Tuesday, December 21, 1999.
I left my university office around 1 p.m., picked up some grocery at Superstore, and arrived home around 2 p.m. Raj's message on my answering machine was waiting. Earlier from office, I had replied Raj's e-mail regards to one one-to-one getting together at some pub. I called Raj right away, would meet him at McMaster's pub on Springfield and Dillworth around 5 p.m., and later would have supper at his residence.

Raj has just one glass of red wine, while I would have total two pints of Kokani light beer. We moved from smoking to non-smoking section midway. Interesting conversation.. Mostly about Raj's varied honorary activities.. Hardly any talk on my life.. Raj and I have clicked well together. Since Raj retired from his position as president of the university few years ago, he has been busier than ever. His expertise in administration and management, and doing all largely as honorary service to society, has been in demand province-wide.

'W
ell, Raj, you look so fit and healthy, and it may be due to your involvement in all these activities.' 'I am leaving the Chair position at Lions' next month.'
'Hey, that might give you a little breather, and may be, we will be able to get together more often!'
'Oh, I still would remain with the Lions, besides, now I will be involved with City Council as well.' 'City Council? Is not that an 'elected' position?'
'Don't you know? I just got elected to City Council! So, you did not vote, I should have called you to go out and vote for me!'
'Looks like I would fail any citizenship test right now! I do not subscribe to Kelowna Daily Courier, and have not been able to fit my schedule with that of local news on TV. When is the next provincial election?'
'It could happen within a year. Who do you think would win next election?'
'I think 'Liberals' have a shot. And if you run as a liberal, you might land up with some cabinet position in our provincial government, like an education minister!'
Raj smiled. A pleasant thought!

R
eached Raj's home around 6:30 p.m. Exchanged greetings with everybody. Krishna, Raj's better half, was giving finishing touches to the evening meal preparations. Both Shammi and Shashi, Raj's two sons, were present. They both are also good friends of mine, and I have spent one-on-one time with each of them before.

S
hammi offers me a beer. I gladly accept it.
'How come you are here in this family environment? I thought you do not prefer this type of setting lately!'
'Shammi! Your dad is my friend too! We do exchange e-mail messages. We met at a pub for drinks today, and then he invited me here for supper.' Krishna takes care of Shashi's young son Amar while both Shashi and his wife Priya work during the day. Shashi has been waiting for Priya to arrive at his dad's place from work. Karishma, Raj's daughter, also stops by for few minutes with her own daughter who had lost one tooth today.
The evening was progressing well for me, and I was having fun conversation with everybody.

S
hammi offers me another beer, and I accept it gladly, again!
Around 8:30 p.m., all present sit around the dining table for supper. I ask Shammi to put back the third beer he had brought out for me! It is a completely vegetarian meal, and I fully enjoy it. I also made sure that I did not overeat.
Around 9:30 p.m., I say good-bye to everyone. Raj would let me know when next week he would stop by my place to pick up five red wine bottles.


A bit earlier, during a smoke-break outside the house, Shammi suggested that there is an extra couch to sleep on if I felt like not driving home. I brushed off his suggestion thinking that I am a better driver, even if under some alcohol influence, than most 'sober' drivers! After all, I have the clean driving record, and I enjoy the best gold-star insurance rate on my vehicle.

Cruising down the Springfield Road while heading home, near Rutland intersection, I hit the RoadBlock around 9:40 p.m.
I slow down almost to a halt, roll down driver's side window, and the RCMP police officer in impeccable uniform comes to my window, and asks: .
'Have you been drinking tonight, Sir?' .
'Yes, I had couple of beers before dinner.' I fuzzed a bit, as I did not mention the exact amount. 'Were you at a pub?' .
'No, I was at my friend's residence.' .
'Did you have wine with the dinner?' .
'No, I did not have any wine with the dinner.' .
'OK, would you please park your car near the curb?' .
Sure. I parked the car. I felt calm and serene as I was in no rush to get anywhere, and I had no idea of what to expect next. .
'Could I have your driver's license please?' .

I fumbled through my pockets, and took out the plastic folder containing my cards. I showed my license to the officer through one of the plastic windows. .
'Would you take the license out please?' .
The officer goes to his police car with my license to do some checking. He returns back in couple of minutes. .
'Would you please step outside?' .
No problem. I still did not know what was coming next, but I felt enough mind-control to answer any quizzy questions, or even walk in a straight line. .

'This machine is used as a Breath-Analyzer. When you blow in it, it would indicate the level of alcohol in your system.' The officer explains me about the test, and gives me some information on what is considered a safe-driving level. The officer installs a brand new plastic blowpipe on the machine. .
'Take a deep breath, and blow hard.' .
I obliged the machine and the officer. Few seconds passed, it felt like a long time, and I wondered what machine was thinking or calculating. Finally, the result was displayed in red in the tiny window of a tiny machine. The machine displayed the word 'WARN'. .

