Tuesday, December 30, 2014

On Refusals, Interlocks, and the DMV

On June 20, I was arrested for a refusal to take a breath alcohol test.  That night may have been the worst night of my life.  Yet when I read the journal I kept at the time, I also see moments of great mercy and grace.  More on that another time.

When you refuse to take a breath alcohol test in Minnesota, you are subject to some very severe penalties, one of which is the loss of driving privilege.

Think, for a moment, what it means to be unable to drive yourself.

I stopped scheduling anything unnecessary. That included my usual weekly talk therapy sessions.  I stopped going to physical therapy to manage the pain from my torn rotator cuff.  I didn't go to the gym. I for certain didn't plan anything fun, unless I was invited to do something.  I did make it to my job sites and the grocery store, but certainly not on my schedule or at my convenience.

For those friends and family who offered assistance and readily went out of their way for me, blessings.  You have no idea how very much I appreciate what you did for me or how graciously you did it.  I will not forget what it means to be shown mercy, and I will not fail again to show it to others myself.

It is very nearly unbearably humiliating to have to ask for help to even accomplish the most basic daily necessities.  (Considered in context, however, with peeing in a jail cell while the world walks by, it is manageable.)

I did my research to find out what I should do in order to drive a vehicle. I could request a judicial review, but those are not very successful.  I could try to find a way to work solely from home, but that's difficult.  I could apply for a work permit, but I do not have a predictable schedule or even work location - and, considering I live alone, doesn't solve the management of basic things like grocery shopping or more important things like physical therapy.

What I discovered is that Interlock Program.

On the Interlock Program, all driving privilege is reinstated providing certain conditions are met.  First, the Interlock Device must be installed in the vehicle, and the offender is restricted to driving only vehicles that have the device.  Second, the offender must reapply for a license and pay the fees.  Third, the offender must take a written test and pay a $680 fine.  Fourth, the offender completes a Participation Agreement for the Interlock Program.  Finally, the offender must provide proof of insurance.  After a mandatory license revocation period of fifteen days, the offender may submit all the documentation to the DMV and apply for the Y-restricted license.

Nothing in the process was easy.  Worst was the day I managed to get a ride to go to Buffalo to take my written test, pay the fine, and apply for the new license.  I didn't know there was a rule that applicants needed to be at the test station by a certain time to even start the written test, and was a few minutes past the deadline when I arrived.  Though staff didn't have a problem taking my license application and fee or the fine, they refused to allow me to take the test.

Me:  I guarantee I'll finish that test well before the closing time.
Staff:  We cannot allow it.
Me:  How many questions on the test?
Staff:  40.
Me:  I guarantee I'll be done in fifteen minutes.
Staff:  No.  I would have to take the test from you five minutes before closing and anything you didn't finish would count against you.
Me:  That's more than twenty minutes.  I guarantee I'll be done.
Staff:  It's against the rules.
Me:  You understand I don't have a license and had to arrange a ride?  And that now he's going to have to wait an hour longer than I said?
Staff: …
Me:  So when can I come back?
Staff:  One.
Me:  Exactly at one?  Or 1:05?  Or 1:15?
Staff:  Exactly at one.

I bought my very patient son lunch, and made it back by 12:58.

Staff did not open the door until exactly one, which left me two minutes to tell another applicant my story.

Upon entering the testing room, I was asked for my license and handed a test.

Me: Is this the right test?
Staff:  Umm.  Yeah.
Me: You said there were 40 questions.  This has 25.
Staff: It's the right test.

As I sat down to take the test, I looked at the clock.  It was 1:01.

I read each question and response.  I answered carefully. When I finished the test, I looked at the clock again.  It was 1:04.  As I walked up to the counter with my completed test, the other applicant gave me the thumbs up and mouthed, "You rock!"

Me:  Three minutes.
Staff:  We were just following rules.
Me: Three minutes.
Staff:  You have a perfect test.
Me:  What was that?
Staff:  You scored 100%.
Me: Three minutes.

After numerous frustrating calls and visits to various DMV departments, my insurance company, and the Interlock company, I had obtained a complete dossier of documentation.  I discovered at that point that paperwork processing was approximately two weeks behind.  While talking to yet another employee of the DMV, I was told I could go in person to the Plymouth testing station and present my paperwork to the Ignition Interlock Manager, and she could approve my application immediately.  After waiting a little more than three hours, I left successful.  I could drive again!

Then this weekend, I got another letter from the DMV.  A previously accepted document had been rejected and there was a form attached that needed to be completed by my insurance company.  The letter had been mailed on December 12, and I received it December 26 or 27.  The date of my new revocation was December 26. Had I driven my car over the weekend, the Interlock Device would have recorded the fact that I had driven after revocation, putting me in violation of my probation requirement to remain law abiding.  Thanks be to the Creator that I was staying with a friend and didn't drive!

