Thursday, December 01, 2005

Di Has A Brush With The Law ...

I was threatened with 12 hours in jail today ...

A bit embarassing actually, although I was roaring with laughter on the inside, while looking suitably respectful and chastised on the outside.

So, what crime did I commit, and how could the threat of a 50euro fine escalate to jailtime ... read on.

I was running late for language class today. I climbed off Tram 8 and joined a large group of people waiting to cross the road from the little tram island in the centre. The pedesterian signal was red. We waited. The traffic lights were also red. The cars waited. We all waited ... bound by strict societal taboos, imprinted upon us in various ways by our parents ... thou shalt not cross on a red light.

Suddenly, devilish rebel that I be, I felt impelled to leap out and cross the road ... alone, clearly risking being brought down by whatever 'predators' lurked in these places.

Sure enough, today was my day, and I was 'brought down' by a rather attractive, clean-shaven young man in blue. He said something in Dutch ... I replied, 'Ik spreek Engels'. He switched to English, asking me if I was aware I had crossed the road when the signal was red.

Although far from being prey, I did sense danger and answered in my own special way ... cramming in any information that might distract him from his intention. I admitted I had noted that, but I was late for my 'Dutch language course'.

He said, 'I see', and asked me if I was aware that a person could be charged 50euro for crossing against the lights. I opened my eyes wide and expressed my surprised over this piece of information.

He asked me if I came from England. I said no, from New Zealand, and I really was late for my 'Dutch language class' (Surely there is nothing more impressive than a try-hard foreigner learning the local lingo, even if she is breaking the law).

He said, 'Well, I'll need to see your passport'. I opened my eyes wider, revealing the depths of my innnocence and good intention and said, 'Oh God, I really don't have that on me at the moment'. He said, 'Any ID?' And I said, "Well oddly enough, no I don't', blushing.

By now we had an audience ... I could ignore all but the African man who found the whole situation hilarious, and was translating the police person's English for me ... however glaring at him would have interfered in my angelic appearance, so I continued to blush, and mentioned my 'Dutch language course' once again, and the fact that I was a New Zealander.

The nice-looking young man in the blue uniform looked pained and said that he would have to involve the police at this point, and was I really not aware that I could be fined for the illegal red light crossing, and imprisoned for my lack of passport and ID.

Actually, as an aside, the passport probably would have put me in prison. I have since packed my passport, and proof of my 'in process and waiting' application papers which explain that, while my passport might make me seem illegal, my residency application is merely caught up somewhere in Brussels ... and I've added my 'Dutch language course' receipt for good luck.

He was looking round for a policeman, and I spoke up one more time. Blushing, I reassured that lovely young man in blue that I never usually crossed roads in this manner and (wait for it) that I really really was late for my Dutch language course, and I didn't know that I had to carry my passport at all times, and I promised never to go out without it again and ...

Well, do you know, he let me go with a warning.

Clearly I have to add these uniformed men to my list of saviours here in this new world in Belgium.


Alison said...

THAT is hilarious! And I think, would ONLY happen to you and ONLY in Belgium. Thank God for those language classes... but I would have visited you in prison ;)

woman wandering said...

Thank you for your kind offer to visit me in prison. Some visit... what with your laughter and all. And yes, only in Belgium, where they seem to take these laws veryvery seriously. After two years in Istanbul's chaos, it was all I could do not to burst out laughing and mock him with a 'Are you serious??!' Oh, but he was.