Wednesday, July 06, 2005

My brushes with The Law, Part I

In this land of red, white and blue, the blue is what intimidates me the most. Especially in this age of casual imprisonment and friendly torture. Hence, I try to be a god-fearing (in a rhetorical sense), law-abiding citizen. However, in spite of my passionate adherence to the straight and narrow, I have often crossed paths with the law. And each time, it has been on the road.

South Carolina, winter of 99. A contingent of Indian graduate students from the North-East was making its way to Florida to escape the big chill. I was drowsing in the back seat. For some reason, the conversation in the car kept veering around to the topic of police, and every time the word police was uttered, I would wake up, look around shaken saying "wha? where?", and then go back to sleep after making sure it was just a topic of discussion. So, one such time, I woke up and looked back, and this time, damnit, there were actually lights flashing behind us. How much had we been doing I asked. "95", was the nonchalant reply. I started seeing visions of prison showers and dropped bars of soap. We slowly pulled over, a cop walked over and demanded to see our license. All of us, having newly arrived from the mother country, did not have a single American license amongst us. Not only that, we did not even have an international license. Not to worry, said V, the driver, I have an Indian license. He reached into his pocket and took out a bunch of ragged papers, the remnants of what once might have been an Indian license, now in an advanced stage of decrepitude. He turned those over to the cop, who was a bit nonplussed. The cop inquired, "What is this"? V, with a slight air of superiority, conspicuously unbefitting the occasion replied, "My license, its an Indian license. I am legally allowed to drive here for a year on an Indian license" The cop looked even more bewildered. It was obvious that he had not seen an Indian license before. I could almost read his mind as he struggled with the questions : "Is it legal to drive here with a foreign license?" and "Is this even a license" and "Do they not have a single shaving kit among the six of them? Or a soap?". Finally, he made up his mind, deciding to give us the benefit of doubt rather than venture forth into unknown legalities of foreign license usage. And so off we went. The next person scheduled to drive the next stretch of I-95 from South Carolina to Florida turned out to be me, who neither had an American license nor a foreign license. Needless to say, it was not a comfortable ride.

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