Further investigation revealed I needed to enroll in a special program - the SR-22 program - with my insurance company, at an additional fee, so they would report to the DMV that my insurance remains in good standing each month. Interestingly enough, I had enrolled in that program in November but was told I didn't need to do it and that only people considered a threat to public safety were required to do so.  I reenrolled and am waiting to hear from my latest DMV contact that she's received the necessary documentation and I can drive again.

Here's my very legitimate question that no one can seem to answer: If a person wishes to remain law abiding and demonstrate respect for the law, where does that person go to find out the exact requirements for doing so?

I have reviewed the website multiple and cannot find any indication that I should be required to the additional insurance monitoring.

The Ignition Interlock Program information page can be found here, and does not mention the SR-22 program.  That page has a link to the actual application, and the application does not mention the additional requirement, only that I need to avoid tampering with the device and cannot fail an initial start test or rolling retest.  The Revoked Status Checklist does not mention the additional requirement. Nor does the only other relevant document I can find, the Updated Fact Sheet.  Interestingly enough, the document attached to my new revocation letter dated December 12 had a form attached that would not have been an acceptable proof of insurance either!

People are surprisingly judgmental about alcohol-related offenses.  I was too, before I was arrested on June 20.  The reality is that the majority of people I know could easily have found themselves in my shoes.  Even the deputies in jail admitted the same.  Our society is casual about imbibing and then driving.  I am not trying to justify my own actions or make an excuse.  I highly recommend that anyone who swallows one drop of alcohol not drive a vehicle.  However, considering how complex and difficult it is to get information about how to navigate the "system" I have a new sympathy for people with no resources.  Speaking to an agent in the Commissioner of Public Safety's Office, I learned that it is also very difficult for people within the Department of Motor Vehicles to easily access information as well.

Perhaps I have found a new way to make a difference.

Other Facts About the Interlock Ignition Program:

  • The device is obnoxiously loud 
  • It's not enough to be able to start the vehicle; the applicant has to do rolling tests WHILE DRIVING!
  • The shrill is enough to drive a good man bad
  • If you don't have enough air, the shrill sound continues
  • I have pneumonia
  • Everyone - everyone - sees it
  • It's an amazing training tool
  • The device - and all of its calibrations and installations - is expensive
  • No one - NO ONE - wants one
  • Avoid the device by driving entirely sober - one swallow, one ride

Monday, December 15, 2014

On Hemingway and Hadley... And Bundy

I've been reading The Paris Wife by Paula McLain. The writing is so compelling, it's tough to leave the book.  The content is so heavy, it's tough to turn the pages.

McLain pens a letter to the reader in the paperback version.  She writes about her struggle to write her second book and about how she was reading Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, in which he writes of his great love, Hadley, "I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her." The line captivated her and led to the story found between the covers of TPW.

Hemingway and Hadley embark on a great journey from Chicago to Paris. They share their journey with an eclectic group of high-living, mad people.

I cannot figure out how to create endnotes in blogger, but want to draw attention to one of my favorite quotes from Jack Kerouac: "the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”  Kerouac describes the mad people in the circle of friends associating with Hemingway and Hadley.

One of those persons *SPOILER ALERT* is Pauline.  Pauline is the third in the unholy trinity that destroys the Hemingway marriage.  Hadley knows about the love between Hemingway and Pauline long before she leaves the marriage.  When Hemingway realizes she knows, McLain imagines the conversation is something like this:
Hadley (as she observes Pauline acting more in her stead):  Everything's handed over, then.Hemingway:  What?Hadley:  She can do everything now.  She'll take care of you just fine.Hemingway: You're not well.  Just get some rest.Hadley:  I'm not well, you're right.  You're killing me, both of you.Hemingway: This isn't easy for me either.Hadley:  I know.  We're a sorry, sordid lot, the three of us.  If we're not careful, we'll none of us get through it without terrible big chuncks missing.Hemingway:  I've thought the same.  What do you want? What will help?Hadley:  I think it's too late, don't you?Hemingway:  I hate to hear you talk this way.  It makes me think we've ruined everything.Hadley:  We have, Tatie. 
And Hadley ruminates:  "We were in the death throes, truly, but something made us each go on for weeks afterward, the way the body of an animal goes on moving after its head is gone... and confesses the vileness between Hemingway and herself: 
Hadley:  She's a whore. And you're selfish and a coward.
Hemingway: You don't love me. You don't love anything.
Hadley:  I hate you both.
Hemingway: What do you want from me?
Hadley:  Nothing.  I wish you'd die.
Hemingway:  The world's gone to hell in every direction.
Hadley:  Yes.
Hemingway: You make your life with someone and you love that person and you think it's enough. But it's never enough, is it?
Hadley: I couldn't say.  I don't know anything about love anymore.  I just want to stop feeling for awhile.  Can we do that?
Hemingway: That's what the whiskey's for.
Hell of a story.

