I knew moving here that bribery was a big part of Africa's 'culture'. So, I wondered when this little initiation was going to take place for me. Turns out it was sooner than I thought, and if this were a test, I got a big fat F.
I had heard more than several stories about Ian and others dealing with bribes, and had tucked away pockets of information away in my brain so that I would know what to do when I got into a situation. I have to laugh at my complete lack of retaining all of that data, but everyone has to make their first blunder now, don't they?
We saw the lights flash behind us on the dark highway, I was in the car with Brook, the photographer from Australia who had just finished leading the week's photo safari. I asked him to take over driving for a bit, as I was not comfortable yet driving here at night, and he happily obliged. So when I heard him outside the car telling the police his driver's license was in his other pants at home, I felt awful as threats of fines and police stations whirled around him. Remembering a few words I had heard Ian use to be polite, I called the cop over... "En Fooet! Come here please!" I said, as I motioned for him to come to my window. "What must we give, just to go home?" (Blatant offering of bribe; not in the 'to-do' manual) "Ahhh", he smiled and said, "Let's see what you have?" I thought I had heard the fine was to be $150 for not having a license, so I was scared that he wouldn't take my measly offering of $30 bucks. I was happily surprised when he smiled even bigger, folded the three 100R bills in his hand, and said "Have a nice night...". Brook climbed in the car with a grin, and I told him how I got us out of it, very proud of myself. "Ahh, I thought I had convinced them!" he said. "I just offered him some money and used some words I used from Ian!" Still slightly proud of getting us out of it, but also feeling bad that I took the spotlight away from Brook. I just felt terrible that he drove for me, and then was going to get busted for it, so I wanted to make it all go away as quickly as possible. We drove off home, and brooke said to me, "You have to blog about this!"
If you are South African, you are already shaking your head and laughing at the amount I gave to my "en fooet" cop friend. For the rest of you, let me shed some light as to why all of my friends are in tears hearing this. You see, he told us that the ticket for not having your license was 150....RAND. Which, is the equivalent of $15 US dollars. Yes, I 'bribed' the cop to 'let us off' paying twice the normal ticket charge. In addition, I was since reminded that they will never take you to the station, it's only a test. If you stand your ground (like my friend Brook was doing just fine a job at when I interrupted), they will let you go. At the most, you give him 'money for some food' of about 50R, or $5 USD.
So, my "en fooets", if you do come to Africa for a visit, and you get stopped along the road to see me, just ask the nice po-po if he is hungry and hand him a 50. Rand that is. Then come laugh with me. Thanks, Brook, for driving us home, hitting 180, and teaching me how to say Ketchup in Aussie speak! See you again soon for more Africa antics!