Monday, June 21, 2010

The Law Won

I have been thinking about writing this for a while now.  
What stopped me was fear . . . which is a commentary in itself.
What happened with me is nothing new . . . and nothing secret . . . 
It happens 1,000’s of times a day, all over this great country.
So, here is my story:
I got caught.  
Yep, I parked in a “no parking” area.  
It was just for a couple of minutes, while I ran in to get a package I had been expecting from the States.  Mom sent me a Moda Layer Cake so I could get started quilting.  I was so excited.
As soon as I walked up to my car, I saw them.  They were standing on the sidewalk a few feet away from my car . . . and they were handing out tickets to several obviously shaken people standing around them.  
I thought to myself, 

    “I’ll just get in my car and see if they come up to me.”
I got in my car and, yes, the skinny one came up to me.
Skinny one:  “Let me see your documents, please.”
At this point, my heart is racing at about 100 klm per second.  

    “What if I can’t find my documents . . . what if I suddenly have massive Russian language memory loss . . . what if he takes my license, confiscates my car, and throws me in a Russian woman’s prison?  
    Oh my goodness, Sophi will grow up seeing her mom once a week in a work farm!!!
Ok, calm down . . . here are the documents . . . I think . . . “
I hand him what I believe to be what he is asking for . . . the car’s documents and a copy of my translated driver’s license.  He looks at them and then asks me to get out of the car and follow him.
I get out of the car and follow him . . . to his car . . . 
I notice the people around me.  One young woman is frantically talking with someone on her cell phone.  I catch a bit of the conversation:
“He says he is going to take my license . . . that’s just what he told me . . . “
Next, the big one gets out of their car and walks over to her:
“Ok, ok, put up the phone.  It’s over.” and hands her some papers.
Meanwhile, the skinny one tells me to sit down in their car.  Again, I get to thinking:

    “Ok, ok, not a good idea to get in the car with them.”

I sit down in the back seat.

   “ I’m not going to close the door.  And, if they tell me to close it, I’ll say, “No.”
The skinny one sits down in the front seat passenger side . . . he’s looking at my documents.  He asks me to give him something  . . . I’m too busy noticing the worn spot in the back seat to catch what he says . . . he repeats it and I still don’t get it.  The big one is behind the steering wheel and he turns to me and slowly repeats,

 “Give . . . him . . . your . . .  original . . . license.”
Strangely, I’m becoming quite calm.  Everything is starting to feel surreal.
I hand the skinny one my Texas license.  
And, this, my friends, is where it all starts to get good . . .
Skinny one:
“Well, well, well, D’Anna . . .  this is looking pretty bad.”
Awkward pause.
I’m thinking:

    “Here it goes.  He’s going to try to get me to pay him to get out of the ticket.”
I’m perfectly calm:

    “This should be pretty good!”
Skinny one:
“What you did is really bad.”

Then, kinda under his breath:
“Yeah, will probably have to go before the committee for this one.”
Now, I would not have known what the “committee” was except that Anton had to go before it last Spring for a traffic violation and they took his license for 4 months.
I’m thinking:

    “He’s threatening to take my license!  Can he take it for a parking violation?  I don’t know . . .”
I’m starting to get a little panicky again.
    “Maybe I should call Anton?  Ok, maybe later.  For now,  I’ll just sit here and play dumb and see what happens.”
Long awkward silence.
The big one starts asking me questions:
Where are you from?
Where are you registered?
How do you like it here?
They fill out some forms.  Struggle over some translation . . . looking for my license number on my original TX license.  I offer to help.  They ignore me.

Skinny one, in a voice that sounds a tad bit agitated:

“Well, D’Anna, this is bad.  What are you going to do about it?”
Me, calmly:
“What do you suggest?”

BOTH of them, in perfect unison, turn to face me, and say:
“US?!  WE can’t tell you!  What are YOU going to do?”
I’m not thinking now, I go into some kind of “auto-pilot.”
I ask, 
“What is the fine for this?”  

and, I add, in a naive voice,
“I have no idea.”
Now, at this point I’m wondering.

    “Are they going to think I’m asking them for a number?  Will they really give me one?
Good-night, I don’t have any money with me . . .  What am I thinking!?”
The big one turned around and said,
“For foreigners, it’s $100 dollars.”
At that, I laughed and said,
“I live in Russia.  I don’t have $100!”
Another awkward silence.
The big one laughs and says,
“Ok, for Russians it’s 100 rubles.”  (about $3)
That was it . . . the tension was broken.
They asked me lots of questions about the States.  
Very friendly, now, they even told me step-by-step what I needed to do to pay the fine.
As we were finishing up, I took a long look at these two.
I wanted so much to ask them WHY?  
    How can they do this day after day?  
    They are supposed to be the keepers of the law - but they 
    use the law to extort money
    from those whom they are to protect.  
    Every day they lie, manipulate, steal, and cheat - every
I didn’t have the guts to ask them “Why?” 

But, I was sad for them the rest of the day.  
And, I prayed for them.
Just a couple of days ago, I saw another traffic cop.  
He looked a lot like the big one.
There was a light out at one of the major intersections and there he stood - 
in the middle of this crossways 
- cars and buses, trams and trolleys, trucks and vans all around him - facing him and waiting for his next move.
He stood with his shoulders slumped. He turned this way and that way.  It was a great effort to raise his arms to signal - he must have been doing it for hours already.
Looking at him standing there alone, I was overcome with compassion and started to cry.
I cried for him all the way to Mother’s Day Out.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...