A couple of nights ago, I was zipping down 25th, when I was flagged into the parking lot of the Y for a chat with a polite, young, policeman. Is it just me or are the cops getting younger every year?

Instead of lecturing me on my driving habits – Hurrah! No speeding ticket! – the officer proceeded to ask me how I was this evening and what I thought about the weather. (Saskatoon is remarkable in a number of ways locals don’t understand.) Finally, he asked me if I had been drinking.

The officer was visibly surprised when I admitted I indeed had a wee drop. I suspect his surprise is a sad commentary on the truthiness of my fellow citizens. He asked me several more questions, and finally allowed me on my way.

Drinking as I do, it is inevitable that I must occasionally drink and drive. I prefer to walk and take cabs, but sometimes it’s necessary. So I have a very simple rule: I don’t drive until I’ve used my breathalyser.

And my machine has taught me a number of facts. Firstly, I discovered what I previously thought was .08 was actually .10. Had I ever been stopped when I thought I was .06ish and I would have been sorry. Probably publicly so in front of a judge.

My other big discovery is how food consumption changes alcohol metabolization.

For those of you who have somehow managed to avoid the bald science of boozing here it is.

When you drink alcohol you have exactly two ways of getting rid of it: metabolizing it, or sending it back out the same way it went in. I don’t know about you, but I avoid the latter.

Those charts you see in the paper, on the ‘Net , or in endless books, work perfectly. On an empty stomach.

If you go out for a couple of beers in the afternoon with a friend, you don’t need a breathalyser. The charts tell you X drinks over Y hours at Z weight equals point zero whatever.

My breathalyser has confirmed these charts any number of times. All I have to do when I am not eating, is count drinks and keep an eye on the clock. But eating and drinking, adds a dimension to the problem that the charts do not cover. (Hint: if you’ve lost track of the precise number of drinks, take a cab.)

Normally Sairey and I split at least one bottle of wine over dinner, which will last two to three hours. I should be around .03 when I leave the restaurant.

What happens if we have a second bottle? Well in theory, I will have consumed five drinks over three hours which should leave me under the .08 mark. (A 12% wine will leave me about .07, a 14% wine about .09.)

What my breathalyser has repeatedly shown me, is once food is in the gut, alcohol consumption ceases to be linear. What I have come to believe is alcohol absorption during, and after eating happens in bursts.

You feel soberish, maybe .03. Life is fine. Then those garlic mashed ‘taties get digested. Suddenly, your system soaks up half a bottle of wine. Those three hours of dinner have just been compressed into fifteen minutes. .08 is long gone. And you have a couple of hours of metabolizing to do before you can drive.

Saskatoon’s Finest assure me they do random stops all year ‘round. They further assure me they target their enforcement when it is most likely to be effective. Like, for example, during the Victoria Day weekend.

The answer is simple. Don’t drink and drive. If you do, buy and use a breathalyser, and don’t drive when you’re .08.

If you eat and drink don’t drive. You may feel fine but halfway back from the lake you could be hugely liable.

My breathalyser is an Alcohawk Slim from It cost me about $70, which is substantially less than a DUI conviction. There are others available but I strongly recommend spending more than thirty bucks, if you are going to depend on the readings.

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