Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The Little Bite Part 2

If you’re a normal, safe driver in a rental car driving with your seat belt on, you are about 99% safe. But even in the US, you can get pulled over for “no” reason.

Let’s say you’re in beautiful downtown San Jose del Cabo and the police stop you. They have this horrible sounding horn; you'll know when you're supposed to stop! Naturally you will be a bit nervous. Here’s a little primer for how the conversation might go:

You, the Nervous Tourist: “But officer, there’s no stop sign! I would have stopped if there was a stop sign. How was I supposed to know?”

Very serious los Cabos Police Officer: “Si señor but I have give you ticket and take license.  You pay to station they give you license. 500 pesos” 

       Here’s where it gets good. 

Nervous Tourist: “But officer, if I go to the station we will miss our flight. Can I pay you here?” 

Officer: (whose attitude suddenly improves a bit) “Si Señor but I no have receipts.”

Less Nervous Tourist: “That’s ok, I don’t need a receipt.”

Officer: “OK, you pay me now.”

Slightly Emboldened Nervous Tourist: “Will you give me a discount for paying in cash?”

And so on until an accord is reached. You make it to the airport on time; he drives away with some extra cash.

Next:   Part 3, Conclusion

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Little Bite Part 1

I was driving through San Jose del Cabo, Baja Sur one cool, December night when I saw flashing lights. A traffic cop had cornered some poor local teenagers on the other side of the boulevard. The officer had his ticket book in one hand and his pen in the other, poised to write the ticket. The young man was talking and gesturing.  You might think the cop was listening to his excuse. O contraire!  He was simply waiting patiently for the driver to add some pesos to his “Christmas Bonus.” It is called “mordida” by the locals meaning “a little bite.” In plain language, so that slow folks like me can understand: a bribe. Remember that the citizens of most of the world generally believe that all Americans possess unlimited financial resources. Maybe they think that the US government distributes some of the trillions they borrow to us lucky citizens!!

The cops can be intimidating when they stop you.  They are actually pretty harmless especially if you have only committed some minor atrocity like a “DWG” (driving while gringo). They will stop you for obvious visible problems such as no plates, expired tags and things like that. (See my blog titled, “Give ‘im Fi’ Dolla ”)  A recent addition to their repertoire is the seat belt law that was passed a few years ago. It seems that the law only pertains to the front seat. Imagine being stopped for not wearing your seat belt. The vehicle that has stopped you is an official municipal police pickup. The back of the pickup has between 3 and 8 cops sitting on the sides of the pickup, hanging on for dear life with their toenails because the creed of machismo dictates that you can’t look like you’re nervous and grab a handhold.  

I’m pretty sure you weren't stopped out of concern for public safety.

Tomorrow:  Being stopped by the cops in Los Cabos.