My First Ticket.

July 25, 2013

It was four in the morning and dark out. My car was packed with people and parcels and pressed with places to be. Although it had been wonderful having a piece of San Diego in Asuncion for the week, the introvert in me was socially exhausted. I was also running a high fever and a virulent run of the flu was madly brewing.

Several orange cones dotted the paved lanes and a handful of uniformed police were scattered about, waving some vehicles on and directing others to pull over. These makeshift checkpoints occur frequently throughout the city, but so far, simply avoiding eye contact had provided a winning escapist strategy.

Unfortunately, on this occasion, and much to my disbelief, an officer gave me an ominous wave to move right. I pulled off the paved road, and fumbled around for the car registration, still hoping to be taken for the harmless gringa that I am.

No such luck. After reviewing all kinds of cards, documents, licenses, and permisos, and taking her sweet time doing so, the officer informed me that my habilitacion had expired and I was subject to a 250mil fine that had to be paid in the moment.

I attempted to play the “I don’t have enough cash on me right now [which I didn’t], but if you give me the ticket, I’ll pay it at the office later” card. This generally works to scare off the illegitimate extortion attempts, but this only served to have the officer order me out of the car. Uh. She sternly blabbered on about the supposed infraction and pointed me to drive a few feet ahead to pay the multa.

I scooted the car up, and had to hustle my departing American friends for the last bits of Guarani change they had in their pockets in order to amass the required amount. I was still unsure where the ticket was to be paid as the surroundings were largely dark and abandoned.

After some more ado, I was instructed to cross four lanes of traffic to a corner gas station, where a group of officers on motorcycles sat passing a bottle around. No one beckoned me forward to pay anything, so I sat in the car waiting for what seemed an eternity for the original officer to reappear and give further instruction.

Finally, she strolled over and pointed me to cross yet another street where a lone patrol car hosted a queue of other unlucky victims. Oh, the runaround. F alighted from the car to accompany me, for which I was much grateful because the second I emerged, hoards of drunk men, carousing at the petrol station (classy), descended upon me, leering and giving the usual slew of crude remarks. The nearby police officers were unmoved.

So thankful this did not happen while I was by myself.

Eventually, we made it to the clerk’s desk, which was a single female seated in the front passenger seat clutching a bulging cloth bag of paper bills. The legitimacy continues. She cited a sum that was significantly less than the other officer had demanded, so I hoped to quickly pay the smaller fee and make a quick escape.

Clearly, favor was not on my side that morning as the original officer conveniently sauntered over and won a small debate with the other woman about my payment. In the end, I had to fork over the initially stated 250mil with the knowledge that Mrs. Officer was likely going to enjoy a fat steak dinner later that evening. Then we continued the journey to the airport.

My first ever ticket.

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