(PICTURE: My first encounter with the police about a month ago in Da Nang)
Technically if you drive a motorbike out here you're supposed to have a Vietnamese driver's license. But come on, nobody does that. It doesn't really matter unless you get pulled over by the cops...which I've been told happens a lot to foreigners. However, even in those cases you just need to slip the cop some cash and be on your way. Ironically the other day while I was with Huyen I asked why some cops had just pulled over a few drivers. She told me that they had driven through a red and were going to get a ticket. Driving through red lights is something people do here. It's second nature to them. Literally you can wait at any traffic light and count the seconds after a light turns red that cars/buses/bikes still go through the intersection. On average I'd say it's "Three Mississippi." Although, I once actually counted to "5 Mississippi" and drivers were still shooting through the red. Huyen commented to me that she got a ticket last year for going through a red and I replied, "I'm not worried about that happening to me since I always follow the law."
Of course one of the rules in life is if you say something the opposite will soon happen. And of course, that happened yesterday morning. I was driving to Language Link at 7AM when I made a right on a red light. Like in NYC, apparently it's illegal. In a case of perfect timing, a cop was standing ten feet away in the street. He blew his whistle at me and waved his night stick at my face signaling for me to pull over. He started ranting at me in angry Vietnamese and all I could think was, "How much am I gonna have to pay this guy?" (For those LA friends, this is similar to our trip to Mexico when we had to pay off the cop because I ran over the curb with our RV). Anyway, I don't know what struck me but I had a moment of pure inspiration. I looked at the cop, opened my eyes wide and made the worst grimace I could possibly make. I grunted out, "My stomach. My stomach" and winced like I was about to poop my pants. The cop just looked at me and began yelling even more and making motions with his stick. Once again I winced and pointed at my stomach. This time I added, "I teacher. My stomach. School. There (I pointed down the street). I teacher. My stomach. Ughhhh." I gave one more painful look at the cop and then he miraculously waved me off. Yeah, I got off free! That's right, my luck is turning!!!
Now I know some of you are saying to yourself, "I didn't know you were such a good actor, Ben." Well, don't be so shocked. I am the same person who was once called in to an audition after Steven Spielberg himself saw me in my friend Sam's short film. For those of you not familiar with this story I'll give you the ending: I blew the audition. Yeah, I'm basically only good at acting like I've got diarrhea*.
* The truth is, if you read my previous blog, I was only half acting.