Wednesday, February 12, 1997
San Jose del Cabo, Mexico --
But no, they have to have it in their hand at all times. They have to learn to sufficiently hate that heavy leather tome to the extent that it has to be used simply to justify the inconvenience.
There are policia scattered all over town, with their book of tickets, their neat gray uniforms, shiny black shoes, nice hair cuts, trying to make eye contact with people driving by who are trying their best to avoid making eye contact.
They wanted to see my license. I didn’t have it. My vehicle registration. Didn’t have it. Violacion. Violacion. Driving the wrong way on a one-way. Violacion. The crack in my windshield. Violacion.
That’s a good one, a cracked windshield. In a country where the cars are commonly held together with wire found on the side of the road.
Fortunately for me, I had with me a couple local women, who beset themselves upon the two officers, soon allowing us to continue un-ticketed.
Without them, I was dead meat.
This year, the atmosphere around here has a heightened sense of dread. The police are actively on the prowl. Traffic stops are common. Yesterday, I was returning from an afternoon of fishing the briny with my friend Jay. Jay owns a little 13-foot Zodiac inflatable with a vintage 18 horse Evinrude. There were eight sierra mackerels in a gunny sack on the boat’s floor.
The policeman was standing in the middle of the road, in the sun, no cop car in sight, holding his black leather book and a whistle. I’m sure the condition of the trailer alone convinced him that there was some sort of violacion. He wanted to see Jay’s license. It was back at the hotel. Violacion. Jay gave him the vehicle registration. The cop inspected it. Scrutinized it. Circled the truck slowly, referring regularly to the piece of paper, as if he was actually verifying some item of information.
He started to explain the situation to Jay. I was telling Jay I had no idea what he was saying but I’m sure he wanted money. The officer, determining that I was translating, came over to my side and said, "Twenty dollars."
I explained to the cop in my pathetic Spanish that neither of us felt comfortable taking anything of value out in that, pointing to the raft being towed behind. And we certainly were not going to leave our wallets in the car, what with the recent crime wave involving car break-ins, unsolved break-ins - the kind of violacions that make a tourist think twice about returning to such a vacation spot - and me, working for the Los Angeles Times, being in the perfect position to warn potential tourists of current crime waves.
The cop nodded knowingly, gave us one of those big bright Mexican smiles, and gratefully accepted the dollar and a half Jay offered him.
The next day, he was in the same place, in the sun, in the middle of the road. And as I rode by on my bicycle I did my damnedest to avoid making eye contact.