Monday, July 6, 2009

The Balinese extortionists - Bali, Indonesia

(From my 2003 diary)

The traffic is heavy on this stretch of road. A few meters ahead we spot a cop. He seems to be relaxed, and doesn't do much, just lazily observes the cars passing by. When he spots our faces through the shiny glass, his body stirs, he steps forward and with his hand he motions us to stop. The look that the encounter has painted on his face is the one of a fox breaking into a roost.

A colleague of him has joined the scene. The confab they hold while they check our papers reminds of two pirates studying a map. When they have verified that the licence is all right, they move on with a thorough overhaul of the car. Once they have made sure that there is nothing wrong, they start to mumble about a mysterious offence. We are amazed, we smile and try to explain that this is just a rental car. But soon we understand that it's a useless try and that we're only making fools of ourselves.

They have already seen this, and they even look bored when they list the absurd consequences that we might face. We cut it short and ask how much. They shoot a figure and wait for our laughs. We keep them happy and start to bargain, we even joke while we negotiate. At the end we pay and they let us go.

A few hours later, when we're back from Ubud, we happen to drive past the same place. The scene of the morning is staged once again, only the actors are different ones. Before the policemen start to check our car, we tell them straight that we've already paid. They look at us a little surprised and without any shame they ask us how much. Lorenzo tells them a puffed-up sum, and we observe the indignation permeating their faces. They ask us to follow them inside the station and to try to recognize the greedy ones.

That's how we ended up helping those guys to find the colleagues who didn't share our bribe!

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