May 2, 2012

Welcome Home. And Can I See Your Driver's License?

South Africa is like a jealous lover, making sure I give it my full attention instead of some other country I might take a fancy to.

Because how else would you explain that every time I come home from an absolutely stunning vacation, ready to gush about it on my blog, South Africa throws a story my way that I can't refuse, immediately diverting  my attention back to my typical Joburg Expat fare? Last time it was my trouble with Telkom and them shutting down my internet for a week right after we returned from Singapore. And this time... Yes, you guessed it - another traffic cop story!

Nothing brings you back to the floor of reality after returning from Botswana and your heart full of love for such a magical place as fast as a South-African roadblock. After driving about 20 meters out of the airport parking garage. There is no way you could have gotten your speed up above a crawl or missed a stop sign yet, so you know it is another blatant effort to extort a bribe from unsuspecting tourists who don't know any better. I actually wonder what would happen if you didn't actually stop when they wave you over. Just drive on. Would they follow you? And give up their prime location to extort money from gullible visitors? I'm tempted to find out some day.

But of course we are good obedient Germans and so pulled over where we were told. The guy was all blustery, imitating what he might  have thought was a threatening American sheriff stance. Noisette handed him his Kansas license. Not the international one, mind you, because that one is expired. And it's not needed anyway, as I've told you plenty of times before. But sure enough, he wanted the international license. Except he didn't actually know what an international license looks like. He studied the Kansas license for a while, then said in the sternest tone he could muster: "Is this an international license?"

I suppose at that point we could have said "yes" and driven on. But we were not at the top of our game quite yet, what with our minds still on a deck overlooking the Okavango Delta watching an elephant splash past us, so Noisette truthfully answered with "no" and went on to explain that the international license was not needed. As coached by me, I might add.

"Ah, but then you need a letter from your embassy or something," the cop countered.


You've got to give it to them. They are never at a loss to come up with a new story. I've been asked for pretty much everything under the sun, including "some coffee" but a letter from the embassy is a first. By that point I had had enough and reached into the glove compartment to pull out the copy of the South African National Road Traffic Act, highlighting the section pertaining to foreign licenses, which I had put in both our cars as part of my Plan B for just such an event as this one.

And guess what? We didn't even have to read it to him. It was the act of pulling out a document and holding it under his nose that did it. I could have used my grocery list for all I know. He could sense that we weren't going to be cowed and knew our rights.

"That's what I'm talking about," he said, breaking out into a huge grin. "I told you you needed a letter from the embassy, and here you've got it!"

There you go. If you're too lazy to copy the South African National Road Traffic Act, just sit down and craft a fancy letter from your embassy allowing you to drive with your foreign license. 

Except next time they'll probably ask me for a condom.

10 comments :

2Summers said...

I can't believe how often this happens to you! I've yet to be pulled over but I know my day is coming. I've got your traffic law print-out ready to go.

Love the new header.

Maria said...

Another traffic cop story -- love it! Keep 'em coming ....

chickenruby said...

We've been pulled over many times I hand them my photo card and cardboard international driving permit, £5 from the AA via the post office, tell them I'm English, they don't know what to do with it and wave me through

Jaco said...

You have bad luck! I've been driving for 15years in Gauteng. I can count the number of times I've been pulled over on one hand! I feel neglected! And overlooked...

Avril said...

I have to laugh at these stories but that's the laughter of someone who has never been pulled over (I grew up in SA tho). In a few short weeks, we'll be heading to Capetown for a vacation and renting a car .. my South Africa licence has expired as has my international driving licence .. only my UK licence is in effect. Oh woe is me ...;))

Sine said...

Haha everyone. I'd feel neglected too! I think my car must have a big sign on it screaming "stop me" or maybe it is just the big car screaming "money". I did have one cop once ask me what line of work my husband was in, hoping for a bribe from that quarter when none was forthcoming from my side. When really my big car should be screaming "lots of kids", and I think I told you the story of how I got stopped early on when the car was chock full of kids, only one of them my own, and the part I was most upset about when being stopped was that I now lost sight of the car in front of me showing me the right way to the field trip destination...

Michele Boyd said...

You have to love them

I once had to take my bank statement in to a Government office with a request and was worried that when they saw my hefty balance I would be refused
. . . . . when she said "Wat is these?" and I said "The date" I knew I was safe

Sine said...

Michele - SO sorry for lat reply! I loved your comment, it really made me laugh. It can easily go the other way too, but glad it worked out for you in that instance:-)

Sami said...

A letter from the Embassy, what a hoot! Glad you're able to keep your cool. I think I would have a meltdown and just hand over some money! Wrong thing though, I know!!

Sine said...

It really was a hoot. Though I admit I always act so much cooler in my story afterwards than I feel during the event.