Tuesday, July 10, 2007

ticket to ride: intuit how to do it

How to act when a police cruiser stops you on the highway depends where in the world you happen to be, Izzy Bee has learned at a price.
In Israel, the policeman is not likely to leave his vehicle, approach and politely ask to see your papers. That is the way it works in Hollywood, not here. Best not to toy with traffic cops, and just intuit how to do it their way.

Recently, while driving towards Eilat on a nearly empty road with the music blasting, blinking blue lights suddenly appeared in the rear view mirror. At first we dismissed it as a desert mirage, some weird result of extreme heat causing vapors to come off road, and ignored it. That effect seemed no more farfetched than all the scary caution signs warning of sinkholes as we had cruised along the shoreline of the Dead Sea. After we turned off onto the southernmost part of Highway 90, the road no longer was threatening to collapse beneath our wheels, so optimism about our little daytrip returned. We felt lighthearted. And heavy-footed, apparently. The policeman wanted to cite us for speeding.

It took awhile to figure this out. Inside Jerusalem, cop cars tend to keep their flashing lights on at all times, so we weren't overly concerned . But when we pulled onto the shoulder to let him pass, the officer's car swerved too and he gestured menacingly. Gulp.
We'd seen many big signs in Hebrew and Arabic with the numeral 90 on them, and assumed they were handy reminders of which Highway we were on.
Nope: it turns out that those were speed limit signs, and we'd been pushing 110 kph. Obviously, I ought to have paid more attention to my language lessons. The Yeshiva student hitchhikers we'd picked up were nodding off in the backseat, listening to religious tunes on their I-pods, and were no help at all.

Sighing, I rolled down the driver's window and waited for the policeman to stride over and demand to see my license and car papers. It just didn't happen. It was at least a hundred degrees outside and this cop was not about to leave the air-conditioned vehicle to talk to us traffic violators. The three hitch-hikers finally woke up and told us were meant to go to the lone policeman, as he had no partner inside his car, and we better not waste his time. We were meant to stand beside his window and risk becoming roadkill while he grilled us and wrote out the ticket. So that's what happened. The cop remained unconvinced that any driver could innocently confuse a road number and the speed limit. He'd heard that one before, he said sternly, the sun reflecting off his sunglasses and making me squint like a shifty liar. It seemed an eternity getting scolded under that hot sun, and I lost no time returning to our rental car and heading for the sea.
Later on, we spotted an Arab driver squatting almost in supplication beside a different squad car. They sure do things differently here. Israelity bites.

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