Friday, October 06, 2006

Trouble with the cops - again

Earlier this year in May, my twin brother and I went on a roadtrip in the US. We rented a car and drove from Boston to New York to Chicago and back to Boston. Along the way we had a few adventures. In New York, I'd parked the car in a diplomat's spot (it looked ok at that time) and the car got towed. It had my laptop and passport in it and for a while I thought the car had been stolen because the cops couldn't locate it in their system. This was a day before my visa interview with the UK consulate and about 2 weeks before I was leaving the US for good. Leaving my laptop and passport (and my degree which I'd gotten 2 days earlier) in the car was probably the most stupid thing I've ever done. This was my twin's first visit to the US and he was thoroughly enjoying the experience of going to a police precinct, towing garage and all the cops. We managed to find the car and on the way back, I banged into a van while trying to park. Thankfully there was no damage and the van driver was very cool and said "Better my van than a BMW".

After that, I drove (didn't take the risk of letting my twin drive without a license) for about 15 hours with a 5 hour sleepover in a motel and just as we were entering Chicago, I got pulled over for speeding. It wasn't really speeding as I was driving at 70 mph. But this was near a toll booth and I was supposed to slow down to 55 mph and I guess the cop was just having a bad day. The car was also outside its supposed rental zone and for a while I thought he might notice that but he didn't.

Then, in August while driving around in Berkeley in my older brother's car, I got a parking ticket for having parked 5 minutes over the 2 hr limit. On the way back to LA the tire burst and I had to drive at 40 mph all the way. I wrote about it here.

I thought my days of cops and trouble were over now that I'm in Europe and am getting by with public transport and a bike. Germans are sticklers for rules and riding a bike involves more traffic sense than driving in most places in the world. There are strict lanes, signs and signals only for bikers. Walking on a bike lane is an offense as is biking in the wrong lane or street. Regensburg is a town best explored by bike and from my dorm room the University and the old town are about 10-15 mins by bike and it's along the Danube, so one can actually bike all the way to Budapest along the bike trail.

Last night, I was on my way to meet some friends in another dorm. It was dark and suddenly near a busy intersection a huge guy stood in my way and shouted "Halt". He turned out to be a cop and pointed at my light (which wasn't working) and said something in German. I played the innocent foreigner card but he wasn't amused and switched to English. Asked for my passport but I didn't have it on me (I think that's also a minor offense). Then he said biking without a light is an offense and growled at me "10 euros". He was at least a foot taller and wider than me and I quietly opened my wallet and gave it to him. He gave me a ticket, a warning and said till I got my light fixed I couldn't bike in the dark. Had to walk all the way to my friends' place which took much longer and felt very stupid walking on the pedestrian path with a bike. Met my friends and they all had a good laugh about it and kept showing the ticket to each other. Apparently, biking when drunk is an offense as well and your driving license can get revoked.

We polished off a bottle of vodka and hung around till late. Decided to head home and took the risk of biking home thinking they wouldn't catch me twice especially if I went slowly and kept a lookout for the cops. I was wrong. Halfway through, a car pulled up alongside and one of them held a flashing red sign to stop me. Two of them came out and made me prove it was my bike (by locking and unlocking it), looked at my driver's license and asked me some questions. I played the innocent foreigner better this time and one of them asked me how much I'd had to drink. Decided to say 3 beers (for a German that's not much) and one of them smelled my breath, shrugged his shoulders and said you shouldn't drink more than this. They were much nicer, told me to get it fixed (cheaper than a ticket apparently), asked for my address, occupation, etc and let me off with a warning.

I guess I should head out today and get the light fixed but considering I've had the bike for just 2 days, getting into trouble with the police so soon was a bit much.


Tabula Rasa said...

i'm sure they're extra cautious looking for troublesome brownskins these days :-D

fatterbelly said...

you should have used all that commando comics german-- ach tung ,schwein hund, heil hitler ,och himmel--he would either have melted away in shame or beaten you to a pulp. and vot about a fawlty take off.that zurely vill make you wery popular

amitabha said...

you seem to be neither herr nor there

Hans said...

i had a couple of encounters with police in bavaria myself. they can be nice or not so nice. once when i ran out of gas on the freeway they drove me all the way to the next gas station (17km) and back again for free (going at >200kmh).

but why stop in budapest once you're biking down the danube? i'll join you to go all the way to belgrade (you know...), maybe even further to galac where a's (the guy in le havre who is now in paris) girlfriend comes from. such a cheap way of travelling...


bandafbab said...

Definitely a cheap way of travelling. Maybe next summer depending on the employment situation.