Thursday, November 11, 2010

Jenny on the Block

Jenny joyriding on her quadrimoto.
San Miguel has a lot of strong women.  Sam would tell you that I surround myself with them. It's not intentional. I guess it's just like gravitating toward like.  My friend, Jenny Hensley, who arrived in August with her husband, Pablo, and three sons, is just one of them.  Tonight, after bringing Bo home on her quadrimoto, and getting ready to head back with her son, Will, in tow in the dark, I asked her about driving these things at night.  Last Saturday night she was going to meet Janan for a drum concert in Centro (Janan, another one of these women: a former drummer herself and the financial brains and chief axe at her two Chicago restaurants, Webster's Bar and Grill and The Bluebird).

Janan and her new boyfriend, Benjamin Lara.
Ladies Night at Benjamin's.
Halfway to Tio Lucas Jenny was stopped by a San Miguel police officer with a loud whistle and a gesture to pull over to the sidewalk. Right now my heart would have halfway exploded.  I am terrified of the police; I don't know why.   I assume, always, that I have done something wrong.  In broken English he told her she was driving without lights and without her helmet.  (San Miguel instituted a helmet law about six months ago, much to the bewilderment of locals, who aren't used to any regulation of their driving styles.  It is not uncommon to see a small child on the driver's lap; up to 15 people in the back of a pickup truck; or a family of five on one motorcycle, including an infant on the mother's hip.)

On a completely different note, at this very moment I'm typing next to Bo, who as a special treat gets to sleep in my bed because Sam is out and I don't want him waking me up when he gets home.  And Bo wants to test out "the canoe" which is what Sam calls the huge divet on his side of the bed.  (Reddy already had his turn, when he announced, "It's Canoe Night for the Redster.")  So Bo just said, "Darn it, darn it, darn it.  I've got a boner."  "Why darn it?" I casually ask.  "Because it feels so weird."   To which I reply, even more casually, "You'll like it when you're older."  "Really?"  "Yeah."  "OK," he says, and goes to sleep. 

So after Jenny explains, in broken Spanish, that she didn't know there was a helmet law and that her model of quadrimoto (a little 4WD ATV contraption popular here because it's easier to park) doesn't even have lights, he tells her to pull it around the corner, off the main street.  She asks him what she can do because she doesn't want a ticket or to have to go to the police station.  "Put 100 pesos into a piece of paper for me," he tells her.  So she looks into her wallet but only has 70, which she offers to him and which he declines.  "Go the bank," he tells her, but leave your moto here.  So she walks up the street to the OXO, kind of alike a 7-11, with the same really bad hot dogs, and gets money out of the bank. But it comes out all in 500-peso notes, so she stands in a line of about 15 people and buys a bag of M&Ms to get some change.  Then she walks back to her moto to give the cop his bribe. She wasn't even nervous (until she saw that one of his buddies had arrived).  Was she supposed to give him the money in front of the other cop, because obviously they're all in on the game, or was it still supposed to be some clandestine transfer?  He walked away from his friend, and with his back to him, quickly took her paper, and without opening it, shoved it into his pocket.  Then he told her to walk to the bar and pick up her moto in the morning.  Which she did.  And she wasn't even scared.

(Sam and I had our one-and-so-far-only brush with the local cops when we parked illegally outside of a friend's house to unload some goods.  We weren't in long, but when we came out the cop had already removed our license plates with his handy wrench.   This was a Saturday of a holiday weekend; he told us they could impound our car and we could go to the municipal office to get our plates and pay a fine the following Tuesday.  So I asked him if we could pay him to put the plates back on.  He pretended to consider it, then  looked up and down the block, took his wrench back out, and put the plates on the car.  He too told us something about a piece of paper (guess it's just the thing here, this paper deal--does it make it less illegal if you wrap the mordida up in something else?).  So I gave 300 pesos to Sam, who told me this was no time to be cheap, and he added another 200 (or $40).  It's probably equivalent to a week's wage, which is why the cops are all on the take in the first place. 

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