Busted by the Man

Ticket to Ride

Pulled over by the cops today on Sihanouk boulevard, for driving with my lights on.
The good news is that traffic cops are now giving reciepts for fines, making the whole process just a tad more legitimate.

I refused to pay for not having a license – there were 5 other motorcycles parked nearby that hadn’t been fined. I asked them why – ‘Oh, those belong to a company.’ So what? Doesn’t the law apply equally to all?

They tried to get two bucks for the lack of license and the light – off the books. I settled for a written reciept for $1.25. This may not sound like a lot, but $2.00 is a daily salary for many here.

I often forget to turn off my light when I park my bike at night – only to be reminded of the fact by a chorus of moto drivers and passers-by in the morning. In Cambodia, the only person who drives with lights on during the daytime is the King or a caravan of high ranking officials. (Of course, at night time in Cambodia, there are lots of motos with no lights, which nobody seems to mind about that much. It’s a constant source of accidents, and another reason to drive carefully.)

I didn’t understand why people I didn’t know would go out of their way to point out that my light was on, or why that would garner more concern than a light OFF at night. Then I realized that it was about roles and the social order. If I drive with my light on, I’m saying I’m a big shot. And disrespecting the real big shots. And in Cambodia and Asia in general, one sure way to offend someone is to ignore their status.

So anyone who flags me down pointing at my ‘pleung’(light) is really just trying to do me a favor so I can avoid both a fine and a faux pas.

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