Sunday, September 6, 2009

Waiting to exhale, Cheyenne style

There was a time when people were unclear about the definition of irony. Is jumbo shrimp ironic or just an oxymoron? Thankfully, in 1996, Alanis Morissette cleared up all the confusion when she released her single, Ironic. Now when you need to know if you are staring down the face of irony, just ask yourself is it like rain on your wedding day or a free ride when you've already paid? Maybe it's that good advice that you just didn't take. Or perhaps it's like 10,000 forks when all you need is a knife, in which case I say start poking the idiot who gave you all the forks until he brings you a knife, but that is just me.

And then there are the times when you don't even need to ask because you know not only are you staring irony right in the face but irony is laughing at you while raining on you, stealing your money, and forking you all at once.

And to make things worse, you're in Wyoming.

I was born and raised in Butte, Montana. At 18 I made my way to the University of North Texas in Denton, Texas, where my brother was also attending college. About twice a year, usually around Christmas and Spring Break, I visited my parents in Butte. The choice to drive or fly was generally made by the health of my bank account.

In spring of 1996 (ironically the same year as Ironic hit the charts), I was broke, which meant one thing -- Road Trip! This was no ordinary road trip though it was my first girls only road trip. My roommate and best friend became my co-pilot, navigator, and karaoke partner. After growing up in Texas, she was looking forward to a week of snow and mountains, not to mention one of the biggest St. Patrick's Day celebrations and the only St. Urho Day celebration in the country.

It was a drive that I knew well, although I had only made it a few times without my parents. My 1994 Chevy Cavalier would take us through five states in 26 hours. We stocked up on beef jerky, Mountain Dew, and good music. We made it through Texas in a mere seven hours and New Mexico in two more. Three more hours brought us to Denver and I knew we were half way home. This would have been a logical place to stop, but with three states and four Mountain Dews behind us and the Sister Act II soundtrack blaring on the stereo we made a decision that only two twenty year olds living on beef jerky would make. We decided to drive straight through.

Wyoming state welcome signImage via Wikipedia

For those of you who have never driven straight up I25 through the middle of Wyoming, you aren't missing much. It's about a five hour drive, but it feels like 14. It's hilly, it's windy, and if you don't hit a deer with the front of your car it's pretty likely that one will go ahead and jump right into the side of your car. I'm not sure why. Maybe they are hoping you will open the door, pick them up, and drive them out of Wyoming.

Now before all the Wyomingites start hating on me, let me say a couple other things about Wyoming. I have quite a lot of relatives that live there and every time I have ever visited I have met some of the nicest people, which does make it worth the trip. There are also some beautiful parts of Wyoming. Straight up 25 just doesn't happen to be one of them. So when Kim suggested we drive through it in the middle of the night, I popped open another Mountain Dew, put on Bon Jovi's greatest hits, and settled in for another 12 hour drive.

About mid-way through the Cowboy State (approximately 1 a.m.) we decided we should probably stop and stretch our legs. One thing you should know about Wyoming is that cities do not come frequently and when they do finally appear, stores are not open 24 hours. Not even gas stations. Luckily we found a rest area that was open and well lit (another perk in WY is the well maintained rest stops).

We headed in to wash our faces and brush our teeth. Ladies, I want you to think back with me for a minute to the mid nineties when you did not leave home without your Noxema. Well lucky for us, we did not. Unfortunately, we did leave home without towels. And Wyoming apparently was ahead of the curve with green movement because there were no paper towels, only hand dryers, a fact we failed to notice until our faces were dripping wet (and smelling like Noxema). Wyoming in March, is, how should I put this, freezing and we had left Texas that morning where it was 85 degrees so both of us were wearing sweatshirts over our t shirts. We decided with the lack of a better option, these would make good towels.

As we giggled like little girls we saw an actual little girl come out of one of the stalls with a somewhat frightened look on her face. Not thinking much of it, we gathered our stuff and walked out as one of us (I honestly don't remember which one) said, "I bet she thinks we're drunk."

Five minutes later we were back on the highway headed north. I was driving about 10 MPH under the speed limit on the lookout for suicidal deer. Ten minutes later I saw red and blue lights behind me. Confident he couldn't be after me, I kept driving. In fact, I was pretty sure he must be after the car that had been tailing me for the last five minutes and had just raced past me. As the lights got closer Kim finally said, "Kristen, I think you need to pull over."

Let me replay the conversation for you. The officer's words are in blue because, you know, he's a police officer and mine are in green because, you know, I was clueless.

"Ma'mm. Do you know why I pulled you over?"
"No sir. I really don't."

"I'm going to need to look at your license and insurance."
"Yes sir."

"Have you been drinking this evening?"
"I'm sorry, what?"

Hello irony! This is where Kim burst out laughing, which I seriously doubt helped our case much. I explained to the officer that not only had we not been drinking that night, but neither Kim nor I had ever had a drink. I told him that we had been driving since about 5 a.m. and explained what had happened at the rest stop. As I got to the end of the story (which knowing me was about 10 minutes long) I could see him start to smile under what I'm sure was one of the largest cowboy hats I have ever seen. My story matched up with the call that he received from the parents at the rest stop. I started to breath a sigh of relief.

"I'm going to need you to take a breathalizer test."
"I'm sorry?"

"Although I don't believe you have been drinking, state law requires to give a breathalizer test to anyone who we receive a tip for suspicion of drunk driving. Please step out of the car."
More hysterical laughter from my passenger.

As I stood on the side of I25 holding the breathilizer machine up to my mouth I thought about the irony of the situation. Here I was a white 20 year old college student who had never taken a drink of alcohol who was reported for drunk driving by a 10 year old. I didn't know whether to be offended by the whole situation or proud that the family cared enough about their safety and the safety of others to call the police and that the state cared enough about everyone's safety to test all suspected drunk drivers. Now that I have my own family I think I fall more on the side of proud.

I blew a 0.00. The officer let me keep the print out as a souvenir since I told him nobody would believe that I would get pulled over for drunk driving. I still have it in a box under my bed.

As you plan your Labor Day celebrations remember that many cities and states now have a no refusal detail in which police can get a warrant to draw blood to check the blood alcohol level from people who refuse a breath test. Me, I think it's much easier to just get a designated driver, even if you just plan to have a couple drinks or if you forget to bring a towel -- especially in Wyoming.

1 comment:

  1. this brings back fun memories of driving through wyoming. or should i say sleeping through wyoming. oh well, the driving and the rent by chance sing-a-long was fun. LOVE this story.