I’m driving down Green Path and cops try to hit me up for a bribe. “We’d like to help. You help us.” Just a security check but they ask for my drivers license and etceteras. Which is illegal, but whatevs. My Revenue License was 6 days expired, and dudes are grinning like Christmas Day. Security checks are for security, not traffic – as the Supreme Court ruled. But the way the dudes are grinning I’m starting to think this is neither security nor traffic. The cops I meet outstation are actually helpful, but the ones in Colombo are just mendacious. So these guys want a bribe, and I’ve got 100 Rupees in my pocket.
Hundred used to be a bribe pretty recently, shit, I used to ride the bus with 100 Rupees in my pocket and still have enough for a bite and the ride back. First class. Nowadays 100 bucks don’t buy you a bath packet, let alone some customer service from Sri Lanka’s finest. I’m just tired, too tired to even try my crappy Sinhala. But I get it. So I’m like, ‘dudes, there’s an HSBC round the corner, let me just pop around. Unless you take credit.’ They don’t do plastic and they’re shrugging like bird in the hand, bird in the hand. But, you know, Sam I Am, there’s very little I can do about the amount of cash on hand. I’m not particular inclined to budge, cause I can’t. They’ve got my papers, and I’ve got not money. Being fucked is often a good negotiating position in that you’re at least confident of your options. So I’m standing there.
The cops give me my license and ID back and I get in the car, telling them I’ll just pop around the corner. And this, my friends, is a moral conundrum. I think I have an honest face or just register as a foreign particle. Either way, cops usually give me quite a bit of lean. The last time I was in jail they gave me a chair outside the cell and let me read a book. I got copped in Matara and they just wrote me a ticket and told me to mail it in, letting me keep my license. I’m driving round the corner, alone, and I could just turn left and carry on. I can also turn right and get money to bribe the cops. Bribery is wrong, but then there’s the small matter of honor among thieves.
So I call someone sketchy and ask the going rate for bribes. ‘No more than 500 machang’. So it is, so it is. Get some cash out the bank feeling like an ass. Come back and cop is a bit surpra but gets in the backseat. Hand him the money with my license as I was told. Feels a bit awkward with him in the backseat, so I take my license back. Dude pats me on the shoulder and says thank you. WTF. I don’t know what’s going on anymore. It’s wrong to bribe cops, but it’s also important to keep your word. I’m also thirsty like Tantalus. Got to get some fruit juice or something.