Last Saturday, I got flagged down by a group of MMDA traffic enforcers on EDSA for using the yellow lane. Guilty as charged. I was rushing and I couldn’t resist swerving to the right side of the road. My bad.
Now, I’m quite used to dealing with traffic marshals. If you drive in Metro Manila, there’s almost no way you can avoid them. And I’m proud to say I have never bribed a single traffic officer. I also don’t have a “media ID” hanging on the rearview mirror. When I’m signaled to stop, I pull over and surrender my license—no questions asked (unless I’m 100% sure the violation I’m being cited for is a spurious one, in which case I will firmly but respectfully protest).
On Saturday, I did what I had always done: no arguing, no begging, no weaseling out of the ticket. I actually even smile in situations like this. I smother apprehending officers with politeness, which never fails to unsettle them. There are two possible reasons why this makes them feel a bit uneasy. First is that they’re not used to kindness. They’re accustomed to being belittled and talked down to. I, on the other hand, make them feel like they’re the boss and that they’re doing their country a lot of good. Second is that they’re probably thinking: “Who could this person be? Why is he so willingly giving up his license like he could easily get it back? Is he connected? Can he get me fired?”
So they launch THE small talk. They ask you where you’re going. They ask you where you work. This, I think, is so they can proceed with total certainty that they’re not issuing a ticket to a senator’s chief of staff or a journalist who can report them if they try anything funny. I honestly can’t remember meeting an apprehending officer who didn’t chat me up about stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with my motoring infraction. In my encounter the other day, the enforcer even took note of my birthdate: “Sir, mukha kang bata. Mas bata ako sa ’yo nang pitong taon pero mukhang mas matanda ako sa ’yo.” (“Sir, you look young. I’m younger by seven years but I look older than you do.”) It’s chitchat like this that tells me without a doubt that the officer wants something other than penalize me with a ticket.
The only discussion that needs to happen is the one in which the officer is explaining the nature of the violation, or in which the driver is contesting the ticket
I just gave him a wry smile and made it plainly obvious that I was in a hurry. He then wrote me the ticket and that was it.
At other times—and this is based entirely on experience—the conversation would have likely led to these lines:
“Sir, medyo mahirap po puntahan yung pagkukunan ng license n’yo. Alam n’yo ba puntahan ’yung city hall?” (“Sir, it’s a little difficult to go to the place where you need to redeem your license. Do you know how to go to the city hall?”)
“Sir, may seminar pong kasama ang penalty. Baka maabala po kayo.” (“Sir, the penalty comes with a seminar. You might get inconvenienced.”)
But isn’t that the whole point of a penalty? To inconvenience the offender so that he or she will think twice before committing the same mistake?
To be fair, last Saturday’s MMDA enforcer didn’t take my license. He just gave me a ticket and gave me instructions on paying the fine through Metrobank.
Still, traffic officers shouldn’t engage motorists in inconsequential conversation when they’re issuing the latter a violation ticket. The only discussion that needs to happen is the one in which the officer is explaining the nature of the violation, or in which the driver is contesting the ticket. Outside of these, the ticket should be written as quickly as possible. Corruption takes place when either party gets a chance to propose an illicit deal. It’s also better for the traffic flow if tickets are issued right away.
Cut the small talk. We’re not friends and I’m running late for my appointment.