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Drug Testing News
keeps a hard lesson fresh in his mind
By SUSAN PAYNTER
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER COLUMNIST
Terry works the ferries, showers, sleeps and mows his lawn
wearing an electronic ankle bracelet monitor.
Three times a day -- at 7:30 a.m. and 4 and 8 p.m. -- the
phone rings and the Bremerton man blows into a breathalizer in
front of a camera mounted by his computer, turning the digital
read-out toward the camera's eye for the human monitor on the
other end of the phone to see.
Then Terry must blow into another breathalizer in his car
before he can start the engine and head off to work. That's
something he has in common with state Supreme Court Justice
Bobbe Bridge since her Feb. 28 arrest for drunken driving.
Something else they have in common is the candor with which
both accept the blame for doing something so stupid as driving
under the influence.
"Tell the judge she's got a lot of guts to hang her laundry
out like she did," Terry said.
Of all the readers weighing in for and against the spike in
the sale of personal breathalizers since Bridge's dangerous
boo-boo, Terry had the most to say in defense of the little
devices that are now a big part of his life. "It's an
educational tool and it removes any temptation at all that you
might have to try to outfox the system," Terry said. He thinks
most people would be surprised to find that, even when they
feel they're "just fine," they are maybe "double drunk."
Terry's blood alcohol level was .17 -- nearly twice the legal
limit of .08 -- when he was pulled over for a burned out
taillight just eight days before Bridge's arrest.
Because it was his second time -- even though 10 years had
elapsed since he'd last seen a red light in his rear-view
mirror -- Terry spent 30 days in the Kitsap County Jail, where
he didn't like the accommodations much.
"I'm not crazy about oatmeal, you can't order pizza and they
don't deliver the newspaper," said Terry, who hates missing
his morning P-I.
The lesson this second time around has been expensive and, he
It has cost the ferry maintenance man more than $4,000,
counting legal fees, fines and assessments for all the fancy
equipment in his house, his car and on his ankle. And it's
worth every penny because, now, he's gotten the point.
Along with a $1,500 fine, Terry pays $600 a month for the
ankle device and he pays installments on a $2,600 tuition fee
for alcohol class. He also paid $100 to the State Patrol for
administering the breath test he failed. And, cheapest but
most meaningful of all, he paid $20 to a victim's panel where
he faced those whose lives have been devastated by drunken
One woman named Ruby really got to him. Her 13-year-old son
was struck and killed by a drunken driver who left the boy
lying in the street and drove from the scene to a store to buy
some breath mints.
Terry never had an accident. But the self-delusion of that man
is something he can identify with.
Terry says his arrest was the last chorus of the same old song
he's heard a thousand times. "You stop off for a beer after
work. You have more than you planned on. You know you
shouldn't drive but it's raining or you have tools in the
truck that you can't leave, or you've just had a fight with
your girlfriend and you're feeling sorry for yourself.
Besides, you know you can make it home safe."
Terry was within eyesight of his house when the police car
pulled up behind him. And now that breathalizers are in his
life, he wishes they were everywhere. Put them in bars, he
said. Heck, stick them in phone booths.
His girlfriend, who lives next door, sometimes sprints up and
down the fence between them, teasing Terry that she can go
wherever she wants while he is on a leash.
The other day she had had one glass of wine when Terry asked
her to run an errand for him. "Can't drive," she said. "I've
been drinking." Using Terry's breathalizer, she blew a .02 --
well below the legal limit -- and she still wouldn't get
behind the wheel.
And now, Terry swears he won't either. But he'll keep the tool
to remind himself that he had to learn the hard way.
"I like that Will Rogers saying about how people learn," Terry
said. "Some learn by reading, some by observation, and the
rest of us have to pee on the electric fence for ourselves."