So the next night I'm back at work. Minding my own business... well, technically, minding someone else's business, but anyway....
I got a visit around midnight from two guys on a mission to get some more beer. I know they wanted beer, because they were only two steps inside the building before they asked "Is it too late to buy beer?" You see, my town's beer laws prohibit the sale of alcohol between 1:00 and 6:00 A.M. Most of the local drinkers know this. Enlightening people who don't know this is one of the more exasperating parts of my job. That, and dealing with people who don't make it in time, who want me to break the law for them.
Anyway their question indicated that they were after beer. I could tell that they were after MORE beer from a few telltale signs that they had already had a few. And a few more. And then a few more. One of the two guys, a tiny, wiry, dirty , skinny dude, who we'll call "Mutt", was having trouble walking. I watched him stop halfway down one of the aisles, extract his wallet from his back pocket, and then spend three or four minutes trying to replace it. He nearly stuck it down the waistband of his pants a couple of times. When he finally got it back in the pocket, he continued toward the beer coolers with an unsteady stride.
I knew his friend, who we'll call "Jeff", from sight as one of the town's drunks, and a frequent DUI offender. I had seen him on more than one previous occasion hop behind the wheel of his Buick Titanica while inebriated. I also knew of his reputation as a stubborn, slightly mean drunk. He was the one who had asked if they were too late to buy beer. He made a bee-line for the Men's room, and was in there while Mutt was trying not to put his wallet down the back of his Jockey shorts. I didn't hesitate to use this opportunity to, once again, dial the police dispatcher. I told her that I had a pair of drunks who were getting ready to get back in their car and drive away.
I was informed someone would be on the way, and ended the call. A moment later the phone rang again, and the dispatcher informed me that Officer Doug was on his way, but still at some distance, and I was told to make sure I got the car's description, and to note what direction they headed in case Doug didn't make it in time. Now the car was in a blind spot in my parking lot. I could see the tail end of it, and was fairly sure that it was Jeff's Big Blue Buick, but I had to come out from around the counter to be sure. When I did, I saw the car clearly, and I also saw the woman in the driver's seat.
The Sober Woman in the Driver's Seat. The Designated Driver. Boy did I have egg on my face! Now the cops were on their way, at my bidding, to hassle some people who were actually being responsible for once. Or Were They? I didn't know that the driver was sober, she might have been only the least drunk of the three of them.
I anxiously waited for Officer Doug. Jeff, who was moving a lot faster than his friend, had finished whatever it was he had been doing in the bathroom (probably peeing on my floor), and gone back out to the car. For the moment, I was alone in the store with Mutt, who had made it back from the coolers with a single 24-oz can of Icehouse Beer. Now, I had set up for myself an uncomfortable situation by doing two things.
- I had already told these guys that they were not too late to buy beer. Now, while that doesn't necessarily mean that some other condition, like the consumer's intoxication, won't interfere with their ability to buy beer, it sounds like the go-ahead. In these guy's eyes, I had already told them that their beer purchase was approved.
- I had told the police dispatcher, in a recorded call, that the guys in my store were drunk.
So, I begin telling Mutt, whose speech is even more affected than his motor skills, that I don't think he really needs any more beer, and that I am sorry, but I am really not allowed to sell him beer if he has already had several. He starts mumbling something at me about "only getting one" and "working 12 hours" while Officer Doug rolls in, lights already flashing. Mutt continues slurring at me, quietly, calmly, and completely unintelligibly, until he finally concedes. I take the beer away, and he turns around to see Officer Doug walking in, all business. He starts mumbling at Doug now, the same thing "...workin' 12 hours...come after.... gonna.. get Icehouse... long day... just gonna'.... binna wanna..", Et Cetera.
"OK," says Doug, "You been drinking already? You had a few?"
"You had 6? Okay, can you do a few test for me? I want you to turn around, and bend at the waist. " Doug is putting on latex-free rubber gloves as he says this. "Okay, now can you touch your arm together behind your back?" Out come the cuffs. Mutt has been mumbling the whole time, and as the cuffs went on him, Doug says "Public Intoxication, brother! you can't be running around drunk like that."
Then begins the overly long process of divesting Mutt of his stuff. The first thing Officer Doug extracts is a big Stanley utility knife; the kind that building contractors use, with the large cast-aluminum handle housing a three-inch long razor blade. Other than that, his pockets were stuffed with odd-but harmless stuff. A scratch-off lottery ticket, about 4 dollars in coins, a few other odds and ends, and oddest of all, his pocket was full of little green leaves. If you thought "Pot", then you are not alone, because that was the first thing that went through my mind, too. But no, these leaves were from an ordinary privet hedge. For some reason, this guy had a branch from a live hedge shoved in his pocket, and the small, oval leaves had all come off, making a mess as Doug tried to evict them from this guy's pocket.
While he is lightening Mutt's load, he calls for backup. Apparently Jeff was not very cooperative, and was being , in Doug's words, "A little belligerent". Doug waits inside with Me and Mutt while awaiting the car from Sewanee. When backup rolls in, not only does Sewanee's car arrive, but a sheriff's car from the next county over, and a Tennessee Highway Patrol car, too! After a few more minutes, an undercover sedan rolls up, and adds its blue lights to the strobe-fest happening outside my window. 5 cop cars are now set up outside the store, making me officially the safest man in three counties.
Unfortunately, all of the hooplah was to respond to charges of Public Intoxication. The driver was, as I had suspected, sober. Had I only seen the woman behind the wheel, I never would have made the call to the cops in the first place. I didn't mean to inflict all this hassle on some guys whose only crime had been to get wasted on a Tuesday night. "Jeff" had a history of Drunk Driving, and I have no tolerance for that. He is also a really mean drunk, apparently mean enough that a lone cop with a beltful of weaponry felt like he needed some help apprehending him. All that said, though, the night would have been a lot better for everyone concerned if I hadn't made that call. As I watched the cops roll away with their two new charges I felt really bad. I will probably think twice before I call the cops next time.