A Night I Did NOT Go To Jail In Hawaii – But Could Have

This story is posted by request – from someone that was there, and has friends that don’t believe it happened.

For those of you that know me, you have heard this story many times.  For those that I haven’t spent more than three hours with, this may be new to you.

I don’t over-drink and drive.  A few beers over a few hours is all my small frame can handle and not become a threat on the road. 

Back in 1997, when I still lived in Hawaii, and was still married, and could still golf – I had a weekly tournament every Wed evening at a par three lighted course at Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.

A large group of us would play nine holes, for money (chump change) and then repair to the Tenth Puka for a few cold drinks, and some Karaoke (for those in our group that could sing, or thought they could).  It was always great fun, and for some time it was the favorite part of my week.

On this particular night we had company in town, and everyone decided that spouses would join us at the club after our game (which finished at about 9pm).

When we finished golfing there were about 15 of us that hit the club, and another 8-10 spouses joined us.  We were having a very good time – good enough that the bartender was buying rounds, I was buying rounds – everyone seemed to be buying rounds.  We drank to excess and had fun to an extreme. 

We had a designated driver, Esther – and the more we drank, the more everyone cheered her on for her wonderful Karaoke skills.  As the only sober member of the group, Esther got a kick out of the fact ANY of us thought she could sing. 

I didn’t sing – my job was doing the whistling for “On the Dock of the Bay” (which I could, and still can do well – even sober!)  Amazingly, this song would come up 6-8 times every evening.  Everyone thought they could sing it.  I always got the second mike and the whistling 🙂

The club was supposed to close at 2am, and after 2:30 the Military Police finally told the club manager to shut it down.  It had been a lot of fun, but it was coming to a close.

As we walked out of the club there were two lesbians having a domestic disturbance and my (now ex) wife tried to calm them down – that was pretty interesting – I thought she would get her ass kicked, but that didn’t happen – we dragged her away from the couple and piled into our Ford Taurus – headed back to our community a few miles away. 

We had a designated driver.

Esther was not from Hawaii – in fact she was just passing through with her husband on the way back from a three year tour in South Korea – they stayed with us for a couple weeks, as we had been friends for over a decade.  She wasn’t familiar with the route and had to rely on a car full of drunk officers (and me) to get her home.

To be specific, Esther was a Senior Enlisted Active Duty member – her husband was an Active Duty Army Captain.  My now ex was an Active Duty Army Major, I was a civilian, and we had one more friend with us – Mark Bean – an Active Duty Special Forces Army Major.

As we approached the gate leaving Hickam Air Force Base a young Airman tried to wave over the car in front of us – evidently they we doing “random” vehicle checks (looking for drunk drivers).  The car in front of us just accelerated and sped away – it was a three lane road and the car moved quickly, so they could not stop them.

As several in our car told Esther to just drive through she (being sober) decided she should probably stop as the Airmen waved us to the side of the road.

Now normally, everything would have been ok – we were drunk, no doubt.  But Esther was completely sober.  We had a designated driver.  We were gold.  Or so we thought.

Of course, it wasn’t that simple.  Just as the bar closed I had bought two cans of beer and my ex and I had both brought them with us.  It was a five minute ride home, and I didn’t think carrying a beer would be a big deal.  I was wrong. (at that time in Texas, my home state, it was legal for a passenger to have an open container)

Stupid, I know.  I wasn’t in Texas!

In any case, we were pulled over.  I shoved my beer under the front passenger seat (I was sitting in the rear passenger seat).  My ex put hers in her purse.

If everyone would have kept their mouth shut, it probably would have been a two minute stop.  Of course, not everyone did.  Mark Bean was very drunk, and he was being pretty belligerent (I know – who would expect behavior like that from someone in the Special Forces!?).  This caused the Military Police to investigate further.  They asked us all to get out of the car, and they collected the ID cards from each of us.  We were asked to stand to the side, in the very wide median next to the guard shack.

As the MPs started searching the car, they found my beer – and things got interesting.  They called for the officer on duty, and Mark Bean was trying to piss in their guard shack (really), all the while talking about “Air Force pukes”.  Things were not going well at all. To these 18-20 year old MPs it probably looked extremely chaotic and out of their control.

And suddenly my ex darts to the car and grabs the beer I had left, which the MPs had found and placed on the hood of the car.  She tried to throw it across three lanes of traffic but only made it about a lane and a half.  As the beer hit the pavement the MPs came running back and saw a can of beer, spinning in the middle of the road, and spewing foam all over.  “Ma’am – please don’t tamper with the evidence”, the MP told my ex.  He was VERY polite and VERY correct in his demeanor.  For an 18-20 year old kid dealing with a bunch of drunk officers, he was extremely composed and professional.

At this point I am sure someone, if not all of us, is going to jail.  As the MPs call in this new information, still waiting for the boss to show, Mark Bean starts calling out to Esther – “Esther, are you ok, Esther?  How much did you have to drink?  You ok?  You aren’t drunk, are you?”.  This was NOT a good thing – to this point the only thing we had in our favor was that we were responsible enough to have a designated driver – which might forgive some of our other transgressions.

As Mark continues to yell Esther assures him (and the MPs) that she had nothing to drink and that she was fine, at which point Mark started yelling loudly, “Esther is golden, Esther is Gold!  Yes, Esther is Gold!!!”

We were lucky that night – the commander on duty thought it was more important that we had a designated driver than the fact we were all trashed, we were driving with open containers, and we were tampering with evidence.  He let us go.

I have had a lot of respect for the wisdom of authority since then – they certainly could have affected several military careers that night – and even as the only civilian, I still had a job that would have been affected – I was the Mayor.

So thanks, young Air Force guys – you did us all a favor when we did seemingly everything in our power to convince you to do otherwise.

That being said – it was still a wonderfully fun evening that we often get together and talk about still – even though it happened over a decade ago.

Don’t drink and drive – I use this story as an example to my kids of “responsible” drinking, even though we still made stupid mistakes 🙂