Albany Journal – 7/23/12

I have been seeing these signs lately – something that 1960s musicians sometimes call “the writing on the wall,” I suppose, and things really don’t look very good as far as how the country is going.  I’m glad that this is an election year, even though I lost the right to vote due to a couple of back-to-back DWIs in New York State that I earned in 2008. 

Because I’m technically a convicted felon, I’m not allowed to vote until my probation period expires in 2013.  The silver lining in all of this is that my behavior has returned to a near-spotless responsibility towards myself and others, which makes me eligible to get off probation early if I write a special letter to the judge in Albany that petitions the judicial system for a special early release from probation this year.  Instead of the full five years of probation, I will have served four, which means that I get to take the breathalyzer off of my car – a contraption that has me blow into it to test whether or not I’ve been drinking and driving.  The contraption costs me $100 a month, which is a terrible expense, but an expense that I’ve been living with for four years now. 

New York State doubly damns the person caught for two consecutive DWIs by making the perpetrator pay for his or her own punishment, as though the State is its own racketeer.  If one gets caught three times in violation of his or her probation, then there’s a one to three year prison term waiting for him or her upstate.  Luckily I’ve been shown the error of my ways to have avoided state prison, and what I have now is a situation where I have to pay for my breathalyzer, my rehabilation, my visits to the probation office.  It’s the State of New York’s way of putting the icing on the cake of a stream of never-ending punishments that I have to pay for.  I guess what I’m trying to say is that, aside from the dangers of drinking and driving on the roads, just the simple act of driving on the roads while drunk is something to be avoided, because ultimately, the perpetrator continues to drink and drive and increases the number of times he or she gets away with it until one is finally caught. 

It is my belief that being caught is inevitable, because drinking and driving itself is one tough habit to break.  Once anyone in question avoids getting caught, and usually these are people who don’t normally have any prior convictions, the person will do it again and again, because there is this belief that spawns under the surface that leads the driver to believe that he won’t get caught.  And viola!  That’s the secret about drinking and driving.  One so subtly believes that he or she will never get caught for it, when, statistically-speaking, it is more probable that one gets caught every time he or she drinks and drives.  In other words, the more one gets away with it, the more he or she will likely be caught.  It does not work the other way around where the grand delusion whispers into the ears of the driver that he or she will be more likely to get away with it.  That’s how sick our minds become, as it takes us to this point in our drinking and driving career where one becomes a reckless DWI abuser.  And I’ve learned the hard way, as everything I learn – those tough lessons in life – I’ve had to learn the hard way.  I’m not about to reduce my experiences to the simple catch-phrase “don’t drink and drive.”  This is quite meaningless, because I believe that one will never stop driving while intoxicated if he or she gets away with it the first few times.  There’s the factor of the driver’s thinking that he or she is invincible – which turns out to be nothing more than the pride that cometh before the fall.

It’s no accident, then, that I will be taking the bus and train down to New Jersey this morning, as I don’t feel like driving for four hours along the highways.  If I receive a moving violation, whether on purpose or by accident, then I lose my full-privilege license, which is something that took a lot of time and a lot of money to get back.  Plus, I usually get tired along the journey, and having to blow into the breathalyzer every twenty minutes adds to the exhaustions of driving for so long.  So while I could have taken my car, I prefer to take the Megabus to Penn Station, get on a train at Penn Station heading down to the Princeton/Trenton area.

There’s no question, though, that I need a break from Albany for at least a couple of days.  My relationship with Lisa is moving along a bit too quickly, and so it is better for me and for her not to rush into things, even though there’s that ubiquitous biological clock in our hearts that tells us to move forward with our relationship, lest we miss out on anything that could have been added to it.  I still believe, though, that it is better to marry and have kids later in life, but our biologies just aren’t built that way.  Our relationships instead demand that we have these parts of our lives finished with at an earlier age – from our early twenties to our middle thirties.  There’s a difference then between what we may intellectually think is the best for us than what the biological clock forces us to carry out.  Maybe I shouldn’t rely on life as a technical blueprint that has to be rigorously adhered to, as opposed to living, thinking, and feeling whatever I need to at any stage of life.  One is the ideal, the other is the real, and only God can deliver any sort of exception to the laws of biology.  But again, these questions haven’t arrived on our doorsteps as of yet – or at least not Lisa’s doorstep, even though I am constantly mulling these questions over.  I do get the sense, however, that Lisa is the one, but even that I can’t rush into.  It’s funny, because I used to think that I needed to finish school at 20, be a published author at 30, a father at 35, a promotion at 40, sending my kids off to college by 50, retiring by 65, living in a gated community of senior citizens at 70, and perhaps dying at 80.  Even this simple blueprint is what most people follow, believe it or not – these boxes that we are forced into, such that we feel the sharp blade of rage when something drifts from the plan, or we try to move outside of the box to something that suits us much better.  I’m no expert, and yet I can understand why people follow this blueprint.  People would rather choose stability in their own lives instead of having to rely on the chance that one can have it his or her way.  I miss Lisa already, and I haven’t even left for New Jersey yet.

Harvey Havel is the author of five novels. This past spring, Stories from the Fall of the Empire, his sixth book and his first collection of short stories, was recently released by Publish America. Later this summer, Two Tickets to Memphis, his sixth novel, is forthcoming from Publish America as well. Havel has previously taught Writing at Bergen Community College in Paramus, New Jersey and also at SUNY Albany and the College of St. Rose, both in Albany, New York. Born in Lahore, Pakistan in 1971, Havel now resides full time in Albany, New York.