The usual suspects
We were finally making plans to return home last week, our house-sitting duties having morphed us into long-term guests when the home owners returned and our broken down car left us stranded with them for a few more days! After a normal repair at the shop (by “normal” I refer to the typical saga as explained in other posts), we loaded up the car to take a load to the bunkhouse.
Joel volunteered to clean out the place by himself. I think his line of reasoning was that if he had to stop cleaning every time I screamed because I was being chased down by a blood-sucking bat, he’d be better off without me. I can’t say that I blame him. He sanded and stained all the counters, swept the whole place out twice, got all the known critters to return back to the wild, and got it up to a “turnkey” state.
In the process, one small little detail happened — Joel misplaced his wallet. He knew it was there, but he just couldn’t seem to find it. It was a long, hot and gross day, and it was getting dark, so he finally decided to come back and look for it again in the morning.
The next morning, we loaded up the car, reminding ourselves to stop by the bunkhouse for the wallet (before we passed through the police checkpoint) and headed for church. We were a full 2 hours ahead of start time.
We pulled out from our friends’ house, headed down the highway, and were not even up to full speed before the man just “appeared” in the middle of the highway. Joel put on the brakes as he looked us directly in the eyes, pointed, and motioned toward the “shoulder” (i.e., ditch).
Oh yes, and he was a police officer.
The rest is pretty typical of what you’d expect when pulled over in the U.S., the first statement, of course, being, “License and registration, please.”
We managed to produce the registration and explain that Joel’s passport was at the house, if he’d accept that in place of his driver’s license. So, we returned home (in a panic, hoping we were right that the passport was there!). It was and we came back to the police officer, who then informed us that our tag was overdue by 2 weeks!
Now this is an interesting tag to obtain. It involves an annual vehicle inspection of the most unusual kind. Depending on the day, it can be an extremely lengthy, expensive and curious process. Or, you could just fly through it. For instance, last year, we had to return for an additional inspection because we did not have a plastic cover over the light on our rear license plate. Joel and his buddy went to the convenience store, bought a clear plastic bottle of water, cut the bottom out and super glued it over the lightbulb and then passed inspection. Meanwhile, friends of ours went with terrible brakes and passed unscathed. So, this little tag is a measure of one’s fortitude and valor and we kind of dread the annual inspection.
No worries, though. We have survived every year before. We can get that little tag!
Not until, of course, we pay for our ticket. So, we asked the officer about continuing on down the mountain, because we really wanted to get to church this Sunday. It was the “grand opening” of our new location and we were expected to be there. The officer informed us that we can be stopped again and again today and every officer is able to write us another ticket, piling up first offense, second offense, third offense, all in one day. And in corrupt situations, officers are able to call each other and put a lookout for you so that we can provide lunch (or college tuition) for the whole gang! So, we debated for awhile, but really felt like we needed to be there this morning and we could still stop by the house before the normal checkpoint and get the license, eliminating one potential infraction.
We were second-guessing our decision as we continued on for about 60 seconds when we heard a loud “BANG” coming from the front of the car. We looked at each other with wide eyes. “BANG!” It happened again. And again about 4 times. Joel pulled over. The brakes were smoking hot. (And this was before we hit the mountain. We knew the downward twists and turns of the mountain road would demand good brakes and if we can’t even get out of town, we’ve got problems!) Suddenly, getting our car to pass inspection went from a few MacGyver tricks at the convenience store to one that would involve tools, grease, and new Russian car parts bussed in from San José.
I’ve decided that the most dangerous day to drive one’s car is the day after it has been to the mechanic.
With the hood up and everyone in the neighborhood thoroughly entertained by this spectacle, we decided our day was over and headed back to our friends’ house, again, and announced that we would be staying for, well, a few more days.