Sunday, August 13, 2006

Stupidity Tax

When we first came to Bucharest I hardly ever saw police cars or police officers. We would discuss how if they would give out more tickets then people wouldn't be as likely to speed, run red lights, or park on the sidewalks. In the last three or four months there have been several construction projects in our Sector. They have put in parking and blocked the sidewalks to prevent parking. We have also noticed quite a few officers on foot giving parking tickets and in patrol cars. We kept mentioning that this was all wonderful!

When I was riding the bus on Friday this gentleman got on at a stop and stepped up next to me and asked something. Well everyone around me starting either getting out their ticket or their abonament card, which lets you ride for one month. I realized what he was doing and quickly pulled out my card and he said, "bine", which means "good". My first police interaction went well and without me having to attempt to speak!

Now to the "stupidity tax"... when Stephen and I first starting handling our bills on the computer, the program asked you to categorize all expenses so you can track where your money is going. This was great until I had a library fine and he had a speeding ticket! There didn't seem to be a pre-programmed category for these so we came up with the stupidity tax. This is a tax you pay when you blatantly refuse to recognize authority.

On the drive home from church today, Stephen suddenly braked hard and stopped in the middle of the road. When I looked up a police officer was flagging us over to the side of the road. Through broken English and Romanian, Steve figured out that he had been speeding and was getting a ticket. He was doing the equivalent of 45 mph in a 30 mph zone. The fine was about $15 USD. You have 48 hours to go to any bank with the ticket to pay it. We spent the rest of the ride home trying to figure out which of the signs are the speed limit signs. Usually the traffic is so bad that speeding isn't a problem.

On a completely different note: Our Pastor Shane went to Iraq last week with two other men from our church to visit missionaries. They are members of our church here and their son is Maria's Sunday School teacher. When they went through the border control into Iraq they were requested to go into the headquarters. Obviously they were a little nervous. The top ranking official asked Shane to step into his office. He asked him where in America he was from then started telling him how much he and his countrymen loved Americans and President Bush and how much better things were for him and his family. He said he was very glad we had come and that he liked us very much. This isn't the kind of thing you hear on our nightly news in the states!