Good Cop Bad Cop

by Brian on December 14, 2007

in Only in Israel

We were driving home from a trip to attend a game of the new Israel Baseball League at Kibbutz Gezer near Ramle when we saw the flashing lights on the side of the highway. A policewoman was waving a lit flashlight/wand beckoning us to pull over. I knew it was just a spot check; from a distance they couldn’t possibly have seen me doing something wrong. I wasn’t speeding, my headlights were working fine. I half contemplated ignoring the policewoman.

My wife Jody didn’t think much of that idea. “You’ve got to pull over,” she said. “Now!”

I slowed down and made my way to the side of the road. By the time the car finally stopped, we were a fair distance from the police car and policewoman who slowly sauntered over to our 13-year-old Toyota Corolla.

“License and registration please,” the policewoman demanded curtly.

“Just play it cool,” Jody told me.

After a few minutes of examining my documents, the policewoman returned. “Please step out of the car, sir,” she said. This didn’t sound good. “Step back here,” she said, beckoning me to the rear of my vehicle. “A little further. Good, right there. Now, please, tell me your license place number.”

I read it out loud for my interrogator.

“No, I want you to read it,” she repeated.

I read the number again.

“I asked you if you can read the number?” she said again.

What, did she think I was illiterate? Was she checking up on the prescription of my glasses?

“Because I can’t read it,” the policewoman said, finally coming clean on her intentions. “You see, it’s covered.”

Now I was beginning to understand what she was getting at. A few days before, my friend Bob had been out riding his bike in the outskirts of Jerusalem and had gotten a flat tire. He asked me to bring his bike rack and come pick him up. I hadn’t bothered to remove the bike rack from the rear of the car. It was blocking the license plate from full view. So when the policewoman asked, I wasn’t actually reading the number but was reciting it from memory.

“Please wait here,” the policewoman said as she returned to her car, leaving me to wonder whether I was going to get hauled into jail for this infarction. Were they short on their quota of American freiers (the Hebrew for suckers) who stop for the police when they wave lit wands on the side of the road?

I stood by my car for what must have been 20 minutes while the policewoman and her cohort in the car diddled with whatever wireless machinery they have to communicate with the database at headquarters. Finally she returned.

“I’m going to have to give you a ticket,” she said.

“But, but…it’s not even my bike rack. I was borrowing it from a friend,” I sputtered.

“What, you want I should give the ticket to your friend?” she replied, for the first time cracking a wan smile.

No, that wouldn’t be very neighborly.

“Anyway, it’s just a warning. No points or fine,” she said, lessening the blow.

She asked me to sign the ticket and then I was allowed to get back in my car.

“You handled that very well,” Jody said to me, taking my hand as I prepared to pull out.

At that point, the policewoman returned and knocked on my window. I rolled it down. What was it going to be this time?

“You might want to take the bike rack off and put it in the trunk,” she offered, adding with a wink “Maybe another cop will pull you over and they won’t be as nice as me.”

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