Really Officer. I Wasn’t the One Driving.

Comparison of Speeding Offeces 2010 to 2011

When the Officer at the public prosecutor’s office stopped me at the door and asked me where I was going, I should have known something was up.    A young Bahraini man was peering out from a square window in the door across the room.  His forehead made a greasy spot on the window but he didn’t care.  His eyes were fixed on the guard chatting with his friend.

“Am I in the right place?” I asked the uniformed Officer who was leaving.  “I need to pay this ticket.”

The Officer pointed me towards the cashier.  I walked across the room and peeked in the window.  No one was there.  I sat down to wait.  A Bahraini man wearing a Nike shirt came in and looked toward the cashier.  I said “No one is there.”    He sat down across from me.

In the window, an older Bangladeshi man pushed into view.  He made a motion like he needed to drink and pointed to the guard.  The man in the Nike shirt stood up and in Arabic called over to the guard something to the effect,

“Excuse me, excuse me.  This man he needs to drink.”

The guard looked up and scowled.  He responded angrily in Arabic and waved off the request.  Mr. Nike Shirt sat down quickly and shut his mouth.  I knew I was where no expat woman had gone before: traffic contravention jail.

Was getting a speeding ticket a jail offense?

All my good feelings about car registration deflated.  I felt a twinge of nervousness.  Mojo did not know where I was.   Since he never answered his phone, I decided to text him where I was in the ministry building.

“I am at public prosecutor’s office paying your speeding tickets.  So far they have not locked me up like the 2 guys in the room here.  FYI I am at office on first floor to the right of reception. “

He texted back “Thank you Great Goddess of Compassion and Understanding.”

Now three guys’ foreheads were greasing up the window.  I wondered how long they had been in there.    The Officer came back into the room carrying a white plastic shopping bag.  He set the bag on the desk then walked across the room to open the door.

Eight men came stumbling out.  The Bahraini ran over to the water cooler and began slowly drinking out of the paper cup.  The Bangladeshi man did not even try to get a drink.  The Officer opened the plastic bag and pulled out handcuffs.  He cuffed the men together two at a time.

My hands shaking, I texted back to Mojo.

“If I don’t come home, please come feed me.  The guard is ignoring the men banging on the door.  They just let them out and are handcuffing now for transport.  Still waiting to see my fate.”

Mojo texted back “Tell them you are only accustomed to handcuffs made of diamonds but will accept gold ones if necessary.”

The men walked out and the three of us waiting for the cashier eyed the empty jail room nervously.  It was 1:15pm.

A man in a white thobe with gold cufflinks popped his head out an office door.  “Excuse me,” he said.  “Cashier gone home for today.  You come back tomorrow to pay.”

“I can’t pay today?  Isn’t there someone I can pay?”  I tried to look disappointed to see if that worked.

“No, you come back tomorrow.  Eight o’clock to one o’clock cashier will be here.  You come then.”

“Thank you,” I said walking out.

I texted Mojo “They let me go as jailer only here from 8 to 1.  They told to come back tomorrow for my punishment.”

“I take it you will be sending me tomorrow,” he texted back.

“I am so traumatized I am going for some retail therapy.  I will be at City Center for the next five hours,” I wrote him.

“There is a limit on the Visa card.  I will cancel your AMEX card though.”

“Haha, very funny.  They don’t call me Mrs. Claus for nothing, coal-lover.”

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Avoiding Fines and Lines at the Ministry of Traffic

I wonder how this guy passes inspection. Loyal camper in the desert.

“Do you need inspection? Or does your car need inspection?” the older Bahraini man asked me as he leaned against my window.

Cross-cultural flirtation was not something I engaged in as it is a perfect opportunity for cross-cultural misunderstandings.  I just smiled at the policeman and shook my head.

Once a car reached five years of age, the government required an inspection before registration.  Part of my December chores was registering two of our cars.

“Let me see your papers.”  The policeman read my husband’s name out loud.  “Your husband?”  I nodded.  He looked disappointed but he would not bother another man’s wife.

“Go to number three,” and he waved me into the brake checking garage’s short line.  There were four cars ahead of me.

In the garage, a second, younger man had no interest in flirting.  He checked my brakes and scribbled on my form.  “Go pay in the office then get third signature.”

I drove down the garage ramp into a mess of cars trying exit the parking lot. The parking lot was completely full and the lanes were blocked as all fifteen car lanes funneled into the one exit.  The people trying to back out of their spaces could not.  I tapped two quick beeps and a man let me in.

I saw a solution.  I did the Bahraini girl thing and pulled up onto the sidewalk next to a palm tree.

Really I was not acting like a Bahraini woman since no respectable woman would ever be down at the Ministry of Traffic.  And no Bahraini woman would park at the far end of a parking lot and walk through the lot.  Their driver would drop them off at the front door.

In fact, I did not know any other expat woman who registered the cars, paid the insurance and did the inspection.  Usually the husband’s company staff took care of all that for them.

I was still wearing my tennis shoes from my morning work-out.  It was an easy dash between the cars to the check-for-fines office.

When I opened the door there was a line of twenty men waiting.  Luckily the one woman wearing her blue officer’s uniform waved me to the front of the line.  She did not want to see me waiting amongst all those men.

For the first time in seven years, I had fines.  Usually I park legally and I have never gotten a speeding ticket.  I did not bother to ask the man to translate the Arabic.  Probably they were from the protests last year when my car’s GPS guided my friend Goldie through the roundabout.   I heard all the license plate numbers were recorded.

I went back outside to the man in the center kiosk.  He was spraying the air with perfume from a purple bottle.  It did not disguise the cigarette he had just extinguished.

He stamped my form, signed it and told me “Post Office” meaning that’s where I had to go next.

Again I danced between the cars honking their impatience.  I jumped into my car, drove off the sidewalk and out the front gate.

The whole thing took twenty minutes.  It was a good day to be a woman.

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