Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Day one hundred and ninety six ... Membership has its privileges.

Sometimes I spend all day thinking about what might make a good topic for the day's entry.

Sometimes it's a tough subject that I don't want to talk about. Those are usually some of my favorites. 

Sometimes it's something that I've been dying to relate. Perhaps a piece of ephemera reminded me of a time when the world was a step-stool out of reach and the only thing I had to pay out of pocket for was gum-balls and bang-caps.

Sometimes it comes from what I did during the day that strangely relates to my sobriety, like trying in vain to vacuum up a tiny piece of string for a good minute, rolling it around with my foot, attempting again to vacuum in up only to have to surrender and bend over, pick it up with my fingers, roll it around, drop it on the floor, and vacuum it up like nothing's weird.

And sometimes it's waiting for me in the mailbox with my name on it when I come home.

"July 10, 2008

Dear Frederick,

Welcome to Smart Start and thank you for choosing us as your interlock provider ... "

Now, this right here? This sentence is hysterical. Okay. Maybe it's more funny to me, but let me try to explain.

I didn't "choose" Smart Start to be my interlock provider, any more than I chose which brand of cuffs they used on me, back in December. I wasn't offered a choice. I was told that this is the company I needed to contact, I was told the installation and service center was located in Hadley, and I was told I was going to have to shell out over two grand over two years to have it in my car.

I have since learned that there are about six different manufacturers out there. One of them even makes a model for school buses, called "The Determinator," if you can believe that (in the event of a reading above .02 the bus goes into lockout, the lights start flashing, and the horn blows non-stop. Otto, you have been warned). But when I was getting my license, Smart Start was the only name I heard, and I really didn't feel like comparison shopping, anyway.

Now, I'm not begrudging the device. It is a fine piece of electronics (although I would prefer it better if it said "hello" instead of "blow" when I turn it on, but hey ...). It is a fine alternative to not having a license at all. The guy I deal with at the shop, Jesse, is friendly, professional, and non-judgmental, and the company seems pretty straightforward and honest. I wrote all about the adventure of getting it put in here.

It's annoying, but I've gotten used to it. I even got a free upgrade to a fancier model with all kinds of buttons that I'm not allowed to push. Like I said, I'm just glad I can drive. Right now, if I didn't have a car, I don't know what I'd do.

I've recently had visions of what it would be like if I was being chased like you see in the movies, and I had to start my car quickly before the axe wielding maniac gets me. But thankfully, that has only happened in my weird mind.

So the letter goes on telling me about all the new locations there are to have it serviced (I bring it in once a month to a place called Long Radio where they download the info my gatekeeper contains). Smart Start even goes so far as to say that if you don't have internet access, you can just call them and talk on the phone like people used to do back at the end of the century. This is because the ignition interlock device is not a mandatory second offense condition for just the youth of America, or even the Gen X'ers and after. It's for anyone, of any age who screws up. You could be 85 with congestive heart disease, and they'd still make you blow into this thing for a count of five, followed by blowing while humming for a count of eight ... every ten minutes.

Yeah, it's fun stuff. But, once again, I'm just glad I have this option.

And then it comes to the part where I just lost it. This stuff is gold, folks.


"If you would like to refer a new client to us, you may use the enclosed referral coupon worth $25. If the referred client is installed with Smart Start of Massachusetts and presents the coupon at the time of installation we will send you a $25.00 check for the referral."

A referral?

A referral?

What the ... ?

What are they insinuating?

Are they trying to say that, because I have an interlock device on my car (read: am a lush), that it stands to reason that my friends will eventually have the big number two? Is that it? 

Are they banking on the fact that everybody in town knows I have one, and will naturally ring me up if they need tips on which brand is best?

Or better yet. Maybe they sent it to me so I'll keep my eyes on the court listings like some sort of ambulance chaser. But even at that, most people won't be as lucky as I am and get their license back in two months. Most people will have to wait two years before they even get the opportunity to have an interlock device installed.

So to me, I just think it's a hilarious prospect.

And the best part is, the referred customer (read: my friend, the lush), doesn't get a dime out of the deal. It comes to me, lush #1, who hopefully won't go out and spend it on a big bottle of Dr. McGillicutty's and a tube of Pringles.

I can see the pitch now:

"Hi, my name's Alex. Maybe you've read my blog. No? Okay. Well, word around town is that your going to get your license back soon. You know, of course, that you will have to get an interlock device. Now, don't get all mad just yet. Let me tell you about Smart Start. They're great. Oh and by the way, can you take this oversized coupon in with you and make sure they attach it to your lease agreement? I get $25.00 out of the deal ... hey ... hey, where 'ya going? Hey, mister ... it's a really good company ... hey ..."

The part of it all that strikes me as odd is that it all seems so natural. It's like, well of course somebody in your town is going to get another DUI. And when they do, here you go. Just give them this. I mean, it's a nice gesture I suppose, but this isn't like getting cash back for referring somebody to a good masseuse. This is an otherwise very stigmatizing matter. It's not something that you want to have too many people on board with. But here I am with an oversized coupon in my hands that will supposedly go to the next sucker to blow a .08 for the second time. It's not that hard. Only a few beers will do it. And the cops are always out and looking to make money for the state (not to mention curb accidents, injuries and death). So people, as much as I need the cash, I really hope nobody I know gets in trouble anytime soon ... but I'll put it under a magnet on the fridge just in case.

There's no expiration date anywhere on it, so I guess it's good for life. 

Either way, a coupon's a coupon. My mom probably wouldn't be so thrilled that I got another DUI, but I know for a fact that she would be just tickled about the idea of a $25 coupon.

Hmm ... I have the most amazing craving for Pringles right now.

Maybe I'll go out and buy a tube and grab the paper ... 

Thanks for reading.


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