Close encounters with the powers that be (take one)

Last night, on our way out to dinner on the motorcycle we’ve borrowed from the missionaries, we got pulled over by the police. We knew immediately what we’d done wrong – we only had one helmet, and I was wearing it. And while it’s apparently fine for the passenger on the motorbike not to be helmeted, the driver is supposed to be (“supposed to be” in the sense of “most aren’t”).

So when a uniformed officer blew a whistle and pointed commandingly to a group of six police standing on the side of the road, Mike pulled the bike over and we prepared to be scolded/fined/arrested/deported/sent to a prison camp in the north…

Take one:

Police: Talk very fast, in Lao.

Mike: Hands over his drivers license and pretends he speaks no Lao.

Lisa: Stands quietly holding pink helmet.

Take two:

Police: “How long you in Luang Prabang?”

Mike: (knowing a tourist visa is one month long) “Oh, about one month.”

Police: (Say something that starts with the letter “p” and sounds like petrol)

Mike: (Lifts up the seat of the bike and opens the petrol tank)

Police: (Look at Mike like he might just be the dumbest tourist in Luang Prabang).

Take three:

Police: (Try the “p” word again and it turns out to be papers. They are also saying the word “helmet” a lot and pointing to their head.)

Mike: (Finds papers and hands them over. Luckily they appear to be in order.)

Police: “You pay ticket at police station, fifty thousand kip.”

Mike: “OK. No problem.”

Police: (handing Mike back his driver’s license) “Or, you pay here, no ticket.”

Mike: (putting away his license, then making writing motions) “OK. You make me receipt, I pay here.”

Police: “You pay here, no ticket.”

Mike: (smiling broadly) “No ticket, I no pay here. I want ticket. Yes?”

Police: (Look at Mike like he might just be the dumbest tourist in Luang Prabang).

Take four:

Mike takes the papers back and puts them back in the seat. He puts the petrol cap back on. He takes the helmet from me and puts it on his head, smiling the whole while. He points to the helmet, gives the police the thumbs up sign, and nods his head.

“Helmet di li,” Mike says. “Helmet very good.”

The police look confused, and a little surly that their plan to get drinking money from us is not playing out as hoped.

Mike slowly gets back on the bike wearing the pink helmet. I get back on the bike wearing no helmet. We smile and drive away.

20 responses to “Close encounters with the powers that be (take one)

  1. Giggles all the way through. :o)

  2. So no ticket!?! Nice. I vote that you buy another helmet. Precious cargo!

  3. I could see Mike’s huge smile the whole way through this post. I love it! If I ever get pulled over I’m going to try Mike’s technique: Grin. Pretend not to understand. Grin. Declare I’m not going to pay the ticket. Grin. Drive away. Grin.

  4. You guys crack me up! That reminds so
    much of the Mike I knew in high school. Glad it all worked out and nobody was deported 🙂 Also, happy you are borrowing the motorbike. Lisa, I subscribe and read every post you write…nice break from stay-at-home-mom suburbia.

  5. reminds me of a similar experience in Mozambique. (hehehe)

  6. What!?!? Mike didn’t use this as an opportunity to practice Lao! For shame!

  7. Way to avoid it! I’ve been hit by this a time or two. Though, once, when I was “pretending not to understand,” I really didn’t understand, and thought the officer was asking me to go eat dinner with him. That was awkward.

    Glad you survived, and I always support more pink helmets in the world!

    • Yes, awkward. And your note reminded me of the time that I tried to flirt my way out of a fix it ticket in California. Failed. Awkward. We might buy our own motorbike this weekend – I’ll look for pink helmet options :).

  8. How dare you cheat an honest working man out of a dishonest bribe. He is several vices at home to feed.

  9. hi, my name is Goldie, i married Matt whose father is your mum’s cousin. it sounds funny i know. anyway, i heard from Merrilyn about your blog, really enjoyed it(only had time to read one). would love to read more when i get more time.

    • Hi Goldie! Yes, your name sounds familiar. I will not even try and figure out how your marriage to Matt that makes us relatives, but I’m sure it does. Thanks for dropping by and reading, and leaving a comment! Cheers, lisa

  10. Is this something else you can get in Laos for 60 cents?!?!?!?

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