Welcome Home. And Can I See Your Driver’s License?

South Africa is like a jealous lover, making sure I give it my full attention instead of some other country I might take a fancy to.

Because how else would you explain that every time I come home from an absolutely stunning vacation, ready to gush about it on my blog, South Africa throws a story my way that I can’t refuse, immediately diverting  my attention back to my typical Joburg Expat fare? Last time it was my trouble with Telkom and them shutting down my internet for a week right after we returned from Singapore. And this time… Yes, you guessed it – another traffic cop story!

Nothing brings you back to the floor of reality after returning from Botswana and your heart full of love for such a magical place as fast as a South-African roadblock. After driving about 20 meters out of the airport parking garage. There is no way you could have gotten your speed up above a crawl or missed a stop sign yet, so you know it is another blatant effort to extort a bribe from unsuspecting tourists who don’t know any better. I actually wonder what would happen if you didn’t actually stop when they wave you over. Just drive on. Would they follow you? And give up their prime location to extort money from gullible visitors? I’m tempted to find out some day.

But of course we are good obedient Germans and so pulled over where we were told. The guy was all blustery, imitating what he might  have thought was a threatening American sheriff stance. Noisette handed him his Kansas license. Not the international one, mind you, because that one is expired. And it’s not needed anyway, as I’ve told you plenty of times before. But sure enough, he wanted the international license. Except he didn’t actually know what an international license looks like. He studied the Kansas license for a while, then said in the sternest tone he could muster: “Is this an international license?”

I suppose at that point we could have said “yes” and driven on. But we were not at the top of our game quite yet, what with our minds still on a deck overlooking the Okavango Delta watching an elephant splash past us, so Noisette truthfully answered with “no” and went on to explain that the international license was not needed. As coached by me, I might add.

“Ah, but then you need a letter from your embassy or something,” the cop countered.

Uncle Sam holding letter for South African traffic police

You’ve got to give it to them. They are never at a loss to come up with a new story. I’ve been asked for pretty much everything under the sun, including “some coffee” but a letter from the embassy is a first. By that point I had had enough and reached into the glove compartment to pull out the copy of the South African National Road Traffic Act, highlighting the section pertaining to foreign licenses, which I had put in both our cars as part of my Plan B for just such an event as this one.

And guess what? We didn’t even have to read it to him. It was the act of pulling out a document and holding it under his nose that did it. I could have used my grocery list for all I know. He could sense that we weren’t going to be cowed and knew our rights.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” he said, breaking out into a huge grin. “I told you you needed a letter from the embassy, and here you’ve got it!”

There you go. If you’re too lazy to copy the South African National Road Traffic Act, just sit down and craft a fancy letter from your embassy allowing you to drive with your foreign license.

Except next time they’ll probably ask me for a condom.

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