mood suddenly shifted. A friend of mine waved me down. “The cops are here, we’re leaving.” I watched the rest of my friends calmly stroll out and decided to follow suit, when I was immediately stopped by an officer. I like to think that I had been cruelly singled out in a crowd of drunk and disorderly minors, but it is also possible that I was yelling something like “Oh no, I can’t get caught, it is illegal for me to drink, because I am only eighteen.”
I was escorted out into the rain, where the arresting officer took down my information. My friend Andrew asked one of them if it was okay to drive me home, whereupon he was asked to leave. My friends looked back pitifully at me before piling into Andrew’s mom’s sedan. I later found out they all went to a nearby diner, perhaps to ease the pain of wondering if I was in jail or even alive over a Frisco melt and a round of milkshakes.
So there I was, standing alone, in the rain, crying silently for about half an hour. The police would not let me move from my spot, or talk to my remaining friends nearby, for reasons I can no longer remember. I do remember one officer saying to another, “There’s no use trying to explain it to her, she can’t even understand us right now.”
I was worried that I’d have to spend the night in jail, or be taken to the hospital, and the longer I was left alone the more panicked and irrational I became. I just wanted to call my friends. I just wanted to go home.
So I waited until the policemen turned their backs, and I took off running.
I was soaking wet, I had no phone, I was crying, my leg was bleeding, and I was walking slowly, alone, down a dark street, miles away from campus. I headed along this path, in the direction I thought I should be going, for a while until a car pulled up next to me. Inside was a college-aged guy. He rolled down his window.
“Let me give you a ride home,” he said.
“I can’t do that. I can’t just get in a car with someone.”
“Please, just let me take you wherever you need to go. Do you live on campus? I can just drop you off there.”
I briefly weighed my options, and considered that with him I would at least get out of the rain for a little while, so I got in.
I don’t remember much of the ride back, and I never got his name, but I do recall thanking him as we pulled up to my dorm and I bolted out of the car.
In the morning, I would go to court, where I would pay a large fine in order to get into a trial diversion program. I would repay my debt to society by spending one eight-hour day in a courthouse classroom learning about the alcohol and drug abuse. I would have to call my mom and tell her that, once again, I fucked up, having had a previous alcohol-related law violation earlier that year. But before I did any of that, I had to put on some pajamas so I could go brush my teeth.
I stumbled into my room and began to shed my wet, blood-stained clothes until I realized that the dress I was wearing had a very difficult, unrelenting cloth belt that was trapping the garment onto my body. I grabbed a pair of my roommate’s scissors, and cut my dress off with a few snips. I tossed it in the trashcan and promptly went to sleep.
The next morning I awoke feeling strangely calm, like everything that had just happened was actually just a dream. It was possible I had made it all up, but my dreams are never actually very interesting, and my cut-up dress was still draped over the trashcan. I put the pieces together and woke my sleeping roommate.
“Did I get arrested last night?”
“Yeah, you did. I think so.”
“I think I need to be at the courthouse. I think I have to be there right now.”
One hazy detail that I managed to pull out was an officer telling me about my 9am courthouse call time. On average, Indiana excise police rake in at least 200 citations, which in my case came out to $408. These days the fine is at least $500, with a record-breaking 285 citations issued in one weekend this last April, mostly cases similar to mine, with minor alcohol and drug violations. It was about 10:30am when I woke up.
When I finally got to the courthouse, I saw a few familiar faces, looking miserably hungover in solidarity. But as I was walking in, everyone else was shuffling out in bright orange uniform vests.
I approached the nearest clerk and asked her what was going on. She was surprisingly sweet.
“Well, things are kind of wrapping up here, and they’re all leaving to do community service. I tell you what, just go home, take a breather, and come back tomorrow. We’ll take care of everything then.”
Although it was my second offense within my probationary year, because they had so many citations to process that weekend, they let me take the minimal charge, and again go through the Pre-Trial Diversion Program that I had taken a few months prior. I didn’t end up having to perform additional community service or buy the orange uniform, but it did eat up the rest of my high school graduation money. Sorry again, mom.
This post is a part of Step Out Of The Car, Please, a recurring and unglamorous series about DUIs and drinking problems. If you are interested in submitting a story either anonymously or under your own name for consideration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allison Stone is too old to be considered a prodigy but still too young to have done anything notable. You can contact her on Twitter.