Friday, February 2, 2007

Jorge finally had his day in court

OK, the title of this post is a bit misleading. Jorge has apparently had several days in court during his lifetime. He gets a kick out of it, I think.

But he's never been to African court. Now that's something else entirely.

There's something about my husband that just antagonizes people in authority, especially his bosses and the police. Since he has no boss here (just me!), his only worry is the Malawi PD.

In the mornings here, scores of police get dropped off in strategic locations throughout the city, to stop cars and check for violations. You can get a ticket for a number of things, but they're all fairly reasonable - not wearing a seatbelt, not having insurance, or not having a valid driver's license. If the police see Jorge, they have to stop him. It's like an impulse they just can't resist. On several occasions he has been stopped while driving to the grocery store on a quick errand, then stopped by the exact same officer on his return - 15 minutes later.

He has learned to schedule his activities around the cops. They take their lunches from about 11:30 to 1:30, so that's when he ventures out onto the road.

One day a few weeks ago, Jorge made a terrible mistake. He saw our housekeeper, who was heading home for the day, on the road near our house. He stopped briefly to ask the guy a few questions. The police pounced.

Not surprisingly, it's illegal to stop in the middle of the road here. Jorge was told he would be getting a ticket and would have to pay a fine. The only problem? The police here don't actually carry tickets. You have to escort the officer in your own car to the police station to get your ticket.

However, Jorge's offense seemed to be so bad that they insisted they would have to impound his car. My guess is that this is code word for "Give me some money and I won't take your car." Unfazed, Jorge left his car parked in the middle of the road, handed the officer a key that opens the doors but won't actually start the ignition, and prepared to walk home. His bluff called, the policeman relented and let Jorge drive home, but was very adamant on one point: Jorge must attend court the following day. All of the officers stressed what grave peril Jorge would be in should he fail to turn up.

So Jorge drove down to the court the next day. He explained to the secretary why he was there, and she had him take a seat. An hour later or so, one of the officers he had spoken with walked by. He was very surprised to see Jorge. The officer went to tell the judge that there was someone to see him. The judge said that Jorge could go home. And at the end of all this, the officer told Jorge "We just wanted to see if you would actually turn up."

So there you go. Justice.