Location: Puente Santa Anita, Lima, Peru.
Friday, 6:40am on an already sweltering summer morning.
“Documentos, documentos” barked the giant Policeman.Armed for Guerilla Warfare & with no evident sense of humour, this was not a chap that one would wish to upset!
I’d left the house early, I’d got to the bus stop on time, the traffic was the usual unpredictable chaos, so now I was teetering on the edge of being late.I filed down the slow moving line of people, head down, hoping that I wouldn’t get picked out in this random ID check (it would be a random ID check in my case too!) Head down & hoping that despite being at least a foot taller than the average Peruvian, I wouldn’t stand out too much & the Policia would let me slip past. No such luck!
The problem was that I’d (foolishly/naively) didn’t have any ID.All I had was my UK Driving License & my BFH.
Sadly corruption is present (rife) in the law & although there may have been a chance that I could have “bought” my way out of this tricky situation, with only 50 Centavos in my pocket (10p in old money), it wasn’t a pantomime that I was thinking of entering.Carrying ID is mandatory & I wasn’t carrying any.
“Documentos, documentos” he shouted at me.
I presented my driving license.
This angered him somewhat “What is THIS”
I made up an excuse that my ID had been stolen, just the night before.
Lying has never been a forte of mine & with the sun rising, my nose growing & sweating like a proverbial pig. I was under pressure.
“What are you doing here?”
With no ID on me, legally I shouldn’t have been working, so I lied again “Tourism” I said, with my intonation in all the wrong places, sounding like I was asking a question.
“Tourism? Here?” Santa Anita was not a place where tourists go, as there is nothing touristic to see. A long way from the leafy cosmopolitan parks & avenues of Miraflores & a zillion miles from Machu Picchu, or on the moon.
In fact if I’d said I was an astronaut on my way to the moon it may have been more believable!
Why would a tourist be wearing a shirt & tie, carrying a briefcase full of text books here? (He’d already checked my bag & sky rockets).
Lady luck was shining down on me, as just then a scuffle broke out. Somebody else had forgotten their ID, but they weren’t taking too kindly to the fact that they were being delayed to work. My Policeman gave me the hard word “Never, EVER forget your ID again” & he went off to assist his colleague (to rough up a punter!)
I ran the remaining 6 blocks to work & spent my class daydreaming about “Operation Escape from Lima!”
(At this point I should explain that both my wife & mother-in-law are both called Lina, so if I mistype Lima as Lina at any point, and if my eyes/spell-check does not pick up on it, it is purely unintentional & not a Freudian slip!)
I’d been back in Lima for 3 months; the city had changed since I last lived here 10 years ago.Bigger, badder, busier & booming!
Whilst most of the World is in a recession, Peru had been steadily growing over the last 5 years & as a result, credit is more freely available. Which means more cars & more Taxistas! Taxis make up around half of the traffic on the roads, creating a snarled-up vicious circle.More traffic=more time to get anywhere=more people taking a taxi=more traffic!