Friday, November 9, 2007

A Slight Run-In With The Cops

Yesterday evening my wife and I decided to eat Mexican with my sister and her husband. Well it wasn’t really Mexican as this is China and they don’t really do Mexican here. It was a tapas place which is more Spanish than Mexican but for whatever reason they do serve some Mexican style dishes - fajitas, burritos, tacos and the like. Although with your quesadilla you get the choices of french fries or potato wedges, which is kind of weird, but good at the same time.

Whatever you want to call that, it was good and just what I was craving. It was also happy hour which meant that I got a refill on my Coke for free. Yeah, that’s right normally you only get one glass of Coke and that’s it. If you want to get topped off you have to pay for it. Welcome to basically anywhere in the world but America.

After filling our bellies we decided to head home. There are two main gates into the schools living quarters. Both are manned by security guards and both have those little mechanical arms designed to keep cars out unless given entry. Though I have seen many of the Chinese workers get stopped and have to show their ID or even sometimes open their bags, I have always been given a pass. I don’t know if this is because I look really trust worthy, or if all white people get a free pass, or if the guards realize they’ll never be able to communicate with me and just don’t bother. Whatever the reason, I have never been stopped.

Until last night.

We pulled up to the front cab, paid the driver and got out. We could have drove on in with the taxi but it is cheaper to pay at the gate, Lord knows I need the exercise, and it is also helpful to others who may be waiting outside the gate to catch a taxi. As we walked towards the gate I didn’t notice anything different about the guards but as we started to pass, we were stopped. It was then I noticed that it wasn’t a guard stopping me, but a policeman.

In broken English he asked for our passports. We were all a little confused and asked what was going on. He again asked for our passports and then said something in Chinese that I didn’t understand. We indicated that we didn’t have our passports on us, and he told us to go to one of the offices in the complex, where someone spoke better English.

At this point all of the horror stories of Americans in foreign countries began running through my head. I could picture myself being taken to some dingy, dirty jail cell somewhere in the bowels of the city never to be heard from again.

We walked to the office and were met by half a dozen officers, some of which were seated at a row of tables looking very formal and menacing. They too asked for our passports and we again explained they were in our rooms. They said we could go get them but first asked us a series of questions involving our names and addresses and such likes. We then went to our rooms and got our passports and returned. We were then asked a few more questions about what we were doing in Shanghai and let go.

All in all it was a pretty easy experience, and certainly the cops are well within their rights to ask for our identification. It even makes sense that they would bring a crew to check passports at a living complex where plenty of foreigners live.

Still, it was a rather frightening experience at first as my imagination took me overboard into all the bad movies I’ve seen over the years.

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