Breathaloser: A Cautionary Tale

If you’ve ever had an ignition interlock breathalyzer installed in your vehicle, and I assume about .04% of the people who read this have, you know the shame and embarrassment that comes along with it. It’s also semi-hilarious in a pathetic, depressing kind of way. I have experienced things that the remaining 99.96% of you will (hopefully) never go through.

The first week of having a breathalyzer is the worst because you haven’t yet come to terms with the humiliation of living with the device. A lot of time is spent sweating and contorting into odd positions and generally hating the world everyone in it. You try to duck out of eyesight when starting the ignition. You can’t even look at your without thinking curse words and feeling deep-seated shame. Every time you blow, you are trying to convince yourself and the machine you are a good person.

Also, having a breathalyzer in a Kia Spectra is a lose-lose situation. Nobody wants your car. Nobody wants your breathalyzer. Nobody wants your life. These indignities are compounded if your machine is equipped with a camera. It looks a lot like this:

First, you start your car. Ha. Just kidding. You can’t just start your car! You wait, then you wait a little longer for the red light on the camera to turn on, demanding to see your face. Then, a green light comes on and some beeping happens, signaling a your angry burst of air for no shorter than 7 seconds. The machine determines whether or not you’re wasted. If you aren’t, good news! You may now start your car and drive away like a normal human. If you are, goodbye car.  Hello, walking and jail.

I actually added it up (thanks, inner nerd), and I spend about 4 extra hours per month just waiting for my car to start.  By the time the breathalyzer is removed from my car, I will have spent about 3 whole days waiting.

Red lights and fast food drive-thrus are where most of the interesting stuff happens.  Sometimes you are signaled to blow at a light and look to your right to find an appalled 80 year old woman staring at you. Oh crap, is there a carjacker in my blind spot? No, she’s grimacing  in stern disapproval because she is forced to to drive in a lane next to an irresponsible person that’s bent on annihilating the elderly and probably the entire population.  You look to your left and see a busload of children, pointing and laughing at you as you blow into the dreaded breath machine.  Then, you notice this:

Great. They’re enjoying themselves, eating Skittles and being chauffeured around, and I’m just one more example of what happens when you grow up and stop going to church. You vow  to stop looking around while stopped at red lights and head for the nearest Sonic to treat yourself to a cherry vanilla limeade like a real adult. A rollerblade-clad teenager shows up with your drink, all smiles and tells you only have to pay half-price between 2-4 pm.  But your little happy hour is interrupted by beeping, signaling you to once again prove your sobriety. You tip your car hop $6 for having lost her innocence witnessing it.

At some point though, you just stop worrying about it.  You no longer avoid offering rides or care about who’s watching.  You don’t yell at people who honk at you because it takes forever to back out of a parking space.  So what Wanda the tollbooth lady or the person handing you your french fries is judging your character?  You accept the fact that you blow — temporarily.

Reposted and edited with permission from Kelsey Love.  See what she’s up to at her blog.



  1. You and I will get along just fine……

    Very nice post and congrats on being the first misbehaving writer to kick things off!

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