Thursday, September 4, 2014

What Did The Cop Say.....A Run In With The Law.......

On our way home from the gym today we came upon a police checkpoint not far from our house. The police had both lanes of traffic stopped to check drivers licenses and other pertinent information.  Panama allows foreigners to move here and live as tourists for six months, but after only three months it becomes illegal to drive without a local license. So the police have recently been cracking down on those folks living as perpetual tourists and driving on licenses illegal in Panama.

Clyde was driving our car as we pulled up to the police officer today.

"Buenos dias senor," Clyde said to the officer as he handed him his drivers license and cedula (local identification card).

"Buenos," the officer said back.  Then he asked, "adonde va?".....or where are you going?
Clyde said, "a mi casa alli,"  to my house over there.

The office had his cell phone in hand and typed something into it quickly, then looked back up at Clyde and said, "tiene cinco boletos,".....translated as, "you have five tickets."

Clyde said, "QUE,".....WHAT???

The policeman looked back down at his phone, looked up at us again and repeated the same phrase.  Then he smiled and started to laugh as he walked away from our car. 
That sinking feeling in our stomachs went away as we laughed along with the police officer.  Clyde told the cop to have a nice day in Spanish and off we went. 

Just A Typical Day Living In Panama......Police Checkpoints!
Clyde and I legally live in Panama as "residents" as we hold a "pensionado visa".  The process to obtain this visa was long and involved a lawyer, thousands of dollars and a few headaches along the way. But once secured it's valid indefinitely and allows us to live here for as long as we choose.  In order to obtain this visa we had to prove we had a monthly income either from social security or a private pension, which is what Clyde has from the Fire Department. And despite having to show our marriage license we are not legally married by Panama standards, yet Clyde is responsible for me since I'm living off of his pension.

And let me say a few words about the police here in Panama since everyone thinks they're all out for a fast bribe.  We discussed this with a close Panamanian friend of ours who happens to be married to a policeman.  She said police are not allowed to take bribes and when offered one they will usually issue a citation for the bribe to the patron.  Now that's not to say that all cops are honest and doing their jobs ethically, but most we find are. We have heard of gringo's offering bribes to police and also heard of some officers asking for one. But for the most part we find police officers to be honest, reasonable and just out doing their jobs in a customary manner. Many are willing to chat, offer advice or even make a quick attempt at a joke to brighten both their day and the day of whoever they encounter here in Panama.......along the gringo trail.

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