B. BriberyPosted: April 3, 2011
Jonathon sits waiting at the lights in his car talking on his mobile phone. He is new to driving in KL and although he’d been a passenger plenty of times, now that he was actually behind the wheel, Jonathon was all of a sudden feeling slightly nervous. Given that KL was difficult to negotiate, particularly the city centre, Jonathon decides to ring the pre-school to find out exactly where they were located. The woman on the other end of the phone is very patient and good at giving landmarks as well as street names. She has obviously done this before. Jonathon turns to his two year old daughter in the backseat and smiles at her, grateful she is sitting quietly. As Jonathon turns to face forwards he looks out of his windscreen straight into the face of a policeman sitting on his motorbike staring at him.
“Oh shit!” Jonathon quickly drops his phone into his lap hanging up on the lovely lady as he did so and stares straight ahead. “If I don’t acknowledge the policeman, I’ll get away with it right?” Jonathon thought.
The lights turn green and the policeman waves Jonathon through. What does that mean? Is he letting me go? A quick glance in Jonathon’s revision mirror showing the cop right behind him with blue lights flashing, tells Jonathon that he hasn’t got away with anything. He pulls over to the side of the road puts the car into park and smiles again at his daughter.
“Daddy has to talk to the policeman now honey. You just stay quiet ok?” The baby stares back as the policeman taps at Jonathon’s window.
“Hello!” Jonathon smiles broadly.
“You were talking on your mobile. It’s a 300 ringgit fine.”
The smile slides right off Jonathon’s face dragging his bottom lip down with it. He stares slack jawed at the officer, not fully comprehending the amount of the fine.
Jonathon closes his mouth and fumbles in his wallet for his license.
The policeman studies the license in silence. “You’re from Australia?”
“How long have you been in KL?”
Oh no! Jonathon thought. Am I going to get done for not having a local license as well? If I say I haven’t been here that long, maybe I can get away with it. “Ummmm about 3 months.”
Jonathon kept his wallet open on his lap where the cop could see it. He had heard about local cops taking bribes and wondered if it was going to happen to him. He felt a little excited at the prospect.
“Hmm” the policeman grunted. “It’s 300 ringgit. I’ll give you a ticket.”
“But 300 ringgit? That’s too much!” Jonathon protested. He didn’t know how much the fine was for talking on a mobile phone while driving, but was sure the copper was pulling a fast one.
“That’s the fine. I give you ticket.” Fuck a duck! This guy was for real. It really was a 300 ringgit fine.
“But I was ringing for directions. I’m new here. I don’t know where to go.” Jonathon pleaded.
The policeman stopped for a moment, “How much can you pay?”
Jonathon did a double take, “Pardon?”
“How much can you pay? You say 300 too much, how much can you pay?”
Jonathon thought, here we go! Here’s the bribe! He quickly ducked his head to hide his smirk while he looked in his wallet. Great. That’s just great, he thought. “Uh, I have 10 ringgit.”
“Huh? That’s all?” The copper said. “You must have more, 10 ringgit is not enough.”
“Well, that’s all I have.” Jonathon said. “you can take it now.”
“No. You must give more.”
“Well, ahhh, I can go to the bank?” Fuck! Why did I say that?
“How much will you pay?” Oh for God’s sake he’s taking me up on it! Shit. Shit. How much should I offer? “Ummm one hundred?” Jonathon blurts out and immediately regrets it.
The policeman pounced, “What bank do you use?”
“Do you use Public Bank?”
“I, uh, yes.”
“I take you there. Follow me.”
With that, the copper walked back to his bike and took off into the traffic. Dumbly, Jonathon followed him his mind racing. What am I doing? No-one knows where I am or where I’m going. I don’t even know where I’m going. Oh, I am an idiot. One big fucking idiot.
Up ahead the policeman indicates the bank on the left and pulls into a car park on the next corner. Jonathon pulls in behind him and stops. The cop comes to his window and tells Jonathon to go to the bank, come back to the car and then follow him again.
Jonathon gets the baby out of the car and walks to the ATM. He was starting to panic now and really regretting his decision not to take the fine. He was not excited about the bribe anymore. In his haste, it took Jonathon two attempts at the ATM before realizing he was using the wrong card. He glanced down the road and saw the policeman sitting on his bike watching him. Is this for real?
Finally Jonathon got the money and walked back to his car ignoring the copper as he walked past. I could be in a movie, he thought. As he started the car the police motorbike appeared in front of him and like a lamb to the slaughter, Jonathon obediently followed.
A couple of turns later they stop in a quiet street. Jonathon lets out a slow breath and holds the money in his sweaty hand. The policeman walked up to his car and says, “Where are you going?”
Jonathon tells him the name of the street he is looking for, and while the cop stands adjacent to the car pointing out streets with his right hand, he put his left hand all the way in the driver window palm up. Jonathon puts two fifty ringgit notes into the outstretched hand and watches, mesmerized as the money is crumpled up into a small ball that fit neatly into the palm of this autonomous hand. How practiced it all was!
The policeman then leaned down to Jonathon and said: “You won’t ever talk on your phone again, will you?”
“No officer. I will not.”