Friday, July 25, 2008

Cop Stop

So yesterday was unusual. On my usual drive home from work at around 4pm, I got stopped (on a back-road even) by the cops. The asked to check my license which I happily handed over. Cop-stops have never really bothered me before cause I don't have anything to worry about. Or so I thought. Turns out my drivers license expired 2 weeks ago. Eep.

There's no warning letter, they just expect that you'll remember that 5 years later you need a renewal. Hello? I barely ever look at my drivers, mostly I am just showing it to other people. Hell, I handed it over to two airport check-in counter people in the last week and none of them noticed it either.

So this nice lady cop who is checking my license proceeds to call over a guy cop. I hop in my car (had my bag locked in the boot as a anti-hijack precaution) and try my best not to freak out about the injustice (I mean, if I'd know, I would obviously not be driving around willy-nilly without a valid license, I'm just not that sorta girl) and of course, try desperately to get my driver's license back into my clutches ... after our Mozambique experience, I remain suspect about these things. Now this man-cop is a scary looking guy and he starts telling me that it's a R600 fine. Now I must tell you here that Cops scare me. In South Africa, I don't believe we have one of those places where little kids feel safe around their local policemen. Hell, forget little kids, I don't feel safe. And it's not really about the police themselves. It's the really scary people pretending to be police and trying to get your personal details etc. There are plenty of these stories, they may be true, they may be urban legends, but it does not leave me feeling warm and cuddly when surrounded by the men in blue uniforms. And that all says nothing about the (often blatant, like when Varen got out of a ticket with a mere Litchi water) corruptness of them (and I know, I know, they earn a pittance and I firmly believe they should be paid more and it should become a respectable career choice, but it's not, okay so let's move on). And as such, I have no friggin clue if he's telling me the truth about the fine amount or just making up the number that he thinks he'd like to earn off this little oversight of mine. Sigh. It's sad when your average citizen (that's me) doesn't trust the people in authority (that'd be the cops).

I try to argue with him and he asks me some weird but innocuous questions (do I work? yes. Where do I live? [insert Vague Greater Suburb Name here]. All the while he's freaking me out more and I'm doing my best to concentrate and not give away any specific details about myself) and then asks me how much I think I should pay. R200 I guess ... I mean I'm only 2 weeks over on this and hello, how much is it gonna cost me anyways to get the damn thing renewed. So he's hum-ing and ha-ing over this and I ask if he's going to write me a fine cause I don't have any money with me. And in an instant he changes tack. Okay, he says, he'll let me off this time. Thanks very much I say, I'll look into renewing it first thing tomorrow (I mean you know all government agencies are closed by 4pm).

So sigh, I survived and I didn't have to shell-out an inordinately large sum of Rond for a mere 2 week overdue driver's license ... which I wouldn't be if someone had just thought to remind me in the first place, I mean seriously, where's the service ;)

Pahahahahahahahahahahaha. Actually I've just found the South African Government's Website detailing Driver's License whatnot and they say quite clearly: "Although the expiry date appears on your licence, a renewal notification will also be posted to you." And the lady-cop was trying to tell me it was my fault when I nicely explained that I didn't receive a notification. I mean obviously, it is partly my fault ... but as I said before, who bothers to read their driver's license on a regular basis? I mean really.

So, in light of this I have found some very useful online information regarding driver's license renewal's in Johannesburg (and I'm kindly telling all of you this because my google search on the topic was pretty useless!). Here's a list of all the Joburg Traffic Departments. FYI. a word to the wise, you can actually only renew your driver's license at these 3 departments: Midrand Licensing Department, Randburg Licensing Department and Sandton Licensing and Testing Department. And here's a really handy outline of the basic process you'll have to go thru, thanks Brannor McThife.

Anyhoo, sadly I won't be able to do a thing about it till Monday, being that it's after 8am already this morning, I doubt I could get thru their queues in a manageable time today ... plus I have a lunch date with the bunch from The Big Corporate - which I have to drive to, I can tell you, I'm freaking out a little. Varen says the chances of getting stopped again are unlikely, but the worry still woke me at 3am this morning. And I went on to have a dream where they wanted to fine me R25000 for my expired license ... but then the lady writing out the fines (she was in a weird box / stall type thing and all the admin was being handed to her by the cops actually pulling people over) lost my license, so she gave me a discounted fine of R5500 (discount? It's still a giant chunk of change, people!) So ye, it's freaking me out :)

So, could all you South African's reading now haul out your wallets or whatever and please check when your's expires :) Thanks.

The rest of the evening was decidedly quiet. And I know I'm overdue on about 4 book reviews, I'm hoping I'll find the time this weekend :)


K.M. said...

Shite, thanks for the reminder. My licence is due next month.
You know, police officers are terribly frightening in SA, I feel, and not even because of the 'fake' ones. It's exactly because of what you described...all these incongruous "where do you live?" questions etc. My friend, who was helped by a nice police officer when her car broke down late one night, was subsequently harassed by this guy for two full weeks (by telephone) until she got a man to answer the phone. The policeman never called back. We have a pretty shoddy example of law enforcement, by and large, so how can we expect to feel safe and protected by the police?

Unknown said...

You can get your renewal quickly and easily by making an appointment at Fourways SpecSavers. It takes half an hour and you don't have to brave the chaos.

Anonymous said...

Hay you, regarding kids and feeling safe around the men in blue... I read Gavin DeBecker's "Protecting the Gift", in order to allay my fears in our mad society... and the helpful hint I gleaned: the people that know the most and have the most experience regarding crime and committing them are firstly the police and secondly security guards - so if your kids find themselves in trouble teach them to look for another mother to help them rather than someone in uniform - creepy but true... always go with your gut feeling.

phillygirl said...

@dbawiw - eep, that's a scary story ... glad I didn't know about it before they stopped me! Sigh.

@lisa - I heard such conflicting stories about the optometrist story, cause I did hear you could do it there (although they have even more ridiculous opening hours from what I heard!). But i gather (may or may not be true) that a) they don't let random places issue driver's licenses since they implemented inatas (or whatever that system that screwed things up for months is called?) and b) you can get your eye test done beforehand at an optometrist but they'll prob still ask you to do it again anyway (which I saw in evidence this morning ... it didn't speed things up for any of the people who'd gone thru the trouble of doing theirs in advance). Oh well, I finally got it sorted this morn so all's well :)

@se7en - that definitely sounds like good advice ;) although I'm sure that at the age of 28 I'd probably scare off any mother I went in search of (but I'll remember to teach my kids this sage advice one day)! Sadly there was no one else around when I was stopped ... as I said it was on a back-road (bizarre!). So I guess I'm just counting myself super lucky that the cops I dealt with were safe enough :)

Janine / Being Brazen said...

When i had a California license I found out that they always expire on your birthday. I thought thats bloody mean - but I guess you wont ever forget when your license expires, will you?? Lol

Im really not a big fan of SA policemen in general. Im sure there are a few awesome ones out there, but i havent met them yet.

phillygirl said...

@brazen - does that mean it expires annually? I don't think I could go thru this that often ... the only thing that kept me going thru the whole tedious process was knowing I didn't have to do it again for the next 5 years!

And ditto on the friendly officer thing. They must be out there tho, right? right?

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