Saturday, September 23, 2017

Vagabond Lee's very good birthday in Romania

It's been about seven years since the vagabond guest blogger, M. Lee, contributed anything here but last week, after his birthday encounter with a Romanian cop, he agreed to share the story here.

M. Lee's very fine birthday in Romania
Peles Palace
Romania

I like Romania.  It likes me. Here is my birthday story.

Today was our last day with the car.  We're leaving tomorrow for Budapest.  I hate renting cars and I'm pretty sick of driving in general, but for here, it's a necessity.  So we had this car for six days.  On the first day, I dented it.  I have 3rd party insurance, but still, paperwork, anxiety, etc.  That was the first day.  Do you think I put it out of my mind?  No, of course not, each passing day it only got worse.

Asha hurt her knee so she can't walk much right now but we already took yesterday off, so I was at least going to take a road trip.  We headed out to visit Peles Palace on the main highway, a two lane road.  According to Google, it would take us an hour to go 20 miles.  I moved with the flow of traffic and about 20 minutes out I got flagged by a traffic cop who was parked by the side of the road.  I've been through this enough, it's the shake down and fuck it, Romania is cheap, but I've been saving the last of my Romanian money to fill up the gas tank on the way back.  It's a minor inconvenience, but I'm not really sweating it when the traffic cop comes over and starts talking to me in Romanian.

"Romeneshte no, inglese?" I say.

"I need to see identification and license please."

I hand over my passport and drivers license and he tells me to get out of the car and follow him back to his car.  There, he shows me a dashboard device displaying, presumably, my speed and the contrasting speed limit.  The angle is bad and I can't really see it but who cares, I know where this is going.

"You pay the ticket now.  145 lei.  You pay now."

"I need to see the ticket first, can you show me the ticket." I say.

He shows me the large ticket book but remains adamant, I must fork over the cash now, and he'll give me the "ticket" after.  I fork over the cash.

"You go back to your car now and wait."

I'm back in the car, waiting as instructed, about 50 US dollars poorer.  The other cop, the guy's partner, flags down a bus.  I don't feel so persecuted, so singled out.  If this is not a scam, they must have a remote radar somewhere on the road because otherwise, they are just two fat cops sitting in a car on the side of the road waiting for random victims.  As that guy passes me, heading toward the bus, he says "you go back there now".  So I go, back to the patrol car.

There, my cop has my passport open and points to the date and says "today is your birthday".  "Yeah" I reply, thinking, I don't know, maybe it's his birthday too?  "Happy birthday" he says, sticking his hand out to shake my hand.  I shake his hand and say thanks in Romanian and then he hands me back my money.  What?  "Happy birthday, you buy the missus with you some champagna, da?  You buy the champagna!"  Then he finishes writing the ticket, which takes about five more minutes because bureaucracy, and hands me my copy.  "Souvenir, you keep this for souvenir."

"Mooltzu mesk, la revederay" I say, showing off my scant Romanian, and skip back to the car.

And the dent later in the day at the car agency?  Fortunately, it's hard to see if you're tall, it's on the underside of the car below the door.  There's even a chance I didn't do it.  Amazingly, I get the tallest guy in the place to come look at the car, taller than me.  I wait inside.  He's back in a minute, rustling around, probably looking for accident forms while I act cool and pretend to be doing something on my phone.  He hands me a receipt showing the release of my deposit and I practically run out of the place before he can change his mind.

If the absence of pain is pleasure, then this has been a very good birthday.

Exploring the rafters of a medieval fortified church - Romania
In the rafters of a medieval church

3 comments:

Roy said...

Happy birthday! Usually that's just a hollow, empty phrase... the national motto used to be Life in Freedom or Death, which possibly could benefit from the judicious use of some punctuation, but "Keep This for Souvenir" works just as well.

Luminita said...

Happy belated birthday! That was funny! See, you don't need to know the language to get away with a ticket, you just have to there on the right day. Also, LOL at the "Romanian" transcript, I can only imagine how that conversation must have played out.

M. Lee said...

Hahaha, yeah, that's a good observation about that comma, or lack of comma, on that national motto, sort of a "let's eat grandpa" moment. It's probably just a bad translation, like my bad Romanian. Also, I need 365 passports to be fully untouchable, so there's my new project. Just kidding, FBI!