Distance

Driver’s license.

He takes the gray tri-fold pamphlet with showmanship befitting his immaculate, neatly-trimmed uniform. He studies it carefully, a matching hat tipped slightly, shading a corner of his face. He means business.

Roo-doo.

Yes, please. I don’t correct him.

You’ll need to accompany me to the courthouse. I need to write this up.

I play my expected role and bristle. By all accounts, a trip to the courthouse is a bureaucratic nightmare. Hours, and hundreds, in the making. He doesn’t want that, and neither do we.

Oh, no sir, I’m very sorry for overspeeding. I don’t want to waste your time going to court, you are a busy man. Please, there must be some way we can work this out.

Hold on, I’m coming.

He saunters away, confident, likely weighing his transactional opportunity, sizing us up. Making us sweat.

He checks in with the truck driver, stopped meters in front of us, to inspect cargo, an ocean of green and yellow. Hundreds, thousands of sweaty bananas, heaped throughout the half-open trailer. The doors, walls, and sides of the too large truck are a brilliant orange, blasting the sun back towards us.

The lanky trucker offers a lone banana to the detective. They exchange words, share a joke (orange you glad I didn’t say banana, perhaps), and a laugh.

They reach agreement. The trucker ambles back towards the cab, his limp slowing him, only slightly.

He knows he has us. We were at 66 in a 50 zone. His proof taunts us in the handheld gun’s dated gray calculator font. We’re not the worst offenders, but he’s got us, just the same. We take out some money.

100?

Nah, that’s way too much!

Okay, keep 50 handy. Let’s see how it goes.

I try to ignore all the cars blowing by at what for sure is 85 out of the corner of my eye. <Be the adult, not the nine-year old> I remind myself.

He returns to the car, pauses, tsks, and looks to his left, my license still firmly in hand.

Give me 50 and you go.

.

During our first days, a local professor in sociology assured us that distance to authority is high in this country; you don’t joke with Johnny Law.

At checkpoints, we have a go-to routine: smile, greet, ask after their health, act like we know them, as old friends would. They hold the chips, but they’re human, and being polite usually wins the day.

<we smile broadly, and remind the boys to look up, make eye contact, and do the same>

Hallo sir! How is your day? Everything good?

Where are you heading?

On this day, our destination is met with a cringe.

Axim, please.

He knows how long the day before us in the car will last. His sympathy wins out and with a nod and a smile, he waves us along.

Thank you, all the best!

And we’re off.

That’s how it generally goes.

.

Time to time, we meet an officer with something different in mind. He or she will quickly size us up and determine whether there’s value in posing the question.

My friends! What do you have for me today? It’s very hot.

We have a 5GHC bill handy and that is usually enough. About a dollar, it buys a cold beverage, earns a hearty smile, and passage forward. The cost of doing business.

This time, though, for some inexplicable reason we offer something else. J rifles through our bag of snacks and I suggest, meekly,

Would you like some peanuts?

He bristles, chuckles, and refuses politely, probably saying to himself, these people have no clue, but his refusal concedes that we now have the upper hand. His bluff has been called. This is not a toll station, and we have broken no laws.

There will be no money changing hands here. So we borrow a line from departed colleagues.

We can offer you…our blessings?

He bursts into laughter, gives the side of the car a gentle tap, and sends us on our way.

Published by Radutti

Teaching in Ha Noi, screwing things up daily but surviving to write about it. ...everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now, thank you. How are you?

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4 Comments

  1. The titles of your pieces are always so interesting. I like figuring out how they connect to the piece, and I like seeing where you include the word in your writing. There are a lot of instances of distance in this slice, a very apt title.

    Like

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