How long can you use a LPG cylinder?
Three weeks? One month? Well, if I say we use our LPG cylinder for one or two years would you believe me? Well it may sound like a little farfetched tall tale blown out of proportion to you, but it’s true. The reason for this is when we come home for the vacation we are mostly out on the open road moving, eating out. So gas cylinder is hardly ever used. But, no worries, we pay the money due to the motherland in other forms. Especially, through post offices, the Police Department and right into the treasury.
Well the inevitable part of life on the open road is traffic cops. They try their very best to levy the money due to the country we cheat on LPG. “Oh, It’s their duty, isn’t it?”, one might argue. Well here are three cop stories from the last vacation. You decide for yourself!
I am almost always busted for a couple of offenses. One is speeding. Please don’t misunderstand this as driving recklessly and dangerously endangering other people’s lives. You really need to have a special skill developed to track the speed limit signs. They are cleverly placed in a way that you would easily miss them. Even if you find them the other sign that indicate the end of speed limit is missing. So how far is the speed limit is valid is a secret only the cops would know.
The other is overtaking, especially over the white lines. This is also a game of wild guessing and risk taking. In most of the places the while lines are not visible due to wear and tear. And the most frustrating thing is when you have to crawl behind a truck loaded with logs, a tractor, a bus that stops at every stop for kilometers on end, as you won’t dare running over the white line. And at the end of your patience when you think the while lines are over and it’s safer to overtake, and you do so and there you are flagged down immediately by the cops hiding at that very place, whose job is to know such places and trap you. But unfortunately, the private bus drivers who raced passed you overtaking you as if you were standing still, driving on the wrong side of the road, on the other side of the double white lines without giving a shit abut road rules, blasting their air hones which would make elephants shit their pants, terrorizing you, miraculously escape. And you are busted!
Well this is the Cop Story #1
THE MIDNIGHT SERMON
It was the midnight. We were driving towards Colombo from Dambulla. I and the van driver ahead of me had been crawling behind a heavily loaded truck for the last 20 kilometers. We didn’t overtake because of the continuous solid single or double white line along the mountainous stretch of this road. I also was determined not to be busted this vacation, no matter what. So many vehicles overtook us over the white lines as if they didn’t exist. On severe climbs I even let the truck go ahead as I knew the danger of following a overloaded vehicle uphill.
Finally the continuous white line transformed into a broken white line, yet shorter gaps and longer lines.
In a little while the faded lines appeared to be the same length as gaps, or at least I thought so. The van driver and I took then advantage of this and overtook the truck. Before I could swing back into my side a red lit police baton a flashlight and jumped out of the hiding place on the wrong side of the road and flagged us both down. The green luminous strips added flavor to the misery.
“SHIT” I muttered in Capital Block Letters.
I glanced at the dashboard clock before I stepped out. It was 12.30 a.m.! I grabbed the documents from behind the sun visor and walked back to the officer who stopped me. This one who held a higher rank than a normal traffic cop.
The first thing that greeted me was reeking of liquor.
“Do you admit that you committed an offense?” he asked even before I came to a standstill.
“No. I overtook crossing the broken line.”
He shone the flashlight on the middle of the road and asked,
“Are these broken lines?”
“Maybe because they are worn off, to me it looked like broken lines,”
“Let’s see your License and insurance”.
He read the documents with the help of his flashlight and paid special attention to my drivers’ license.
“This is quite old”.
“Yes, but it’s still valid.”
“When you got the license, those days, did they teach you about the road markings?”
“That I can’t remember specifically, but know my highway code”.
The cop nodded smugly like a FBI special agent who finally managed to hunt down and capture a serial killer.
“Ha ha ha!” The reek of liquor penetrated my nose. “I got my license recently. Even I learnt my Highway Code from the book I got from the learners”.
(Don’t ask me the validity of this because these are his words.)
“At least now, do admit your fault?”
“Officer, you are going to fine me anyway. What difference does it make?”
“Ah hah! That’s where you are wrong! If you don’t admit that you committed an offence it’s not ethical to fine you. If you think we are there only to fine you, you can’t be more wrong. We are there to guide you and advise you, too. Well sir, I’ll ask you one question. Which road do you think the highest number of motor accidents are reported from?”
“This road.” Actually I had read it online.
“Absolutely. We can catch 25 lawbreakers an hour if we want. And we are here to minimize that number.”
The liquor smell was beginning to gag me.
“How nice.” I said.
“Now do you admit it?”
“Well, if you say that I violated a law I have to admit it”.
“Oh no, don’t admit just because I say so… According to your heart, do you accept that you broke the law?”
“Actually right from the beginning it was according to my heart that I said I didn’t. That van driver and I both were crawling behind that truck for so many kilometers without overtaking because of that white line. I have lost count how many other dudes overtook all three of us crossing the white lines. But I know you won’t believe me.”
“Okay, what I want to know is do you admit that you committed a traffic offense by overtaking that truck right here?”
“Officer, I have even advised others never to argue with a police officer, especially at times like this. It won’t do one any good because you hold all the aces and I am totally defenseless. I have only my word against yours, which isn’t much. So, that is the reality. I haven’t done any crime as I understand. On the other hand the lines here are faded and almost invisible. I overtook at the very end of my patience when I couldn’t take it any more”.
“Sir, what are the places that you can’t overtake?”
“Well, when you would have to cross double or single solid white line. And where you can’t see far enough ahead to be sure it is safe, er.. near a pedestrian crossing, a corner or bend, a hump bridge, the brow of a hill...”
The loud burp erupted out of the throat of my teacher brought my list to a standstill.
“Okay, in the mountainous roads where all those markings aren’t there, how do those drivers manage?”
“How do you mean?”
“I mean how do those dudes know where to overtake where not to, who’s given priority at the narrow bottle neck and at the hairpin bend and the likes…”
“Okay you tell me.”
“They do these out of courtesy, sir out of courtesy”.
He stopped the lecture and shone the flashlight on my van.
“Who’s in that van? Your family members?”
“Yes my wife and my son.”
“Where did you go at this time of the night?”
“We visited a friend and are now going home towards Colombo”. I gave several answers bundled together in the hope of cutting the conversation short.
“Do you know sir, I can go near your vehicle and point out five faults if I feel like, any given time? Wanna try?”
“On, no officer. That’s absolutely not necessary. I know you hold all the aces tonight”.
“You can’t find a vehicle that is free of faults, it’s not easy.” He said shaking his head, pursing his lips.
“Now that we are on that subject I’ll tell you officer. This morning on my way here I followed a police vehicle belching black smoke, a long way. There must have been over one hundred faults on the vehicle and in the driving both”.
To hell with it. Water was above my nose anyways.
“I accept that.” The surprised me by handing over my documents back to me.
“Okay. It’s quite late now. Be careful when overtaking. You can go. Good night.”
“Good night, officer, thank you very much!”
As I was snapping on the seat belt I glanced at the dashboard clock. Thirty seven minutes! Actually I edited the lecture which was much longer than this and there was a lot of repetition. But, at least he didn’t fine me.
“What happened?” Deepa asked.
“It’s a long story. I’ll tell you on the way. He didn’t fine me. That’s what that matters right now”. I said shoving the documents back under the sun visor flap.