Thursday, 1 September 2011

The copper from Glen Waverley

When I first wrote about this we were in Australia for about 8 months. It is now almost 4 years since we set foot, but I still have much to learn about the country, its people and rules. At the time of the incident described below we lived in Melbourne, just off High Street Road, one of the main arteries going into Melbourne. From High Street Rd you would turn in to Glen Tower and then turn right into Camden Court to reach our humble abode. It was in Glen Tower where we would often find a representative from the welcoming committee of the Victoria Police, patiently waiting for the unfortunate soul who might inadvertently stray into Glen Tower from High Street Rd, between the hours of 7:30am and 9:00am, weekdays. Apparently you are not allowed to do this.

Not that it really bothered us too much because by the time Christa had deposited our offspring at school and returned home it would normally be after 9am, giving her the right to do so.

Many mornings on the way to school she would see him sitting there patiently waiting to assist those who have gone astray, or depending on your point of view, waiting for his prey. This gave her a distinct advantage above the other lost souls. In the event that she concluded her child transference ceremony before the magic hour, she would already know that “he awaits”, and can then safely choose a less hazardous route back home.

It just so happened on this particular morning that I went to the office later than usual and decided to accompany my wife to witness the drop-off ritual first hand – I’ve always been one for cheap entertainment. After each member was successfully furnished with one standard school bag, jumper and hat we parted with mutual expressions of affection and farewells, after which we pointed the compass in the general direction of Glen Waverley Station and departed joyously. The conversation that ensued went something like this:

Christa: "Oh dear, nature’s calling; I think we should quickly stop at home before we go further."

Reinhardt: "Then we will have to go the long way because it’s not yet 9."

Christa: "Don’t worry, he’s not there today, let’s just shoot through quickly."

Reinhardt: "Yep ok, besides it’s only three minutes to nine so we ca…"

Reinhardt & Christa: "**********"
[Note by the Editor: Censored – not suitable for reading by general audiences]

It would be our luck that two of them were sitting there in wait, ready to welcome us. One of the officers gave me a friendly wave. At first I wanted to simply return his friendly greeting and continue on my way, but the little voice of wisdom deep inside me advised that I rather stop the car in the spot that he pointed to with his long finger. As you know, I always try to integrate a subtle life lesson or two in my writings, so here follows a little advice that you can use to approach a similar situation in the unlikely event that you find yourself about to converse with your friendly neighbourhood police officer.

There are five general approaches, each well documented, that have been employed in the past to deal with such a volatile situation, with varying levels of success. I don’t have the time to discuss each approach here in detail and more importantly, don’t necessarily want to be seen as promoting all of these strategies, but I’ll mention them. Feel free to research them at your leisure. Your options in this situation, as I see it, are as follows:

- Fight
- Flight
- Financial Incentives
- Plead and Beg
- Play the role of someone with UIS (Uninformed Immigrant Sindrome)

(Fine print: the writer cannot guarantee that any of the defensive strategies stated above are legal or in any way effective, in spite of what may be stated or implied, and recommends that the reader obtains professional advice before said strategies are employed in any way, shape or form.)

It goes without saying that each of these options have their pros and cons. The biggest negative for the first three might be that hollow, sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when the judge asks you how you plead. I therefore recommend that you steer clear of those unless absolutely necessary and rather employ either one of the last two strategies. Seeing as I had only spent about eight months in the country at that point, the last option was my obvious choice for a speedy resolution to the sticky situation that yours truly and his beloved found themselves in.

Step one: Greet him politely, ending your sentence with “sir”. This should have the effect of making him feel important and he should be more inclined to listen. Avoid words like “idiot”, “monkey”, “swine”, “vermin” or “stupid rules”. Don’t say anything about how nice the day is because it will just make you look more guilty – by this time he will know that you can describe your day in many ways, but “nice” is not one of them.

Step two: Don’t start explaining why you are not guilty. The urge will be strong; expect it and resist. What may sound to you like a perfectly valid excuse will sound to him more like verbal diarrhea. This must be avoided. Rather wait patiently and respectfully for him to start talking. Round about now will also be a good time for you to assume that facial expression you last used when the good Reverend caught you in his apricot tree enthusiastically appropriating his harvest.

Step three: Answer each question with the innocence to match you face. Keep it short and to the point (see step 2). It is acceptable in this situation to answer his questions with a counter-question. For example, "Road sign? NO! Really? Aaahhh, THAT one that is partially hidden?”, or “Really?? Not yet 9 o’ clock? That CAN’T be!". For better effect you can, with an expression of total surprise and scepticism, look at the watch on the dashboard and tap it with your fingernail like the pilots in the movies always do shortly after they reached cruising altitude over the Atlantic, and then realised the engines had stopped. Whatever you do, don’t apologise! This is a blatant acceptance of guilt, precisely what you don’t want! However, it can be effective to use the “sorry officer” line should you decide to revert to the “Plead and Beg” strategy. If you play your cards right you might, like me, get away with a stern "Heed my warning, next time I won't be so lenient!".

Step four: Here you are expected to express your gratitude, and add something like “won’t ever happen again, sir”. Remember the “sir” (see step 1), but don’t slap it on too lavishly. Yes, you will be elated, but know when to take your winnings and exit the scene before Sunshine decides to change his mind. Avoid a wheel spin.

If you follow these four simple steps you should be able to diffuse any prickly situation of a similar nature with your honour intact and hopefully without a ticket. And remember, if the sign says 9:00, it is 9:00 and not 8:57.

Well my dear friends, this is where I will stop. In my next blog I hope to share my thoughts regarding the analysis of post-modernist philosophies of culture in society within the context of capitalistic reform, as seen from the immigrant’s point of view. Until then, may you have success to the point of boredom!

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