It had been a good day so far: I was up fairly early, a result of having consumed alcohol the night before, and was able to dash out to 1Utama to pick up the dress I had put on hold at Topshop before going to Bangsar Shopping Center for my manicure. Traffic was smooth, the single greatest advantage of living in a city which is subjected to large-scale exoduses during the festive seasons, and I didn’t have to prowl the parking aisles for too long before I was able to find a spot.
And then, as I made my way through Sri Hartamas towards Bangsar, wondering quite accurately if the speed traps that highway is so famous for would be set today, the eve of Chinese New Year, I was waved to pull over at the side of the highway, where several policemen were running the roaring trade they are so well-known for, especially during the festive seasons. So, knowing I had been going well over the speed limit, I pulled over, driver’s license already in hand, hoping I wouldn’t be held up too long as I was fifteen minutes away from my appointment.
Cop 1: Miss, you Chinese?
Cop 1: Oh… gong xi fa cai (Happy New Year), ya…
Me: Thank you.
Cop 2: You want pay saman (summons) RM300?
Me: (horrified at the amount) Now?
Cop 2: You want settle now?
Me: Well… no, because I don’t have cash. Just give me the ticket.
Cop 1: How much cash you have?
Me: None. I don’t carry cash.
Cop 1: Cash don’t have?
Me: No. Nobody’s stupid enough to carry cash these days. I only have my debit card.
Cop 1: Oh… Miss, are you stewardess?
Me: (highly indignant at the insulting stereotype) No, I do P.R.!
Cop 1: Mana you kerja (Where do you work)?
Me: Bank. Now, can you please just give me the ticket? I have to go.
Cop 2: OK, OK, we send saman to your house.
Obviously, I had been lying through my teeth when I insisted I hadn’t any cash on me, because that is part of their roaring trade: forcing bribes out of people who don’t want to be slapped with a speeding ticket and a hefty fine. But I refused to give them the satisfaction of getting what they set up the speed trap for and perpetuate the blatant, shameless corruption that goes on in this cursed country, even if I had to swallow the violent urge to say, “I’m not about to bribe you, if that’s what you’re asking.”
On another note, I realized the most effective way to get the cops off your back in this country is to speak English, and only English, to them. Their completely inability to converse in English cripples their intention of being intimidating, and they realize fairly quickly that it would be easier to extort money out of someone else who will speak their language.
And maybe someone else stupid enough to work with the System.