Thursday, June 23, 2005

Fournos, Dunkeld

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * *
Babe Count: * * * 1/2

I've ordered my chicken crispy. It's the half chicken with a side salad. The side salad is much more generous than before. And the chicken is crispy. Hmmmm.

And I'm still shaking a little bit.

Why'm I shaking? Cos I'm now officially an honest to goodness Citizen of Gauteng (the province or state in which I live).

I was on the phone to Jade, Eran's babe, making arrangements to pick up some headshots of myself that Eran took. I need them to send to my agent, and to voicebank. I had just concluded a successful job interview, and was driving towards Dunkeld. Up Corlett Drive. Turned right into Oxford. Waiting at the red traffic light to turn right into Bompas Road. I phone Jade at the red light.

"If you can come round on the weekend, Eran will be home, and he'll know where to find the disc," Jade says.

"That's cool," I say. And I notice someone knocking on my window. He's got a gun. "Oh shit," I say to Jade, "hang on!" And by mistake, and in my confusion, I terminate the call.

The traffic cop motions me to pull over in a driveway in Bompas. I do so. He comes to my window. "Do you KNOW what you did wrong?" he asks. I notice instantly that there's no name tag in sight. My usual practice in a situation like this would be to be as charming as possible, and talk my way out of it.

"Yes officer," I say. "I want to apologise. I was talking on my cellphone."

"How much you think this fine is?" he asks. He shows me an unblemished book of fines. His pen is ready. "It is five hundred rand," he says.

I step out of the car. "Oh man, officer," I say. "Yeow. Is it possible for you to find it in your heart to forgive me?"

He looks at me. Sideways. "Get back in the car." I do. He goes round to the passenger side. Indicates I should roll down the window. I do. "You know how much the fine is?" he asks again. "Five hundred."

"Is it possible to make it a smaller fine?" I ask.

"How much?" he asks.

"Uhm..." I'm wondering what banknotes I've got in my wallet. If I say fifty rand, and I've only got a hundred buck note, I'm sure as heck not getting change from this chump. Think Roy, think. Okay... I broke a hundred last night. I say, "Would a fifty rand fine be acceptable to you?"

He smiles, pretends to think about it a bit, looks at my li'l red convertible, smiles more broadly. Says, "Fifty rand is acceptable."

"How do I do this, officer?" I've got the note out. He's holding my driver's licence in his right hand. "I've never done this before."

"Fold it small!" he says. "Keep your hand down. I take it when I give you this." He waves the driver's licence.

I fold the fifty in half, and half again. I scoop up a discarded pamphlet from my floor, and hold the note under that. I hand it to him. He gives me the licence, and takes the money. I can't even see his hand move into his pocket. He's slick at this. A very smooth operator.

"Do you promise never to do this again?"

"Officer," I say, "I would be lying if I made that promise. But I can promise I'll TRY not to get caught again."

He smiles. Waves me off.

"Sala gahle," I say in Zulu. (Stay well.)

When I get to Fournos, I realise that this traffic officer, with his gun, and his irrevocable authority, and his absent name tag, is exactly the same as a mugger or a hijacker. He has exactly the same power apparatus behind him... the threat of violence, the power of surprise, the threat of hazy fantasy consequences, the gun. I got mugged, in essence. And every South African who pays a bribe has been mugged in the same way.

When I chat to M about it, she's kinda happy about the fact that I got away with paying just fifty bucks instead of five hundred. I say to her, "Okay... but think about this... what happens if I were a girl in a car on my own, and this WASN'T a crowded intersection but rather the side of the road somewhere. What if the officer solicited a blow job instead of fifty bucks. That's rape. Isn't it?"

Ah fuck it. I'll just eat my chicken and my salad. And I'll think about being a nine-to-sixer for the next while working as a copywriter at an online gaming empire. And I think I'll order a slice of chocolate mousse cake with a decaff cappuccino when I finish my lunch. It's off to gym after anyway.

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