The Mexican Breathalyzer

March 23, 2010

In Durango one night, bat-hating Tim from Indiana and I went out to dinner at a little Italian restaurant on the Avenida. Another friend who had recently escaped Mexico swore by the restaurant, but the food was so bad that Tim and I each had to drink several beers to wash the taste away, and then ordered some tequila just because we were sad and wanted to go home. 

After this we felt much better, so we left the restaurant and walked down to the big church, hoping to go inside and sober up, but the church was closed and we had no choice but to walk the three blocks to the parking lot, give twenty pesos to the old man who was napping while he was supposed to be watching our car, and start back for the hotel. 

Passing through El Centro, at the big interection near the park, Tim made an apparently illegal u-turn right in front of a motorcycle cop (it being Mexico, where traffic laws are mostly just suggestions, there was of course no sign). The cop pulled us over two blocks later.

After the usual line of Mexican traffic cop bullshit – the car registration was improper, we were in big trouble, he would have to impound the vehicle, we would have to go to jail – he asked us if we had been drinking. The answer was a definite no, but Tim acted like a dumbass and the cop didn’t believe us. So the cop curled his fingers into a tube and told Tim to blow into his hand. What the hell was this?

I started to laugh (quietly, to be sure. After all, he did have a gun). Apparently this guy’s precinct was off on their bribery quota for the year and couldn’t afford a real breathalyzer, so Tim was made after several angry gestures from the cop to blow into his hand. The cop then put his hand to his nose, smelled it, and told Tim he had been drinking and must pay “the infraction.” Tim said how much? Onehunnertbucks, came the reply.

Tim looked at me nervously and I shook my head. No way. The cop became pissed. “You must pay the infraction or go to jail,” he said. We shook our heads no, calling his bluff. “You follow,” he said, jumped on his motorcycle, and roared away.

Tim was scared shitless by now, figuring at the least we were going to spend the night in a Mexican jail and he would end up as some big hombre’s puta. I told him to shut up and stop being a baby, but six blocks later the cop pulled off on a dark side street and parked. Uh oh. Now I was scared, and figured we would either be shot or sold into white slave labor.

The cop walked back to the car. “You must now pay the infraction,” he said, but Tim bravely shook his head no. The cop tried to stare us down, then started swearing in Spanish. He spoke on his radio for several minutes, then finally gave us an angry glare and gave up. “You go now,” he said, stomped back to his motorcycle, and drove away.

Tim turned the car around and, careful to obey all traffic laws, drove back to the hotel, where we each had another beer and counted the days until we could go home.

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