Getting pulled over by the cops in Caracas is not the same as it is in Seattle. You’ll never guess what happens to this unsuspecting 33 year-old white guy….OR…At 1:42 your jaw will drop….OR….After you hear this you’ll never regard the police in the same way again…
(This is just a round-about way of showing my dislike for that first line above. What a lame sentence it is. But adding a ridiculous bait-line to make it sound like an Upworthy teaser is more fun than deleting it. Side note: I abhor those teasers. They repel me and make me close my Facebook tab. So I actually love them for that reason. Oooh, so delightfully complicated.)
Hopefully this post isn’t too long for you readers. It’s a pretty good story.
So back in November after the Capoeira batizado some of us went to lunch at a local establishment in the La Castellana neighborhood called El León. After lunch our friend Terran asked for a ride home but I had ridden my scooter and only had one helmet. So I gave her mine and tried to drive safely. We made it almost all the way to Calle la Cinta when at the church corner the Baruta Police asked us to pull over right in front of MacDanny’s. I almost ignored them, knowing that tactic had worked for some people in the past, but I knew I would have to pass back by there shortly after dropping Terran off at home. So I obliged.
Now, knowing the reputation for cops in Venezuela you can understand how I wasn’t feeling completely at ease. But I wasn’t scared because of all the police in Caracas, the Baruta Police have the best reputation. We got off the scooter and turned it off and they made me show them what I had in the scooter and my bags. They weren’t really acting like bullies so at that point (here’s where you’ll never believe what happens to this unsuspecting 33-year old white guy) I decided to take the honesty approach.
“No tienes casco.” They pointed out that I didn’t have a helmet. “Estabas tomando alcohol?” They asked if I had been drinking alcohol. “Eres de la embajada?” Do you work at the embassy?
“No, solo jugo de fresa,” I lied in the most honest voice possible. (For the record I had one beer over an hour earlier but didn’t think the whole truth would have served me well. I had strawberry juice after the beer.) “Y somos profesores acá en Escuela Campo Alegre. El casco le presté a mi amiga porque estabamos almorzando en La Castellana y me preguntó si pudiera llevarla a su casa, y ya que llegamos allí separados solo tenía una–”
“Saca los papeles.” They asked to see the paperwork. Of course. Just my luck.
Here’s where I start being fully honest (and here’s where your jaw will drop): “Mira, no tengo papeles porque no existen. Compré la moto de un amigo, otro profesor de ECA, allí mismo, que se fue de Venezuela en el año pasado.” Look, the paperwork for the scooter doesn’t exist. I bought the scooter from a teacher friend, here at ECA, who left last year.
“No papeles?” The three cops kinda just breathed in through their teeth and exchanged glances as the one who was in charge pulled out a ticket/rules of the road booklet. Honesty — so far so good, I thought.
“ID or Passport?”
I looked through my wallet. Oh shit. No ID. I had to be honest here too. “Perdon, pero no los tengo. Deje la cédula y mi tarjeta de debito con mi esposa porque tenía que llevar nuestro hijo a almorzar.” I told them that I didn’t have any form of ID with me because Kat needed them so she could pay for lunch with Graham. At this point I figured I’d end up being honest all the way to jail.
So the one in charge stepped close to me and very quickly but seriously showed me in his booklet the laws I was breaking. I couldn’t quite make out the fine print. And then on the ticket he wrote down for me the fine for breaking each of those laws — 1300 for the helmet, 700 for no paperwork, 900 for no ID — but then the guy who actually asked me to stop looked over and corrected the one in charge, “No, andar sin casco es 1600.” This is when I knew I’d be okay. Because it was clear now that they just wanted money.
“Sabes que sin papeles y cedula podemos embargar tu moto ahorita y jamas la verías.” You know we could just seize your scooter now and you’d never see it again, right?
“Sí, claro, yo sé. Pero puedo pagar la multa ahora?” Yes, of course, I know. May I pay the fine now?
It must have been the right question at the right time because the guy in charge was apparently no longer in charge. He called over a guy in a different color shirt to explain the situation, in a voice that was close to mockery. “Este tipo está preguntando si puede pagar ahora y llevar su moto. Qué piensa?” This guy is asking if he can just pay now and take his scooter home. What do you think? (And after hearing this you’ll never regard police in the same way again.) The new guy in charge looked me over a couple times and then got straight to the point. “Puede ser. Cuántos tienes?” Could be. How much money do you have?
At that I quickly explain to Terran in English that we would have to give them whatever money we had, at least to cover about 3200 Bs. I start taking out money to hand to the new boss but he waves me off quickly and leads me to the sidewalk behind a big tree. “Aquí no.” I guess they don’t like to take cash payment for tickets in the middle of the street.
So I counted out the 800 that I had and Terran handed him a stack of 100s that he didn’t bother counting and shooed us away saying that was enough. (In reality we only ended up paying about 2400 Bs.) We were now in the clear, so I was feeling great, victorious even. So I gave a genuine smile, put out my hand to show good sportsmanship and said, “Gracias, Señor. Fue un placer. Tenga un feliz día.” Thank you, sir. It was a pleasure. Have a great day. The thought crossed my mind to ask for a selfie with him but he turned away pretty quick after the handshake.
Sounds similar to an experience I had in Rosarito Beach, Mexico.
Oh Michael, you could have get away with it for much less. You could have said you only had like 500 bs and they’ll take it…just for next time (hopefully not needed)
That moment when you realize, “Well, looks like I’m going to jail”, is pretty fun. The moment when you realize, “Oh, right, these guys just want money”, is even funner. A similar thing happened to me in Xalapa, Mexico in a public urination incident. Luckily, I only had 1/10th of a peso, and the police were not interested in taking me to jail, so everyone won.
I remember your stories about your penniless days in Mexico. What an adventure that was.
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