Time and time again I have heard, “You know you have driven after having drunk too much, what right do you have to arrest me for it.” Over the years people just find it hard to believe after they hear my response. “I have never been drunk a day in my life.” Now in the jail it is often the topic of the drug addicts and alcoholics alike. Some have even told me privately that they wish they had never started looking with hindsight how it has ruined their life.

If you have heard this for the first time you as well may not be too quick to believe me but it is true. And the ­­­way I eat, I would probably be a raging alcoholic had I ever started. So here is how I came to be a teetotaler.

Being raised in an Italian family, weddings were a big social event throughout the year. After a very long and boring wedding, we finally got to go to the reception hall and eat, play cards, talk and of course drink.

Being the first born of the 2nd Generation Italian I had no cousins until I was about eight years old. So at these weddings I hung around my parents, aunts, uncles and of course my Italian grandparents Pietro (Pete) and Maria (Mary). My nonna was a great cook and had a quirky sense of humor. Nonno was a barber, bookie and a great drinker with a mean sense of humor.

I remember the wedding to this day. We were in a reception hall, paper table cloth covered each table all the men sat in groups playing poker and the women were all in the kitchen cooking and gossiping. Now most all of the Italians came from the same village back in Italy, Mongone in Calabria.

When I was about four years old I was just hanging around the tables eating olives and nuts. Grandpa Mauro probably had already had too much to drink (He never drove), and called me over to the poker table. He said, “Joe Joe, come, come you drink.” He handed me a funny looking little glass with a brownish liquid inside. Now this was my grandpa, so I drank it. He helped me by holding the glass so I would drink it all.

Immediately the liquid tasted awful and burned like nothing I had ever drank before. It came out of my nose, mouth and sprayed all over. I started crying, all the men at the table laughed and my introduction to alcohol was a success. At least for my future sobriety.

To this day just the smell of alcohol brings back the horrible experience of my first drink. I can tolerate no alcohol past my first sniff, and can drink about half of a beer before it becomes too bitter and not at all enjoyable. Wine is the same as alcohol, I can’t get past the smell enough to enjoy a sip.

So when I say I have never driven drunk or even been drunk a day in my life, I am telling the truth. Now did Grandpa Mauro break any laws by giving me a shot glass of whiskey? I don’t know what the law was back then but if my dad was present when the joke was played on me, then the answer is no, he did not break the law.

In Ohio it is against the law for any person to give an underage person beer or alcohol. To most laws there are exceptions. Those exceptions are if given by a physician for treatment, taken for religious reasons or if allowed by a parent, spouse or legal guardian.

Since at the age of four I was not yet married and had no spouse and my grandpa was not my legal guardian those do not cover the situation. If my dad was present and he would have had the sense of humor to allow his dad to do this, then no charges could have been filed so it was perfectly legal. Although it seems a little mean and I would not suggest it as a “Learning lesson”, it did work for me. Give me a plate of pasta and meatballs any day over any amount of alcohol.

Here is what the appropriate section of the Ohio Revised Code states about furnishing alcohol to underage persons.

4301.69 Underage persons offenses concerning.

(A) Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, no person shall sell beer or intoxicating liquor to an underage person, shall buy beer or intoxicating liquor for an underage person, or shall furnish it to an underage person, unless given by a physician in the regular line of the physician’s practice or given for established religious purposes or unless the underage person is supervised by a parent, spouse who is not an underage person, or legal guardian.

(B) No person who is the owner or occupant of any public or private place shall knowingly allow any underage person to remain in or on the place while possessing or consuming beer or intoxicating liquor, unless the intoxicating liquor or beer is given to the person possessing or consuming it by that person’s parent, spouse who is not an underage person, or legal guardian and the parent, spouse who is not an underage person, or legal guardian is present at the time of the person’s possession or consumption of the beer or intoxicating liquor.