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Wait. What?!: Watcha Gonna Do When They (Don’t) Come For You?

April 9, 2008

Britt: 1
Firewalls: 0
Finally figured out how to make posts to an otherwise blocked site. I know, I know, I’m sweet.

I was going to use this opportunity to paste in a few of the posts I wrote about Paris and Amsterdam, but I witnessed something rather bizarre this morning that must be shared. 

So, without further adieu…

Wait. What?!! Wednesday: Cops. Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do? Whatcha gonna do if they come for you? 
(for the record, you have not lived until you have heard that song sung off-key by a Belgian accountant impersonating a rapper…)

K. So. This morning. I’m an hour and 20 minutes into my commute (which is so torturous it will be the subject of a future post. for now, let’s just say it’s long and annoying) and I haven’t even hit the exit for work. I’m sitting behind a little Smart Car, considering whether or not I could attach a large key cut out to it’s back and make it a wind-up car. Probably not. Perhaps the car floor has a drop out panel where you can put down your feet and move the car Flinstone-style? (This is the stuff I think about during rush – when I’m not contemplating a solution to world hunger, peace in the Middle East and other Miss America-worthy topics.) Anyways, my profound ruminations are broken by the sound of sirens and in my rearview mirror I see flashing blue lights trying to make their way through the gridlock.

I move to the side as a Police sedan, two motorcycle cops and a large Renault forest green van with ‘Politie’ on the side and flashing blue lights (what is that about? are they forest rangers?) drives past. I think, “Ahhh. Must be an accident that’s turned my hour drive into a two hour crawl.” I take another sip of the delicious Italian roast coffee (that we snagged from a little store in Paris) from my Vitamin Water bottle ** and settle in for the wait.

20 minutes, 2 miles and two more traditional police cars later I finally get into the turn off lane for my exit. And realize something is off. There are no flashing lights. No accident in sight. And, most importantly, there are no cars speeding on the berm (burm? birm? you know, that strip of road between the lane and the barrier that you aren’t supposed to drive on unless it’s an emergency but people drive on when an exit is way backed up?) At that hour, with that kind of traffic, people would typically be barreling past me. What was going on?

And then I saw it. The reason behind the backup at the exit. The reason no one was driving on the berm.

A cop was sitting on the railing at the exit writing down the license plate numbers of cars that were driving illegally.

Not pulling them over with his motorcycle. Or taking pictures of them in the act (as some cops are known to do here – one of my coworkers got a ticket in the mail this week with a picture of her making a right turn on red. It wasn’t taken by one of the traffic cameras that are on 99/100 lights here, it was taken by a cop who witnessed her transgression.). 

I asked the Belgians at work what was going on – turns out the police here can take pictures of you doing something illegal (or close to it, like cutting them off in traffic) OR just write down your license plate number and you will get a nice little ticket in the mail.

No explaining your situation or attempting to turn on the waterworks – you just get your ticket, go to your bank and deposit the fine directly into the police department’s account.

It’s Passive Agression at a professional level.

Blows my mind. The police won’t ‘come for you’ for any traffic-related offenses. Want to know something they will come for??

Moving. As in moving from one town to another. See, in Belgium, when you move into a new community, you have to register at the Commune (like a Town Hall but with shorter opening hours, longer lines, more disgruntled employees and older furniture). You have to fill out loads and loads of paperwork, have everything signed in triplicate, show passports, medical certificates, work permits, rental agreements and your first grade report card. After everything has been reviewed 97 times, you tell the Commune person where you live and then the police will come and visit your home to make sure you live there.

Some of the people at work say that they have never met their local police. They just put their names on their mailbox and on the door bell and that suffices as proof  of residency. Where I live, it’s a little different.

Our visit from the police involved Princes, indie music quizzes and roundtable discussions about race relations in Belgium. But that’s a story for next time…

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