Now that The Cat Is Halfway Out of the Bag, I can tell you a story like this one:
Not too long ago, on a shockingly cold afternoon, I was standing on a downtown sidewalk here in Unicorn City with the two homeless people that I adopted. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a police car pulled in front of us and two cops jumped out and made a beeline right for us.
The older guy with a proper police jacket on, showing the rank of whatever two bars means, started talking to the “kids”. The younger guy however was focused on me from even before he had gotten out of the vehicle. Immediately he started asking me for my identification.
Now before I tell you the rest of what happened, I have to first briefly tell you what my objectives are in relating this story to you. The first is that quite honestly I love my life here in Romania and I don’t care who knows it. I’m always having adventures here. My secret name for Romania is the Land of Oz, as in the Wizard of Oz, on account of all the WTF but ultimately enjoyable shit that goes on in this country.
The second objective today, however, is that I’ve come to the conclusion that a democracy is pretty much useless if you don’t ever take it off the shelf and exercise your rights once in a while.
So I’m also working on a project called Citizen Zero, which I will get into more detail about at some time in the future. Suffice it to say, however, that exercising one’s democratic rights is at the heart of it and greatly informs what happened that day that the cop ran up on me.
The young cop whips out his official notebook and starts blustering at me to produce some ID. I tell him the truth, which is I have no ID on me at all. He starts getting in my face about how I need some ID and I tell him too bad, so sad you can talk as much as you want but it’s not going to change the fact that I don’t have any with me. Boohoo, cry me a river already!
And anyway, what’s all this for? I’m just standing on a public sidewalk in the daytime doing absolutely nothing but hanging out and talking with my kids. So he then starts telling me it’s just apparently mandatory that he “get to know” me, know who I am. So then of course told him, “Oh no problem” and I immediately started talking about how I’m an American and I live here and I make films and I write books and here’s my website. blah, blah.
He kept asking me for my date of birth and all this other statistical shit like my ID number (which of course I have zero need to memorize) and I told him flat out no. Not gonna happen. If he supposedly wants to get to know me, get to know me as person, not some names and numbers on a paper. Let’s share our feelings about the situation and get to know one another as brothers.
But this cop was just continuing to get all tense and stressed out when out of the pure blue sky of coincidence, the boss man at the publishing house that launched my super awesome book walks by. He could see something weird was going on and that this cop was interrogating me like a motherfucker and so he came over to help me out.
I tell him, “Hey this cop here wants to know who I am,” so he nods and immediately turns around and starts telling this cop in perfect Romanian all of the shit I’ve done here and who I am. Watching that cop’s face was flipping hilarious because he thought he was coming up on three homeless people and bam out of nowhere here’s Michael Jackson in his face. Triple LOL!
So the cop then relaxes and realizes he’s way deep into WTF territory and so he lets down his guard, lights up a smoke and starts talking to me. I asked him what his name was and he told me and then he starts telling me all about the little town where he grew up and some villages he used to work at and what his family is doing.
Then he starts telling me all about the barfa about what it’s like working for the police, and what kind of cases they deal with, how many drunken dipshits they’ve ever had to handle and all kinds of gossip about the bosses.
He told me the most demoralizing thing about being a police officer is that even when you do your job right and you arrest the right guy for the crime and everything’s shipshape and legal, the justice system is corrupt as fuck. So criminals rarely ever have to pay for the shit that they do so what’s the point of even arresting them?
Even when you’re not rich, everything about Romanian courts is secretive as hell. Everything is done behind closed doors and nobody has a fucking clue what anyone is doing. It’s practically impossible to get court documents and there are very rarely transcripts. It’s just a closed room with a bunch of people and the lawyers and judges are quite often shady as hell. But at the moment there’s nothing that either I or this cop or anyone else can do but raise awareness of the situation.
So I basically interviewed the guy and he relaxed and was laughing as he told me a hilarious story about a trip he took to Budapest where some magyars were fucking with him and then everything was fine and he ended up hanging out with me for a good 30 minutes. Unfortunately, his police jacket was far too thinly insulated and he got quite cold standing on the street there with me. I could see him visibly shaking so I shook his hand and let him get on his way. And a moment later he got back in his car and they pulled away.
I never showed any ID or gave him biographical information about me and yet “miraculously” everything turned out not just all right but unequivocally positive. It was really good to get that firsthand perspective from a person who has an interesting position in society. It was also quite good that he in turn got to see what a pleasant encounter between the police and the public can go like. It’s sooo much better that way.
I think so :)