It’s technically known as an ignition interlock system, and it served that purpose in my car for a full year, but I will remember it by other, less official names.
Blow and go is the catchiest term I’ve heard, but my simple brain inevitably gives that one a sexual connotation, and trust me, there is nothing sexy about having to punch a four-digit code into a torch-shaped device, then take a breathalyzer test from the driver’s seat of your vehicle every time you need to start the car.
Looking cool is a near impossibility when a constant reminder of your extreme DUI — those are the law’s words, not mine — is laying right there beside the emergency brake.
Using the blow and go to get the car started is only part of the ordeal. There are running tests that must be taken randomly en route to a destination and on many occasions, the interlock’s Siri-like voice would ask me to blow while I was stopped at a red light. It’s like it knew the exact moment when fellow motorists were most able to witness what a screw-up I was, and making eye contact or exchanging smiles with a pretty female driver almost always guaranteed the machine would spring to life.
“That machine in my car” is what I most often called it. When I was still drinking and my blood alcohol content was above .04 the day after a night of boozing, it was “that fucking machine” because while I have enough self-hatred to last a lifetime, my alcoholic brain still needed a scapegoat, and that fucking machine telling me I failed the breath test was an easy target.
Sometimes I was trying to start the car to get to work. Sometimes there was a radio appearance on my schedule or a sporting event to attend. A lot of times, I just wanted to buy more beer and didn’t feel like walking to the corner store.
No matter the situation, whenever the interlock device would respond with “FAIL” both audibly and visually, every doubt I’ve ever had about myself, every fear of winding up a hopeless drunk, every second spent wondering if I’d ever be able to break free from my addiction would come flooding back and hit me with the force of 10 hangovers worse than the one I was already experiencing.
However, in true alcoholic fashion, I’d quickly dismiss those emotions and either find more booze right away if I didn’t have somewhere to be, or find someone else to drive me to that place if I did.
A slightly less profane term for that fucking machine was “pain in the ass.” That’s exclusively what it became, not literally of course, after I quit drinking 53 days ago. Having no worries about failing the breath tests was a massive relief, but continuing to have to blow into the thing at least three or four times a day was still a nuisance, as was the money spent on getting it calibrated every two months.
It wasn’t long after my penultimate calibration appointment that I gave up booze completely, and a few minutes past 10 on Monday morning, the ignition interlock system, the blow and go, that machine in my car, that fucking machine and pain in the ass was gone. I happily gave my mandatory talking machine passenger back to the company that was ordered by a court to give it to me a year ago.
Having the interlock device removed marked the end of a self-inflicted nightmare that began when police found me passed out at the wheel at an intersection on April 8, 2012.
An hour or so later, I blew a .23 and was immediately put in jail, which is where I belonged. Some would say my stay should have been extended far beyond the few hours I was behind bars or that I didn’t deserve to have a dear friend bail me out the way she did before the sun went down. You won’t get an argument from me on either point.
But I got out, and thousands of dollars and all these days later, I finally feel like putting the incident behind me for good. The guilt I felt after such a monumental mistake fueled heavier drinking, and more and more beer consequently piled on the guilt, creating that vicious cycle we hear so much about.
That cycle won’t roll if you take spokes out of the wheels though. Getting sober was my first, most important spoke. Completing the terms of my interlock device sentence was another.
The cycle is wobbly now, but I won’t pay too much attention to it because I have a car and these days, I can just get in, turn the key and drive.