Sometimes the raw truth is even more compelling than a fictionalized version (even one as well written as TPW).  I watched a couple versions of this video.  The serial killer got it right. In a final interview with James Dobson, Ted Bundy talks about his horrifying addiction to pornography and how it led to his compulsive behavior... and the death of more than thirty-five women.

Maybe not every porn addict becomes a serial killer, but pornography is an insidious evil that destroys the ability to share a loving, normal relationship.  There's nothing loving or God blessed about piercings and whips and clamps and anal devices - or even in the making of personal pornography. In fact, pornography even changes our brain chemistry. Listen to Bundy.  And believe. The man went to his death proclaiming the evil of something he lived for his lifetime.

Dobson's perspective and the transcript of the entire interview are available on Dobson's website: http://www.pureintimacy.org/f/fatal-addiction-ted-bundys-final-interview/.  

And you know?  We will not ever be able to legislate pornography's death.  The only way to effectively rid ourselves of the evil that is pornography is to teach our children something different about sexuality - something about the beauty of sharing yourself with someone who cherishes you.  

I believe I have done so.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

On Bones and Brains and Blessings

According to the data you're more than likely to [press the button], which is why civilized societies can become barbaric. Germany had the most advanced public education system in the world, impressive industrial production, and yet they tried to exterminate an entire race of people. (Brennan to Cam, Bones, Season 10 Episode 9 airing December 4, 2014.)
While discussing the likelihood of a good person pressing a button that, when pressed, causes increasing pain and then death to anonymous subjects, Brennan points out that even Cam is more than likely to press the button. She uses Nazi Germany to prove her point - a point I made in my senior honors paper in 1992 as a condition of graduation.

I wrote about how the post-modern society is no longer Christian, no longer has a common set of referents, and no longer is capable of sincere interpersonal interaction.  I used the work of two of my favorite authors, Flannery O'Connor and Walker Percy.  They both made the point that because of the loss of a common experience, we can no longer even effectively communicate with one another and our language has lost meaning.  Case in point, when we talk about the things we "love" we use the same word we use when we tell the people in our lives we love them.  How can saying "I love you" to someone carry any significance when we also say, "I love spritz cookies" or "I love toast."

Both O'Connor and Percy had realized that people are, essentially, dead, and it takes a disaster to wake them up.  In fact, O'Connor's Grandma ("A Good Man is Hard to Find) first loses her worry and concern about what others might think of her when she is confronted with the gun-toting Misfit who has just brutally murdered her family in cold blood; she becomes alive and real in those moments before the Misfit fires the gun in her face.  Percy's Will (The Last Gentleman and The Second Coming), discontent with the living dead, questions whether God even exists or cares about people and he decides to test God in a lonely cave with barbiturates.

In The Moviegoer, Percy comments on this world we inhabit in a way that strikes a personal chord:
Ours is the only civilization in history which has enshrined mediocrity as its national ideal. Others have been corrupt, but leave it to us to invent the most undistinguished of corruptions. No orgies, no blood running in the street, no babies thrown off cliffs. No, we're sentimental people and we horrify easily. True, our moral fiber is rotten. Our national character stinks to high heaven. But we are kinder than ever. No prostitute ever responded with a quicker spasm of sentiment when our hearts are touched. Nor is there anything new about thievery, lewdness, lying, adultery. What is new is that in our time liars and thieves and whores and adulterers wish also to be congratulated by the great public, if their confession is sufficiently psychological or strikes a sufficiently heartfelt and authentic note of sincerity. Oh, we are sincere. I do not deny it. I don't know anybody nowadays who is not sincere.
Yes, liars and whores and adulterers connive to be congratulated by the public, but truth is, their rotten feet still stink.  And all the "sincerity" and niceness and cosmetics cannot disguise the stench.

Brennan, O'Conner, Percy and I are right.  Out of the greatest good has come the greatest evil - but it's not touching me.  The Great Adversary cannot stand goodness and light and will do everything possible to stop it from spreading.  My dear friend always reminds me, though, that the darkness - no matter how deep or profound - cannot put out the light; in fact, the light spills into the darkness.  So, our best hope is to be wary and wait on the Lord.  Right here, right now, we need to keep doing good, keep spreading the Light, and keep on the narrow road.

For me?  I will strive for something far  more than mere mediocrity.  In this season of hopeful waiting, I see the blessings all around me.  I am successfully managing my household, enjoying my friends and family in new ways, creating an exciting new business while the seed of another opportunity germinates, and finding out who I am called to be.