[Author’s note: The events in this post happened about ten years ago. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.]
When I started doing these Saturday afternoon posts, it was because I wanted to have fun, maybe a laugh or two, and possibly build a connection with some of my readers. I also didn’t want to use this space as a forum for commentary nor as a place for sales pitches. And despite the ten years that have passed since this happened, it still bothers me.
We have this neighbor — let’s call him George. George is married to Aileen. They are about the same age as Tracy and I. They have two kids, Adam and Shirley, that are about the same age as our kids — when this happened, they were early to mid-twenties. They’re in their early thirties, now.
About four months before this happened, George was out at the bar and got into a fight with another guy. Both were drunk. George “won” the fight. The other guy pressed charges and George wound up on probation. And while I don’t wanna downplay all that because that’s not a good thing, it’s not all that big a deal. If George had kept his nose clean and done his community service, it’d all be good, right?
On the weekend in question, George and Adam went to the bar. They were there until closing time. Driving home, they come upon a checkstop. I don’t know how checkstops work anywhere else but up here, they basically barricade the road and stop everyone, so it ends up with a long lineup of vehicles waiting to be checked. I’m sure George’s view from the driver’s seat was pretty frightening.
Don’t forget, George was on probation. If he was caught driving under the influence (DUI), he was going to jail. Probation violated. George knew this. Did he take steps to ensure this wouldn’t be a problem? No. He didn’t moderate his behavior so he wouldn’t get into trouble. He just went out and cut loose, damn the consequences. And then, with those consequences about to bite him on the ass, what does he do?
He guilts Adam into switching places with him so that his son would get the DUI and George would keep his sorry ass out of jail.
“You have to switch places with me. If I’m caught, I’ll go to jail. You wouldn’t want me to go to jail, now would you, son?”
At the time, I’d known Adam for close to 15 years. Watched him grow up right along with my kids. He was over here a lot. And I can tell you, of course, he loves his father. Of course, he wouldn’t want him to go to jail. And so, of course, he switched. I know of no son who would, in the same situation, say to his father, “Sorry, dad. I’m not switching seats with you. You’ll just have to live with the consequences of your actions.”
George took advantage of his son’s love for him. It’s unconscionable. It’s inexcusable. And it’s just plain wrong.
Now, yes… they shouldn’t have been driving in the first place. One or both of them could have taken a cab. That case can be made, for sure. But, drinking and driving isn’t the issue here. A father is supposed to set an example for his son. In case of trouble, the father is supposed to take the hit for the son; not the other way around. And above all else, a child’s love is supposed to be protected and nurtured, cherished and valued as something precious. Not used and abused.
George should be ashamed of himself.