Sunday, September 12, 2004

M7 Mordidas - Bribes That Don’t Bite

I’ve been looking for apartments with Florian and Carolin the German couple I met in Cuernavaca.

One night after a fruitless seach, they were driving me back to my house in Anzures, my dull neighborhood consisting of run down mansions.

Like mine; which looks like an Italian funeral home that hasn’t been renovated since the 1970’s. We have four refrigerators, but no dishwasher.

But that’s another story.

Calle Bradley, my street, runs one way and I instructed Carolin to drop me off at the corner. She started down the street the wrong way. Who said Germans were law-abiding? Security trumps the rule of law; she was intent on seeing me to my door safety.

Blue lights.

You hear all sorts of things about the Mexican police. How they’ll pull you over for sh^ts and giggles. How they’re paid $200/month. How they supplement their meager income with “mordidas” literally “bites”, but translating to “bribes”.

Funny, just today, I had been thinking that I would never have a run in with the law here. I planned on limiting my driving time.

But what do you know? Is this karmic payback for my hubris?

We’re now surrounded by three Mexico City police cars, lights flashing and are undergoing a roadside interrogation.

In the states, a shot of adrenalin hits me if there police car in back of me and I am doing the speed limit. I should have been way more scared here – especially with all the tall tales and especially because we were breaking the law.

After the requisite small talk, one cop explains we can pay a “service fee” of $100 pesos (Yes, they use the same sign for the peso as we do for the dollar).

This is a little like a prostitute asking you for a “date”.

We’re eager to get out of this situation as fast as we possibly can. And for $10USD, our DF policeman morphs into a lenient judge granting us vehicular scofflaws road-side clemency.

It’s all good, till we realize we have only $50 pesos between us.

Everyone here goes out of his or her way to scare the hell out of you. It’s amazing there’s anyone on the street at all. Don’t take more than you want to spend. Never take your ATM card.

I don’t use a wallet or carry an ID and I only take a couple hundred pesos with me. After a couple of drinks, you end up broke, like we are now.

Then, I remember I have US dollars back in my room.

Carolin explains to the officer in Spanish that we’ll give him $10USD plus the $50 pesos or 50% more than what he asked for. He knew the exchange rate, but couldn’t do the math.

Unfortunately, all I had was a twenty so that wasn’t going to work anyway. We gave it to him and he graciously pardoned us without so much as a ticket or a trip to the local precinct.

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