When you can blow over the limit and pay no penalty
NO PRIZES for guessing what headline caught the eye of my mates this week.
Being in the news caper, I should be grateful they even read newspapers and online news sites and, for at least one of them, that he can read at all.
Having seen the headline, I knew what the main topic of discussion would be at our weekly catchup.
"Police seek volunteers to get drunk for training exercise" the headline screamed.
Apparently, the Kutztown Police Department in Pennsylvania was seeking three volunteers to help with a training event designed to teach officers how to administer Field Sobriety Tests on suspected drink-drivers.
The post said volunteers had to have a clean criminal history and "be willing to drink hard liquor to the point of inebriation."
Volunteers had to arrange for a sober person to take them home.
"Now, that's a job I'd be happy to volunteer for," was the general statement among our group, the members of which are forever on the lookout for a free beer, free feed, free anything.
"How do you get a gig like that?" another asked.
Well, I once did have a gig like that.
It's about 25 years ago, so I don't think anyone would get into trouble - not least the Toowoomba policeman who ran the "session", who only retired from the force in recent months.
My boss at the time noticed I had the Wednesday off for some reason and asked if I wanted to volunteer my afternoon to help out the local police.
Naturally, ever the community-minded person, I said "Nuh!"
However, once he told me what the event entailed I quickly did an about face and volunteered quicker than a suntan sprayer at a nudist beach.
As it transpired, the afternoon "session" was for police officers learning how to use the latest hand-held breathalysers of the day.
The job of the volunteer was to sit at a table in the police training rooms (then in Margaret St across the road from today's Grand Central) and knock back stubbies of Fourex and munch on a variety of pizzas - all free.
Five of us had the privilege of that session and though I'm not normally one for drinking with strangers… I made that day an exception. Well, I'm a member of my group too, you know.
The five volunteers soon bonded, an endless supply of beer and pizza tends to do that, and before you knew it all inhibitions went out the window much to the dismay of the sober rookie breath testers.
I was left wondering if the official breath analysis section of the Toowoomba Police Station was so… er… flatulent (if you'll pardon the expression). Well, beer and pizza!
At regular intervals, a police officer would thrust a breath tester in my face and instruct: "Blow".
This became more and more difficult as the afternoon wore on and fits of giggling among the volunteers increased, much to the dismay of the sober, and then less tolerant, rookie breath testers.
It was fun watching the readings going up throughout the afternoon.
But it was also educational.
For instance, I learnt that if you belch just prior to blowing into the device your reading will suddenly shoot up, something to remember the next time you're pulled over.
However, unlike the Kutztown Police Department which required the volunteers get their own sober person to take them home, the Toowoomba police kindly gave the five of us volunteers a lift home at session's close.
Well, four of the volunteers got a lift home anyway.
I'll never forget the look on my dad's face as he and his fellow retiree mates seated at the bar of the Bellevue Hotel looked up to see a marked police car pull up at the front door on Bridge St and his son, unsteady on his feet, alight from the back seat and, with a wave to the officers, waddle into the bar.
"Bloody hell," Stan, a mate of my dad said to him, "How much power does your son have to be dropped off at the pub by the cops?"