I nearly crossed the line to become a neighborhood vigilante this week.  I’m still close.  I’m teetering on that line as I write this, trying to convince myself that a man’s right to privacy outweighs my right to expose him for what he is: a menace to society.  A potential killer at the worst.  A drain on insurance and court costs at the least.  And he lives in my neighborhood.  At least he doesn’t live on my street proper.  If he lived on my street, holy hell would break loose and he would find it very uncomfortable to live here.  What was his offense?  He’s a drunk driver.

I’m still seething mad as I write this, reliving the experience of following him home as he drove through our neighborhood.  I wonder how long it will take me to lose the anger toward him for the foolish act that he committed.  Was it this one time or was it one of many?  Has he been the one to take out the trees in our entrance street?  Several have been run down in the 6 years since he bought the house.  Was he the one to hit my neighbor’s truck as it sat in its driveway last year, then drive off as if nothing happened?

My kids and I happened upon him last weekend as we came home from an errand.  Fortunately, he was in front of us on a major thoroughfare, but I didn’t notice him until he tried to make a right-hand turn onto a smaller through street.  “Whoa!  Look at that!” I said to my kids, as he missed the turn and drove up onto the center median instead.  I’m sure if there had been a vehicle in the left turn lane there, the driver would have peed his pants at that point to see the drunk’s Honda CRV coming at him like that.  We all immediately started making comments about how he missed the turn, and wow, what’s wrong with him, and so on.  There was a car between us and the light was red for us to turn right, so he had a chance to drive up the street and pretty quickly at that.  We caught up to him at the next light in the left turn lane.  The left arrow turned green.  He had his left signal on, but it didn’t register to him that the light had changed so he sat for a few seconds before turning.  He then turned on his left signal again to turn left into our neighborhood and completely missed that turn, driving over a 2′ tall boulder, obliterating his right front tire.  I honked at him at that point, partly because he was starting to back up to drive off and I wanted him to stay put and partly to tell him what an idiot he was.  Truthfully, the thought hadn’t occurred to me that he was drunk yet—I seriously thought it was a teenager screwing around.

Then the guy backed his car up and took off into the neighborhood and it clicked with me that he was drunk.  I picked up my phone and dialed 911 and the kids got very quiet (it had been noisy up to that point with my kids making comments about the dude’s driving skills—uh, guess the apples don’t fall far from that tree).  He drove his damaged CRV down to in front of his house, then stopped in the middle of the street and got out to inspect the damage.  He was so drunk he could barely walk.  I was relaying all this information to the dispatcher, then he pulled the car into his driveway, wobbled over to the tire to inspect it again as if a new one had suddenly appeared, and went into his house.  I don’t know if the police ever showed up and I doubt they could arrest him.  They never witnessed him driving.  It’s a damn good thing there weren’t any kids out playing that afternoon—there usually are.  He could have taken out any of them.  I went a few houses down and got out of the van to talk to a man out doing yard work with his 3 dds playing around him.  I told him about what had just happened and he said he’d call for the police if the drunk tried to drive again.  He was just as pissed.

Where were the people who served the drunk his alcohol?  Who didn’t take his keys away?  He could barely walk—who saw this man trying to get to his vehicle and didn’t take his damn keys away?  There are kids who play on their small front yards and sidewalks in our neighborhood who sometimes spill out into the street and he could hit one without even seeing him.  They ride their bikes in the street.  Don’t my neighbors deserve to know that there’s a guy who, at least once, has driven so drunk through our neighborhood that he could barely stand up and did minor property damage to our entrance area?

I’m trying hard to be my normal easy-going self who thinks this guy just made a mistake, but you know what, I was out there on the road with this dude and I didn’t have a choice about it.  My kids ride their bikes in the street.  Are we supposed to sequester ourselves so the people who make the decision to drive under the influence can do so safely without the sober people getting in the way?