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Without a License

In the "Cult of Escapism": Without a License

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Without a License

Last week, I got pulled over twice in one minute and three times within forty minutes.

1st Time – My family is visiting and we’re driving across Panama on the Inter-American highway. My father and sister are the first two drivers and probably average about 90-100 kilometers per hour in a collective three hours of driving.

Enter me.

It’s my first time driving in eight months and it feels great. There are few cars on the road, the weather is perfect – the highway invites speed. Unfortunately, speed limits here change more often than Charlie Sheen blows cocaine - 60 kph, 80, 100. Averaging about 100kph, I slow it down in an urban area just in time to see the cops. One steps down from his motorbike and beckons me over.


I have an official government ID and my family is carrying diplomatic passports so I’m not too worried. Then I realize I don’t have my license on me.

Double dang.

The cop reaches the car and asks for my license; I hand him my government ID and tell him we’re with the embassy. He reads the cover, glances at my picture inside and says, “You’re with the embassy?”
“Ok, slow down.” And with that, he leaves.

I pull out, the four of us laughing in amazement. Misjudging the speed limit, I take it to 80 and get pulled over again literally about a minute later.

2nd Time – My ID is still warm from the last interaction and I’m utterly confused. The cop comes over and we go through it again.

“You’re with the embassy?”
“Yes. And I just talked to your friend and I was driving slower.”
“You were going 83kph; the speed limit is 60kph.”

I inform him that speed limits here are constantly changing and I’m having trouble keeping track. He tells me to slow down and returns to his motorcycle.

3rd Time – About forty minutes later, I am third in a line of four cars. We pass a cop, who steps out and points to me, ignoring the two cars in front. I entertain my family with a series of obscenities about the injustice of such an act and pull out an ID slippery with bacon grease.

“I’m with the embassy.”
He inspects the ID. “You’re a Peace Corps Volunteer.”

Uh oh.

“Yes, I’m working with the Panamanian government and for the US government; I help small businesses.”
“And them? Can I see their ID’s?”

I turn and my dad holds out all three stiff, black diplomatic passports. The cop glances at the covers of each, just enough to see the word ‘Diplomat’ (luckily in Spanish it’s diplomatico); he doesn’t even open them.

“They don’t speak Spanish?” He asks.
“They’re new, that’s why I’m driving. I’m showing them the west side of the country.”

He nods in understanding, showing that he understands nothing about diplomats.

“You were going much too fast.”
“I was just trying to follow the two cars in front.”
“No, you were going much faster than them.” (He actually said this)

Speechless, I just look at him until he tells me to slow down and returns to his motorcycle.

I drive, extremely slowly, until we’re out of site and then immediately change drivers. In four more days of driving, no one else got pulled over.


At February 28, 2013 at 10:55 AM , Blogger bama said...

Bad karma? Or good karma? After all, you did not land in jail.


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