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[ Please note that the events described here took place in Goa, India, in early September 2008. This post will be moved into the appropriate chronological position shortly. ~br ]

[PS – Sorry about the spelling errors. They’ve been corrected.]

Adam is a 21 year old Californian who tans nicely and gets absolutely wired on caffeine. He’s well-traveled and confident, tends towards the hyperactive, and likes to assert himself (often awkwardly) at pretty much every chance he gets. In the present context, we find him standing shirtless on the side of a dark road at 2:00am, asserting to a police officer with a sub-machine gun that he had no idea that a license was required to drive a scooter in Goa. Next to him is a very used Honda Activa, a model of scooter that is beloved in southern India. And on this rather cool evening, standing opposite Adam and the officer, with the scooter interceding, is me.

Whether or not a license is actually required to operate the local scooters is not relevant. What is relevant is that we’ve been stopped at a police checkpoint in the middle of nowhere, several miles – a 30 minute scooter ride – from our hotel. What seems especially relevant to the armed officer is that we’re white tourists bumbling around the countryside in the middle of the night. He fakes a phone call to his “chief” and insists that we’ll have to pay a fine, on the spot, or the scooter will be impounded. The amount is exhorbanent. The crux of the matter, of course, is that this “fine” is a bribe; this is totally obvious from the farcical melodrama that Adam has been participating in for the last 10 minutes.Uncle

“Oh, no good. No license. And scooter is not a rental scooter. Scooter has black plates. Rental scooter has yellow plates.” And then when Adam tries playing stupid with him, “You see, papers are not certified properly. Scooter will stay here, but there are no buses you see? No way for you to get back to hotel.”

“What can we do? Is there anything we can do to fix the situation,” Adam asks? Then comes the ridiculous call to the “chief” and the announcement of the fine. “I don’t have that kind of money. Brian, do you have that kind of money?” I do, and have been brooding silently during this whole episode about the inevitability of being separated from it. But in the end there is no hesitation in handing over the cash. The thought of refusing to pay, or at least making the officer work for it, had occurred to me, but in the back of my mind I suspect that I can recover the money. The cop takes the folded bills coolly, places them immediately into his pocket, and gives me a look that tells me that my discreteness during the episode is appreciated. I flash my international driver’s license and get on the scooter, clumsily starting the engine. Adam and I zip out into the cool night, anxious to get away from the cops before they decide to fleece us some more.

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