I hit two cops on a motorcycle with our V6 Toyota Tundra on Monday morning just as the sun rose turning the sky magenta. Kofy, the fearless German Shepherd now always by my side, bolted upright from his usual fetal position in the passenger seat – his ears were two upside cones on amber alert. He began a low tone growl and I immediately let down the “limo-tinted” driver window, the kind everyone in Guatemala has, but only the narcos do it to their large piccups (not to be confused with pick-ups). As the window opened completely I saw the wobbling motorcycle trying to get in front of me to pull me over; the second policeman on the back of the bike waved erratically at me like a bird falling from a tree and made for the gun on his ride side. I accelerated. They turned into me just as I was turning into them because at this point I thought they were narcos or crooks trying to mug me – I just didn’t believe that two cops would be pulling me over on the same bike at 6 AM.
Seconds before they tried to get in front of me, they tried to pull me over as I was sitting at a traffic light. I heard a tap and then a hard knock on the back of my truck and then on my window. The common crime here is a thief will tap your window with the butt of his gun and then either break it or hold it to your head through the window until you open it. “I guess it’s my turn,” I thought and reached for my crook lock and handmade police baton which I carried in the back seat. Kofy was ready to pounce.
The pulling over for our extranjero or foreigner plate was common, the pulling up and knocking on my window and then getting in front of my vehicle which is about 20 times the size and weight of the motorcycle that was uncommon and reckless. When my window was completely down and they saw me, the back cop didn’t reach for his gun, but he pointed to the right and yelled at me to pull over. I nodded and said: “Si, voy a parrar a la derecha.” I’ll pull over to the right of the road I said and away from the line of traffic driving head on the lane next to me (eh, reversible lane was active of course). I pulled over, put the emergency break on, kept the window down and readied both Kofy and my weapon of choice – the crook lock. I waited, patiently, until one of them came to my window. Both the driver and backseat cop on the bike couldn’t have been older than 25 years old. The driver barely reached the window to the truck when he finally made it over.
“¡Seño, que susto nos dio!” Ma’am., you scared us so! “¡Pensabamos que era un narco y que nos iba pasar llevando!” We thought you were a narco and you were going to run us over. I released the grip on the crook lock right which I held right underneath the steering wheel. I smiled and told them that was funny because I thought the same thing of them. He laughed nervously. In fact, I wasn’t sure if they were really cops, I said to him. Oh, we are, he said to me, and you damaged our official police plates. The cop who rode the back of the motorcycle got off the bike holding his lower spine with the base of his palm and then leaned up against the wall to catch his breath.
I asked him if they were OK, did they need me to drive one of them to the hospital? The officer I was talking to yelled over to the other guy. “¿Estas bien vos? ¿Queres ir al hospital?” Are you OK, do you want to go to the hospital. He wagged his finger back as he grimaced in pain. I should take him to the hospital, I told him, I can also call my insurance right away. My impulse was to pick up the phone, but I remembered how you should never make sudden moves when cops pull you over. With your permission I’ll take my cellphone out of my glove compartment and call my insurance, I told him.
“¡No, no, no seño! ¡No hago eso!” No, no, ma’am don’t do that! I took a deep breath as Kofy stared down the cop, not a wink escaped Kofy. The cop asked me to get out of the truck and I told him that if I got out my dog was coming with me. He didn’t hear me, so Kofy and I got out and they both backed away when they saw him. “¿Ese su perro muerde?” Does your dog bite? He will if you get anywhere near me, I told him and we held our distance as Kofy growled at them. They huddled together now with us on the other side in front of the truck.
“Mire seño, la estabamos tratando de parrar por mucho tiempo, desde por lo menos un kilometro, no nos vio?” We were trying to stop you for a while, por a long while, didn’t you see us?
I told that it was impossible to see a motorcycle that low to the ground from my tall truck especially with the dark tint and the fact that it was still dark outside and they didn’t have their lights on. I told them that if I had seen them, I would immediately have pulled over. It was not my intention to violate the law in any way. I asked them if they wanted my documents. They said yes and so I went back to the truck to get our truck permit, my license a few other things that I had to explain to them about our out-of-country truck. When I returned, they barely looked at my paperwork. They were both frowning at the fallen, crooked black and yellow metal license plate of their motorcycle and the broken tail light.
“Lo siento mucho de su moto,” I’m really sorry about your bike. I will fix it since it is my fault for not seeing you and driving into you. I also hurt you, so I’m definitely going to call the insurance, make a claim and get your bike fixed. They looked at each other and shook their heads in unison as if they were dealing with a child who had no clue what she was doing. I didn’t. I just wanted to do the right thing.
And then they explained it to me: if we called the insurance, an adjustor would come out (that would probably take an hour), they’d have to file a police report at Gerona, zone 1, all the way across town and we’d have to get the motorcycle towed there, and then the motorcycle would go into the State repair yard for weeks. Not only would it take weeks to fix, but they wouldn’t get another motorcycle to do their job. They wouldn’t work for weeks while they waited for the Ministerio Publico to process their police report, certify it, get a judge to review it and then take a course of action. Then the insurance company would have to negotiate with the MP and agree on a price and where the motorcycle would get fixed and that would probably take another week. Then it would still take more time for that motorcycle to be re-assigned to them because God knows there were other cops waiting in the same boat. They would probably have to pay something for the towing. So what would they be doing during that entire process? Nothing, not working, not earning money, not anything, just waiting.
“Pues por eso seño es que es mejor que nos de los costos del daño y que alli termine.” That’s why, Ma’am, it’s better if you pay us the cost of the damages and we be done with it. But what about your injuries? Eso no es nada, seño, no se preocupe. That’s nothing, Ma’am, don’t worry. I waited silently as they continued to inspect their motorcycle for other damages. Are you sure this is what you want? I asked them. Yes, most definitely, they both said. I agreed and told them that I would pay them up to Q600 ($78.22) for a bent up license plate and a broken tail-light. They readily agreed. I would give an extra Q100 ($13.03) to help with medicine they needed and I could drive them to the hospital right now and pay for their bills there. Kofy let down his guard, sat and waited by my leg. He was bored with these humans fumbling around. No hospital they said, they were a bunch of crooks there and you came out sicker then you went in.
They looked at me waiting for their money. Oh, I said, I don’t carry that kind of money on me in case I get robbed, you know? We all laughed. Of course none of us did that kind of stupid thing. So I suggested we drive to an ATM and I take out the last of my Q600 from the machine. At this point another Chips back-up had arrived and all he was worried about was the plate. He turned it over and over pensively. He approved of the damage price I was willing to pay.
We caravanned to the cajero, the ATM machine, I pulled over and Kofy watched my back while I got my money. I paid them, thinking I probably shouldn’t ask for a receipt. The one cop who had been hit was looking very pale and nervous. I have a First-Aid kit in the back of my truck, would you like an aspirin? He nodded and I went back and got the bag. I took out two anti-inflammatory pills and two aspirins. As I was tearing one for him, the other cop said, “Deme uno a mi tambíen porque todavía estoy asustado.” Give me one as well because I’m still a bit shaken up. I didn’t question him.
For the last time as we all stood there, I made the offer again: I am happy to take you to the hospital and do all that needs to be done to do this right.
“Esto es la mejor manera, Seño, no se preocupe ya. Maneja con cuidado.” This is the best way, Ma’am, don’t worry, just drive safely.
I thanked them and told them to have a good day and better rest of week. I called Kofy and we both walked towards the truck. As we pulled away all three of them stayed in the same position as we’d left them, statuesque, as if I’d made the whole thing up.