How To Bribe a Thai Policeman

The thing about blogging is that you don’t have any stories left to tell when you come home from your travels. Ha, just kidding – I never run out of stories (or as my sister would remind me, the energy to repeat stories.)

Tonight I witnessed a bone fide bribe of a policeman and had I not been so shocked that it was actually working I might have thought to pull out my camera to surreptitiously take a picture of the grinning, thieving fellow.

Just kidding again. I swore to my friend that I would not use her name in the post and certainly no pictures – but she was brilliant! and deserves to be applauded for her performance.

An important thing to keep in mind: if you, a foreigner, are pulled over by a cop it will cost you 500 baht (~$15 US). A Thai person similarly caught will pay only 100 baht (~$3). Just live with it. That’s life as a fareng.

We were on our way home from getting a mani-pedi (from Goota – great salon where you get first-class treatment) and we had stopped to get “khao man gai,” a special Thai dish where the rice is cooked with rich chicken broth and served with melt-in-your-mouth chicken meat on top, which meant that we were already running a bit late and were frustrated by the traffic. The traffic was insane to the point where we had actually pulled in the lane of oncoming traffic to get around a couple of dawdling tuk-tuks. Interestingly, that was not what we got a ticket for.

In fact, I was hardly aware of what we could possibly be getting a ticket for, because as far as I could tell, nothing we had done so far was legal: nobody paid any mind to lane lines and people were cutting eachother off belligerently in all directions. We were swinging a U-ie, when I noticed a cop in umpire position, that is squatting and waving his hands furiously, blowing his whistle. It looked like he was signaling to us. I informed our friend, the driver, and she sighed, “He’s going to catch us. I’d better get my 100 baht ready” and reached in her purse.

Sure enough, at the next light, another cop saw us and immediately hopped on his motorbike and started gesticulating wildly for us to pull over. We did, but in order to get the car over out of traffic, our friend pulled over so close to the cop that the cop had to practically jump back on his bike to avoid getting grazed by the rearview mirror. He didn’t seem to take offense; the Thai have a very different sense of personal space than Americans.

Then began the show. First, our friend innocently batting her eyelashes and talking in the sweetest voice imaginable – you know, we’re lost, we didn’t know, it’ll never happen again, yadda, yadda, yadda.

He didn’t seem to go for it and she slowly began to draw out her license and ID, but somewhere between her wallet and the window, she finally convinced him to accept a little “sorry money” instead. The 100 baht bill in her hand, smiling and talking all the while, her hand slid up the door and peeked the edge of the bill over the window sill. The policeman didn’t blink an eyeball, but smoothly moved his clipboard over the money, so he could accept it underneath.

A few more apologies and smiles later we were off.

It was a very smooth transaction and our friend apologized to us for any inconvenience. There was really no need, Sue and I were hooting and hollering and giving high fives. It was really pretty exhilarating to witness a bribe first-hand.

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