Thursday, August 27, 2009

Give 'im FI' DOLLA'!

The local cops in Los Cabos have a reputation for “ticketing” poor unsuspecting tourists. It’s a little unsettling at best to be stopped by the police in a foreign country and very often the timid traveler will shell out the shekels without knowing why. They have even managed to squeeze 5 bucks out of me more than once.

Well they wouldn’t be getting any money from me this fine evening. My tags were current and I wasn't speeding although no municipal cop has ever stopped anyone for speeding. Yep, they were going to have to go pick on some poor tourist. I was totally legit! Ha!

The very second that thought began to age in my mind like a fine wine, I saw red flashing lights in the rearview mirror and the cop horn beeped.
I pulled over and thought smugly, "You don't know who you're dealing with Mister. I live here." I could hear my little voice saying, "Ahh just give ‘im fi’ dolla’ (my inner voice has an accent but it's hard to put on paper) and wish him merry Christmas and save us both some time." I considered it but 5 bucks is 5 bucks!

This cop walked to the car, shined his flashlight in the windows briefly and greeted me. We chatted about the weather for a few moments and finally I politely asked if there was a problem because after all, he had stopped me. He said “Yes, I'm afraid that you have a taillight that isn’t working.”

Taillight?? Carrumba!! I smiled back and told him “No, I didn't know that but don’t worry. I will get it fixed first thing in the morning.” Then I thanked him profusely for bringing it to my attention hoping that might be the end of it.
"Very good" he replied "It is for your own safety señor but there is a problem, this is an "infraction" and requires a ticket."
Ahhhh, there’s the rub. Well, he had me fair and square but I wasn’t ready to cave in just yet. I kind of shrugged my shoulders and said innocently, "But sir, there's not a police car in Baja that has all its lights working. Can you give me a ticket for that?" He gave me a grave look and told me to get out of the car. Uh-oh this was new. No Baja policeman had ever asked me to get out of the car before. My inner voice had very recently sounded like a zen master while giving me advice but was now large and angry and racing around in my mind screaming, “Why you not give ‘im fi’ dolla?? You a stupid!!” Point taken.

The officer stood behind my car and pointed at the offending tail-light. I casually tapped the plastic cover hoping it might come back to life. No luck. Then he told me to stand and face his patrol car. I looked around hoping to see Rodney King holding a video camera. No chance. Then I thought about asking to see his badge but if he would have said, “We don’t need no stinking badges” I would have laughed so hard that I'd probably still be in jail. So I calmly turned toward the patrol car while the little voice continued to insult my intelligence. He walked back to the driver's door of the car. His mustache-adorned face glared at me as he reached in the car. Suddenly the left blinker started flashing. Oh no, not the old Chinese blinker torture! I still didn’t understand what he was up to. Then he nodded towards the front of his car and asked, “It works, no?” I looked back and answered, “It works, yes.” He then proceeded to operate all his blinkers and flashers and high and low beams. I nodded in approval at each one and then I was told to please walk to the rear of his vehicle where I watched as went through his whole repertoire again and even showed me the brake lights for good measure. His license plate light even worked for cryin’ out loud! He got out of his car, walked up to me with a smile on his face and dollar signs in his eyes. “All your lights work” I said. He waited patiently as I pulled out my wallet hoping I had at least 100 pesos. The entertainment value alone was well worth the price of admission. Unfortunately all I could produce was a 50 which he graciously accepted. We wished each other Feliz Navidad and he reminded me to get my taillight fixed. I sat there smiling to myself as he drove away and realized I had just enjoyed being stopped by the police. Go figure.

My little voice reminded me that I could have just given him the “fi’ dolla’ in the beginning. Yeah maybe, but look at all the fun I would have missed.