Police Encounter

We were driving along a beach road with a couple of friends when a cop stopped us. I was sitting in the back, but being the only Darija speaker in the car, I lowered my window, ready to translate. “You went up a one-way street,” the policeman said. “License and registration.”

I apologized and explained we had not seen the sign. (Later, we drove by again and saw that it was partially covered by shrub.)

“I have to write you up. The ticket’s going to be 400 dirhams.”

Upon hearing my translation of what the cop said, my husband, clearly unaware of how these things are supposed to be handled, immediately whipped out the money from his wallet. (You are supposed to start by saying you’re very sorry, you were distracted, and yes you made a big mistake; you’re busy, so you don’t have time to deal with the paperwork; how you wish you could come to an understanding… and then you would bargain the cop down to about 1/3 of the ticket price–about 130 dirhams in this case. My husband had skipped all these steps, and was ready to hand the entire amount over. )

The cop, a tall and lanky fellow with a thin mustache, got very nervous, and walked away. He went to the intersection and directed traffic for a few minutes, before coming back.

“So,” he asked, “what are you all doing here? Are you tourists?”

“No, sir,” I said. “I’m here for research. But my friends are tourists.”

As soon as he heard the word “research,” he looked scared. He handed Alex his money back. “We don’t want to give tourists a bad image of the country. Here. Just pay attention next time.”

I had no idea that “research” was such a red flag for cops.

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