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Chewin’ the Fat Boy: March, 2013

By Susan Swan

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Normally this column is devoted to getting word out about a coming rally, correcting a changed time or location of an event or shining a light on our readers and their life celebrations. We’ll get back to that next month, but I hope you’ll allow a one-time departure for a just cause. That cause is keeping riders and others safe. File it under employment security if you want, because the life celebrations I’d prefer to publish can be derailed because of careless behaviors. Read on… People don’t plan on loss. We all know it’s an inevitable part of life, but we’re bowled over when it arrives, as if it should discriminate or offer up warning. Across the nation families lose a loved one indirectly or directly related to operating a motor vehicle under the influence every hour. The aftermath is staggering, not just in layers of hurt, but also the quagmire of duties left to those who remain. From doctor and emergency bills, insurance claims, people to notify, plans for a service, obituaries and loss of work, it’s endless. As bystanders we imagine the heartbreak for the families, but it’s also the former teachers, classmates, co-workers and friends who stand together in the solemnity. The weight of each community’s loss is crushing, and the frequency is not out of our hands—not entirely. I attended a memorial this week and as I sat down the day after, before I’d written the first word of my monthly column, an e-mail alert took me off task. Or so I thought… Glenn Steinberg of Edmonds, Washington, was writing to offer a sort of press release for publication in THUNDER PRESS. His aim was to admit something most of us would strive to keep under wraps. What follows is something Steinberg was forward-thinking enough to share with our readers; humbling himself in the hopes that what happened might awaken a rider. After validating both the origin of the e-mail, and to be sure he was serious about the publishing, I thanked him for this remarkably raw admission. With permission of Glenn Steinberg: September 2012 Where Am I? game winner Glenn Steinberg became a loser that month when, on September 1, he was busted for driving under the influence. It was an evening out, listening to the blues at a club, when a few cocktails later and a great time behind, he hit the road and headed home (in his car). Picking up his phone to send a text message (another lame idea that seemed reasonable while under the influence), he must have been weaving in traffic because that’s when he caught the attention of police and was pulled over. The officer arrested Steinberg and issued a DUI. That night he was a guest of the Snohomish County Jail in Everett, Washington. It was his first DUI, and his court costs were over $4,000 (about $1,000 per cocktail). He won’t get his drivers and motorcycle licenses back until March 13. Part of his sentencing was taking a class called “DUI Victim’s Panel.” The class, led by Everett police, really brought home how motorcyclists are particularly impacted by DUI. One statistic was that the average car driver’s BAC for a DUI is 0.15. What that means, essentially, is that a person is really drunk. But the instructor also said the average BAC for motorcycle riders is 0.17, more than those driving under the influence in a car. Then Steinberg saw a horrific slideshow with riders lying all over the road bloodied and dead from boozing and cruising. While gut wrenching to view the slides, Steinberg thought of all the motorcyclists looking forward to the commencement of riding season. Biker-friendly watering holes would be part of that. He wrote, “Susan, I just thought this story might knock some sense into a rider.” The class Glenn spoke of is available in more populated counties throughout the Northwest (and beyond) and can be taken by anyone. Costs range from $20 to $100 depending on the attendee’s age and the location. An Internet search using the search term “DUI Victim’s Panel” and your state will lead you to locations where the classes are offered… On a personal note, I can’t say whether it’s ignorance or arrogance that allows brushing off logic with “I’m OK,” or “I feel fine,” before putting a leg over the saddle or getting behind the wheel after a few cocktails. Most of us would admit privately that we’ve been there, at least in shades, or maybe we’d say, “But it was a long time ago.” Rather than being hypocrites, we might, in humility, admit we were lucky to make our way home. And just like Glenn Steinberg, we might find an opportunity where we can help someone with a thoughtful nudge before they, too, hit the road. So as snow thaws in higher elevations and the 2013 riding season begins, let’s look out for one another. The motorcycle community is already known for our solidarity in supporting good causes. Let’s see what we can do about this one. If you care to share your comments for Glenn or for myself, send an e-mail to susan@tohonor.org.

 

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