Just north of Chisinau, on the road to the Cricova winery, there’s a devious little speed trap in a 300 meter long, little buttfuck settlement, barely large enough to be named and nowhere near large enough to appear on any maps. The two cops in this almost-town have absolutely nothing else to do, but spend their days pulling people over for invented infractions and then intimidating them into on-the-spot bribery. This is a highly successful operation, seeing as how most Chisinau cops putter around, squished inside old Ladas while these countryside swine have relatively swanky Skodas.
Like everyone else, I usually slow to a groveling crawl as I pass cops like this, giving them little reason to pull me over. But this time, I was trying to get around a truck belching out exhaust at a toxicity quantity of about 999,999 parts per million and at the precise moment that I careened around the effing thing, the Lead Swine waved me to the side of the road.
Though there’s no posted speed limit here, the Lead Swine gravely informed that I had broken the 60KPH (37MPH) speed limit on this six lane highway that otherwise has a 90KPH limit by going 72 KPH. Having suffered through Moldovan Swine harassment repeatedly in 2006 when I had the unfortunate notion of driving my Romanian car into Moldova (which is akin to driving around with a neon “Please Stop and Intimidate Me” sign bolted to your roof), I knew the drill and was determined not to pay these swine.
Indeed, I put on a show that would’ve made Daniel Day-Lewis proud and walked away without ever having opened my wallet. In fact, it’s really not too difficult, so for the benefit of future visitors to Moldova and other locales with similarly honorable and motivated law enforcement, read and learn:
1. Whether you speak their language like an angel or only know a few phrases, do not speak a single word to the swine in their language, not even ‘hello’ – the less communication, the less effective the intimidation
2. When you are invited to get into the Swine Mobile with the Lead Swine’s Co-Swine, do so nonchalantly, remaining nonplused
3. Stay cool. Pretend you have all the time in the world, even if you’re trying to cover 300 kms that day for critical guidebook research
4. When the Co-Swine mimes putting your driver’s license in his pocket and leaving with it, show absolutely no sign of understanding
5. When the Co-Swine makes gestures that you go with him and repeats over and over “bank” and “lei” (Moldova’s currency), just repeat the same thing back with a hopelessly perplexed look on your face
6. When the Co-Swine starts ominously filling out a form with all your personal information, remain placid
7. Show no sign of recognition or understanding when the Lead Swine – who meanwhile is still pulling hapless people over, not even bothering to use the speed gun anymore – sticks his head in the window and says “Igor! What the fuck? Hurry up with this guy! If we don’t net another 1,000 lei before the end of the shift, I’m not gonna make my pool payment!”
8. When the Co-Swine, sensing defeat, sighs heavily and slumps his shoulders, do not show any sign of satisfaction
9. Simply say ‘thank you’ when the Co-Swine hands your documents back to you and says ‘goodbye’
10. As you return to your car, continue to look perplexed by everything that’s occurred, maybe even scratch your head for the Lead Swine’s benefit as he watches in disbelief while three months worth of pool payments walks off
11. Drive away carefully as you start mentally composing a blog entry about what’s just happened
12. Post pictures of the swine and Swine Mobile on the internet and mock them mercilessly, maybe adding a little comment about the caliber of swine mother that produced such pitiable swine offspring in their swine trailer park, on Swine Boulevard, in Swineville, home of the “Fighting Swine” soccer team with a record of 0 and 36 because they play like such hopeless swine
[Pictures courtesy of my co-pilot Elfin, who discreetly shot through the back window of our car with her tiny point-and-shoot digicam, conveniently armed with a Swine Filter to better capture swine in action.]
Hell, you showed them! Good job! You know, our president is cutting the road police force by half so they are desperate to make as much money as they can before getting fired, so they are probably the fiercest bitches these days.
An Austrian tourist a couple of months ago gave away 200 Euros to a road cop and he naively thought this was a legal fine. When it crossed his mind that he had been fooled, he complained to the authorities. He said: “When a cop in Austria tells you to do something, you must obey as he represents the law”. Ha-ha, not in Moldova though!
A general rule in Moldova is not to be in a rush with them, so that the cops don’t have a leverage against you when you know you’re right. Let them fill in all the forms on earth, but don’t give in.
My tactic is to always, always, always feign total and utter ignorance of the language when I do something wrong in a foreign country. That’s why I never have to move seats on the train.
Leif, your are frig’n James Bond cool.
Let’s see… all I got to do is play dumb…what was the question?
Oh, look…shiny object.
Yess, this is the drill.
You should have added though “Moldovan Police Swine”.
In a completely other kind of news: did you visited Adamclisi, in Dobrogea, south-east Romania? Or Histria, at the Black Sea? Or Enisala, the venetian citadel near Histria?
These are 2000+ old greek, roman and venetian cities, some of which are well preserved. And not a tourist trap. :) A must-see for any serious traveler.
I must say, Leif, that your co-pilot must have balls of steel to take photographs of Moldovan police in the exercise of their daily bribery tricks. I have been face to face with them only once, and I was crossing the street on the zebra-crossing, while they, seeing the sign “foreigner” written on my face, were trying to find a way to fine me. They really scared the bejesus out of me.
So, compliments to your courageous friend and, as we say in Italy: complimenti alla mamma.
I usually do the same. I learned during my first shakedown that my gendarme didn’t mind holding the whole frigging train from crossing the border until he had wrung the last leu out of me. I’ve been an ignoramus ever since.
In Russia: rack up the minutes, let them fill out all forms, but ask for the badge number of each of your new police friends. (They are required, by law, to provide this information.) Their interest in prosecuting your case decreases rapidly after your request is fulfilled. Does this work in Moldova too?
Vit – Thanks man. I bet it’s much harder to escape if you’re Moldovan though.
Xplorio – I’m visiting that region in July. I was there once before, but it was winter and a lot of stuff was closed.
Gemma – I agree. While I can play stupid with the Moldovan police like a professional, I don’t think I would have had the balls to photograph them. Maybe an attractive Italian woman can get away with that, but not a smart ass American guy.
Lee – I’ve never tried to ask for a badge number. That would betray my stupid tactic. Maybe the next time the stupid tactic doesn’t work I’ll give it a try.
So that just means you will have more money to spend on presents, gifts and stuff to bring back for all of us, right? Isn’t that how it works?
You’re a stronger man than me. I know the spot and was willing to give the co-swine 100 lei to be on my way.
The Romanians (and maybe the Moldovans, too) have a specific term for playing stupid with the cops, though I forget what it is.
A carload of Romanian cops had me properly and rightly nailed speeding on their video radar contraption. I WAS speeding, but still played stupid tourist guy to the hilt and successfully got away.
If the cop speaks English I just try gross contrition.
Hey Leif! Love this – I’ve driven the length and breadth of Mexico and I’ve found the same tactic works well. The cops are far lazier than they are greedy. They will say they’re taking you down to the station but if you agree to comply, they’ll give up. Playing dumb, acting like you have no clue what’s going on – or agreeing with them that you indeed were in the wrong and are willing to go through the arduous ticket/fine process (legally) usually ends with them leaving you alone. Love it!