Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Additional Income

After all the years of coming to Mexico and driving here I was pull over today for speeding near a school. Not that there were any children around because it was nearly 6 in the evening and the school gates were already closed. The school is near our factory and I always passed it very carefully in the mornings because I know there are always police around, but to see them there in the evening is rare. But I guess it is a good place for them to stand to write up people or to make extra income.

Now it is not your usual “speeding trap” like in America where the police trap you with a laser gun and is willing to show you your speed. No this is just guessing. This policeman, who was far to big for his clothes, which stretched around him like Glad wrap, stood next to the road and judged my speed by eye. Very scientific and accurate, hey!

After he walked over to me and told me in Spanish I was speeding in a school zone, I, of course, told him, no habla Espanol. And he reply he can’t speak any English. Great, we have a good thing going here. After he rambled off more in Spanish he again asked kinda surprisingly, no Espanol? I said no Espanol and he looked into the distance. In the mean time I was telling him how sorry I was and I will not do it again, but he just kept on pointing to his book and say “ticket.”

He explained to me that he has to give me a ticket and I must go and pay at some government office or police station, I am not sure which. He showed me in writing that the ticket will be for $750 Mexican pesos, about US$75. And I tried to look even sorrier than before. He asked for my drivers license in Spanish and never noticed that I pulled it out immediately, thus fully understood what he was asking for. He made an effort to pronounce my name, asked if he did it correctly, looked off in the distance again, probably thinking what he must do next and asked me a third time, no Espanol? And looked quite astonished when I said no Espanol again. What is this? Here he has a gringo, driving around in Mexico on an American driver’s license (which is allowed I think, well, it must be because he never mentioned anything about it) and can’t speak a word Spanish. How does he get around?

Eventually he asked me how much I was willing to pay to get out of this thing. Of course I played dumb again and he repeated what sounded like quanto dinero and pointed to my wallet in my lap. I did not have much in pesos on me because I was planning to stop at the bank on my way to the hotel and withdraw some money, but I had $240 pesos (about US$24) on me. I first showed him the two 20 pesos notes, but he took on a disgusted look and shook his head sideways. Hell I can’t even buy a hamburguesa for my kid with that, he probably thought. I then showed him the $200 pesos note and he bobbed his head up and down like a restless horse who wants to move on instead of standing next to the road. I gave him the money and he gave me my license back and even stopped the traffic so I can pull on to the road and get the hell out of there. Disgusting American gringo that can’t speak Spanish!

And so I contributed my small part to the corruption activities of the Mexican police force. Not that other police forces around the world are not corrupt from time to time, but here in Mexico traffic police regularly pull people over and cash disappear into pockets. Additional income. On the other hand, there was no way I was going to argue with him and spend the night in a Mexican jail. And $200 pesos is much cheaper than $750 pesos. I don’t care where the money goes. I have no say over it in any which way.

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