'You are above the minimal limit, and your driver's license would be suspended for 24 hours.' Now, this was the news to me. Surprisingly, though, I was not angry or upset. .
'Would you please come and hop into that police car? I need some more information from you. Also, bring with you your car insurance and registration documents.' The officer was now directing me to the next step in process. .
The officer gets on the phone in his police car, and starts conveying the information to RCMP Kelowna headoffice about my 24 hours driver's license suspension. He spells my name on the phone, and while on the phone, verifies with me about my birthdate and address. I answer all questions clearly and correctly, and wonder if I could impress the officer by reciting the English alphabet in the reverse order! .
'You can not drive your car for 24 hours. You can pick up your license at RCMP Kelowna office after 24 hours, that is after 9:40 p.m. tomorrow. Oh, but the office would be closed at that time, so you pick it up the following morning.' .
'What happens to my car?' .
'Your car will be toed away, as you can not drive your car.' .

'How much the 'Toe' would cost me?' .
'I am not sure, it could be about $50.' .
'Could I call my friend Raj? I would like to see if he could help me out here.' .
'Does he live in Rutland? You would need two sober drivers coming here in two separate vehicles to save you a 'Toe'. Go ahead, use this cell phone.' .
I call Raj. I congratulate myself that I remembered Raj's phone number. I explained the situation to Raj, and Raj said that he would be there in few minutes. .
'Where does your friend live? I can not wait for more than 15 minutes. Call him again.' Either the officer did not want one case to delay the proceedings, or the RoadBlock was about to be lifted. I call Raj again, and Raj replied that he would be there in five minutes. Meanwhile, Raj called Shashi on Shashi's cell phone requesting him to arrive at the scene. .
The officer and myself were alone for few minutes sitting in the police car while waiting for Raj-Shashi arrival. .

'Raj name sounds familiar.' .
'May be you know him, he just got elected to City Council.' I pass some information to the officer that I learned in the afternoon at the pub with Raj. .
'Yes, I may have seen him in the newspapers. What do you do for living?' .
'I am a Prof. at our university.'
'Which department?' .
'Computer Science.' The officer acknowledges favorably. .
'How long you have been here in Kelowna?' .
'Oh, I have been here with the university, it was a college then, since 1983.' .
'You live on Cook Road? Is not that in Mission? I lived on LaFranco once.' The officer comes across as a very friendly person. .
'Yes, LaFranco is a beautifully developed street.' .
Meanwhile, the other officer comes and calms my concerns saying that this is just a warning, a 24 hours license suspension, that there is no financial penalty, and that it should not affect my insurance. .

Raj and Shashi arrive on the scene. Two sober drivers in two separate cars. Shashi is a successful investment manager, and is driving his new Lexus. Raj signs the form as my car is released to his custody. I give my car key to Raj. Raj would drive my car home, I would ride with Shashi to get home, and then Raj and Shashi would come back again to the scene to pick up Raj's car. My two friends, father and a son, to my rescue.

Riding home with Shashi, I reminisce couple of incidences. .
When Shashi came to Kelowna, from Toronto, to start his new career, he had honored me to give him a reference for his job application. Shashi had some drinking violation in his record. When I was called to give him reference, I was positive, philosophical, and was stressing 'Chopra' family name in Kelowna. Shashi actually got the position on his own merits. Here, I tell Shashi, you are rescuing the Referee!

The second incidence that came to my mind was when Shashi and I were at a pub about a year ago, we both had a drink or two, I was driving my vehicle, Shashi was on the passenger's side, and we hit the RoadBlock. I told the officer that I had just one drink at the pub, and I was let through without any further questioning. I recall telling Shashi at that time that I was not angry that I was stopped, and that I have high regards for Canadian RCMP, and that it was for everybody's safety. Shashi did not argue much but it appeared that he had some harsher views on the subject. .

And here, now riding home with Shashi after today's encounter, I tell him that I did not lie, I was not angry, my lofty views of RCMP and the system have not changed, and that I feel good about myself that I practiced what I preached before.

Sure, I got off lightly this time. I wonder if I would be this noble (I like to think I would) if I had today harsher penalty of being taken to prison, fingerprinted, and photographed!
I hope, though, that I do not put myself again in a position where this nobility could be tested!

P.S. Before sharing this story with everybody, I decided to use it as a sounding board with my few close friends. One of them told me (being concerned for my well being) that I came across as making light of a serious (i.e. drinking and driving) situation. My friend pointed out that I should have been more upset than I was, and that I, while under some alcohol influence, should not have been entertaining the thought of being a better driver than 'sober' drivers! I wrote above what I felt as a Real-Life experience, but I do agree with my friend.


 

 

ŠAshwin Gandhi - All rights reserved.
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