|Give me your money.|
Police officers can be intimidating. Especially when they're pissed at you and they speak a different language. Yes, I know what you're thinking....I tend to attract pissed off people, but this time I was in a BAD SITUATION.
HERE'S THE STORY:
ME: Driving freely into Austria headed for the toll booth. I'm a couple of miles across the border and I have the music blaring, windows down - LIFE IS GOOD.
POLICE: Sitting along side the autobahn. They flash some sort of lighted paddle sign in my general direction.
ME: Shysa, was that for me? Was I speeding? (staring out the rear view window, turning radio down and rolling up the window)
POLICE: Slowly pulls onto the autobahn and starts following me. Gradually changes lanes and catches up to my car. When they were even with my drivers window, an officer (there are 2 of them) pulledout a HAND HELD PADDLE (it looked like a ping-pong paddle with flashing lights. It reads "HALT").
ME: CONFUSED. Do they want me to HALT so they can get by? Or do they want me to pull over?
POLICE: They speeds past my car and are now driving in front of me.
ME: Awesome, they want someone else
POLICE: Suddenly braking, and now there is a pissed-off hand gesture out the passenger window (obviously aimed at me) to pull off the autobahn and onto a ramp.
ME: What? What is going on? Do I get off here? (In America, cops pull up BEHIND you and turn on their lights.) Shysa, what do I do? I make a flash decision to cooperate and pull off the autobahn into a residential area.
POLICE: Driving erratically in front of me, they finally stop and two officers get out of their car. One looks perplexed and the other looks like he wants to RIP MY HEAD OFF. (yes, they had their hands on their weapons). They both walk cautiously to my car and flank each side.
ME: OMG, this is like the KGB. I'm going to get abducted and held for ransom. This is it, I should have never wandered into Austria alone. (quietly hyperventilating).
POLICE: "Blah-blah-blah in German" . When they realize I only speak English, they get even more pissed. "Where is your sticker to enter Austria? Why don't you have a sticker? Why didnt' you pull over immediately, we told you to pull over and you ignored us! Didn't you see the sign? Where is your international drivers license?"
ME: "Oh, I'm sorry - I didn't know". I was looking for the toll booth, I didn't see where I was supposed to buy a sticker. I saw a sign that indicated a toll, but I couldn't read it the sign so I figured it was just up ahead. I really didn't know - I'm so sorry.
POLICE: - INSERT 'MAJOR ASS CHEWING' HERE-......and then one officer says, "You owe 150 euros ($225), and YOU WILL PAY NOW.
ME: OMG, I'm screwed. I'm being HUSTLED and there is nothing I can do about it. They didn't have to charge me, but I was the isolated tourist that didn't know how to read the foreign instructions and was getting hosed.
Being stuck - I politely handed them all of my money to AVOID A BEAT DOWN, and he gave me a 24-hour pass to stay in the country.
I drove away in shock. I was in shock for what had just happened, and two - for what could have happened. Stupid, stupid, stupid. That will never happen again.
MORAL OF THE STORY:
- Research the entry fees or sticker requirement before you drive into a foreign country
- Always be sure you have an international license (I had mine -thank god, could you imagine how much that would have been? They probably would have impounded my rental car)
- Carry plenty of cash
- If you see the Polizie paddle, pull over immediately to avoid pissing them off. Apparently the task of 'pulling over cars' is not their thing.