April 3, 2009

Have you been drinking, señor?

highway, Honduras
Semana Santa (Holy week) is coming up. Officially, it is a religious holiday and some people celebrate it as such. Unofficially, it's PAR-TEE TIME! Best of all, rather than a measly one-day holiday, it is a whole week! Officially, the no-work day is Friday or sometimes Thursday and Friday. Unofficially, many take Wednesday off, or Tuesday through Friday, or just to simplify matters, the whole week.

Semana Santa is a big deal for La Ceiba as thousands of tourists arrive at the beaches to celebrate the beginning of 'summer'. Unfortunately, usually a lot of drinking goes along with holiday. The beer companies contribute to the problem by putting up huge beer stands on the beaches where they sell the beer by the bucket. I think that a bucket of beer is six bottles, but maybe you can supersize it to 12 bottles.

I guess partly to mitigate their culpability in the resulting carnage, Cervecería hondureña (the beer manufacturers) donated 1,300 breathalyzers to the police department. Not nearly enough for all the road blocks that will be up all over the country, so there probably still be a lot of 'breathing in the hat' tests going on.

What is a 'breathing in the hat' test? Oh, you don't know? It is a scientific method for determining a driver's alcohol blood level. Yes. It's foolproof. The driver breathes into the officer's hat. The officer smells the hat, and if he can smell alcohol, the driver is deemed officially drunk. Depending upon the location and funding of the police department, the suspect later may be given a blood alcohol test at the police station. Depending upon the importance and connections of the suspect, that test may be given up to 12 hours later.

Semana Santa, HondurasBeaches, Alcohol, Drugs, Violence.
Can we call this Holy Week?
La Prensa, Honduras

A variant of the 'breathe in the hat' test is given by those officers who do not have a hat. It is the 'breathe in the cupped hands' test. A friend of mine was subject to this. I never laughed so hard as when he was telling me about this and giving me a demonstration. Once again, just when I thought I had heard everything.....

Anyway, try this: Hold your hands together side by side palms out in front of you. Now cup them tightly − don't leave any air spaces to the back or sides. Now pretend that someone has breathed into them. So far, so good, right? Now carefully turn your hands around, being sure not to let any of that air escape, so that you can smell the air that you've captured from the drunk driver .... Whaaaa? How you gonna do that? My hands don't contort that way.

What ever happened to the 'stand on one foot and touch your nose' test or 'walk a straight line' tests that I see on TV?

All joking aside, Semana Santa is a dangerous time to be on the road. If you are going to be on the road, be very alert and drive defensively! And whatever you do, don't drink and drive.
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