Friday, October 8, 2010

Saluting:- from the book "Roadtrip Ramatuelle"

A Fred Archer Scania 112 climbing in the Transylvanian Alps, Romania,1985.

  ____The speed limit for trucks displaying a TIR plate was 50 kph on all roads in Romania. That day I had been trying out the “salute” method of speeding fine avoidance. This technique involved saluting the police officer as he stood in the road, trying to wave you down. With his ingrained military training, the policeman’s response to seeing someone salute him was to stand to attention and return the gesture, hopefully standing aside as he did so. By the time the truck had passed, it was too late for the officer to pull his revolver and do any damage. Romanian police rarely gave chase as they usually only had enough petrol in the car to get them back to the station; having syphoned off and sold most of that day's tankfull as soon as they came on duty.
____During the day, this routine had worked 100%, but on the third occasion, I came unstuck. It was late, I was tired, he was quick and I was slow. My speed had dropped as darkness had fallen, I was still speeding, but when I saluted, the engine was in the wrong gear. I tried a quick down change, but missed it. The policeman did not see my hurried touch of my head as a salute; when he did not see me slowing down, he went for his gun. I anchored up just as he pulled the automatic from its holster.
____All this happened about 20 kilometres before Bucharest,at the start of the only piece of dual carriageway in Romania. There was a parking area, with a kiosk set back in a pine wood; it was crowded with trucks, but I just managed to squeeze into a space at the far end. Before I had taken the cellophane off the carton of Kent, the policeman was knocking on the door.
____Knowing that most officials do not like it if you lean out of the window to talk to them, I opened the door. I was not going to get out and give up my superior elevated position, but I did not mind showing that I had nothing to hide. The officer did not seem angry, but went on to give me a long lecture in Romanian, which I did not understand at all. Presumably it was about speeding. However, as he spoke no English, I was wasting my time arguing with him. In the end I gave the traffic cop twenty Kent king-size; at least this made him put his gun back in its holster as he needed two hands to put the cigarettes in his jacket’s breast pocket.
____The cigarettes did not stop the policeman rambling on in his native tongue; he only quietened down when the girl with the longest hair I had ever seen came along and started speaking to him. The good looking female then pulled herself up the steps of the Scania, climbed across my lap and plonked herself down in the passenger seat. Her black hair was plated into a ponytail, but was still long enough to sit on. The copper was still hanging around, so I gave him another packet of cigarettes and as he walked away, I shouted a parting shot:
    “And make sure my spare wheel is still there in the morning.”

Map of Romania.

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