We Don’t Need No Stinking Triangles

We had a blast at Lago Yojoa and we spent lots of time chatting with Bob, the brewmaster before leaving. He took me over to his private collection of Mayan artifacts he’s found in the area (he occasionally builds swimming pools – a great way to find treasures.) He also had to show off a magazine article about some dives in the area based out of his place that yielded treasure.

Bob moved here to follow the American dream – only he had to leave the U.S. to do it. According to him, it’s incredibly easy to do business here in Honduras. He says the cost of the building permits in Portland alone made it impossible for him to set up a brewery there – and I don’t doubt it. For less than that cost alone, he’s built his dream right here on the lake.

He also told us the next time the beer’s on him. Nice. It was great beer.

We headed out with a plan to make a break for the Nicaraguan border – skipping the Caribbean entirely – and drove the 4 or so hours towards the capital of Tegucigalpa  and then to Danli. First, we had to go through the ole’ triangle scam. From what I’ve read, it wouldn’t be  a trip to Honduras without it. Heck, I was beginning to worry that we wouldn’t get to experience it after encountering so many honest cops.

We were an hour outside of the capital when we get pulled over at a random checkpoint. There are cones in the road and a few officers point you out and wave you over to the shoulder. They ask for you vehicle permit, title, and license. Previously, the officers would take a long look at the documents, ask a few questions about where we were going and would send us on our way.

This time it was clearly different. As we are slowing down and pulling off, I can actually hear the guy say under his breath “California!” as he is staring at our plates. He asks for the usual paperwork, but then walks in front of the car to where his buddy is standing. They are grinning like Cheshire cats and absolutely beside themselves. Angela and I actually have the time to do a double take – look at each other and acknowledge what is about to happen – and then watch them some more. I tell her to get out a book and start reading – she knows…

The partner guy walks up to my window and asks “Triangles?”

Game on.

This is the oldest scam in the book. Everyone who drives in Honduras seems to get caught with this one. I’ve heard stories of people paying bribes of hundreds of dollars and being threatened with imprisonment, etc. It’s ridiculous, really. Jailed for lacking orange safety triangles? Get real.

Some other folks told us about how they were prepared for the triangle trick, so they had two of them, but then the officer insisted on three and again they were ‘forced’ into paying a bribe. We know someone who claimed to have been pulled over 12 times in 100 km. Yet another guy told us he talked his way out of the triangle scam, but them they told him he didn’t have enough reflectors. Not only did he pay a bribe, but he drove away with CD’s taped all over his car as extra reflectors. What a boob. I’m sure the cops all had a good laugh over that one.

I wouldn’t believe all of the these stories if I hadn’t heard them first-hand from the people  claiming to be the victims.

Anyway, I make him ask for the triangles four or five more times, just answering “Si, tengo.” each time. A little frustrated, he then moves on the the fire extinguisher. Again, I just say “yes, I have it” and stare at him knowingly.

He asks me to get out of the car and show him, so I do. They are both behind my seat and it takes 5 seconds. I can tell he’s thinking about my next possible infraction when the first guy comes back with my vehicle paperwork and points to a scribble on the page. They both look at each other and grin again.

Fuck!  He’s right! The border official did scribble a little on the dates and then corrected them.  At the time, I was so anxious to get away from the border that I didn’t really think about it. Making her fill out a new form and getting all the copies could have taken hours. Regardless, it wasn’t a problem at the other 4 or 5 previous police checkpoints, so I’m not too worried.

Anyway, I start to explain my case, but he wasn’t going to listen.

“Five dollars!” he interjects in plain English.

Are you kidding me? Five measly bucks? That’s the best I can get for my story?!

These guys are buffoons and I’m not having it. You can tell the bad cops because they are just so bad at it. I still can’t believe he started at 5 bucks.

He holds on to all my documents and I think he tells me he will keep it until I pay. He is supposed to tell me I have to drive to a police station 100 miles away and pay a fine and get my documents there unless I pay him immediately – maybe he does – but I’m not really listening.

Now the two guys are together and they join forces. The obvious ‘bad’ cop starts telling me my paperwork is invalid and the ‘good’ cop continues asking for money. I look him in the eye and say “No” each time. I continue to re-start my case about the border official. About how I’ve talked to lots of other police and there has been no problem so far, etc.

They keep persisting and so do I.

Then he wants to search the car. “No problem” I say and open the back. “Solo ropas.

The whole game, of course, is to scare or inconvenience me until I pay. Still not having it.

The bad guy is getting frustrated and then starts acting like he is going to rip up my paperwork right there. He makes a ripping hand gesture with my papers as the other guy repeats “Five dollars!”

Again, I just say “no” and stare at them like they are the stupidest people I have ever met in my life.

If I went to the local station with my ripped up vehicle papers and these two moron’s badge numbers, they would be out of a job sin demora. Once you encounter a few Honduran cops, you know these guys take their profession very seriously and they deserve a lot of respect. If these two idiots got reported, they would get their butts kicked. They know it, I know it.

I stare some more.

A few awkward seconds pass… they look at each other… then they hand me back my papers and both simultaneously extend their hands for a shake.

Game over.

For some reason I shake their hands and say gracias, hop back in the bus, and am on my way.

BodesWell – 1

Bad Cops – 0

8 thoughts on “We Don’t Need No Stinking Triangles

  • July 22, 2010 at 9:39 AM
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    bad ass!

  • July 22, 2010 at 2:31 PM
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    woof! you make it sound easy!

  • July 22, 2010 at 5:06 PM
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    Haven’t checked on you in much too long. Hope we didn’t miss any other stories as good as this one. You have muy grande cojones to stand in there as tough as you did. Hope all is well and we’ll check back sooner.

  • July 23, 2010 at 8:34 PM
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    Good job Jason! Dirt bags…

  • July 24, 2010 at 12:33 AM
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    You go boy!

  • July 26, 2010 at 11:21 AM
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    Can you imagine if I tried that same crap in Times Square? I wonder how long I would have my job. These guys are a disgrace and I apologize on the behalf of cops everywhere for these two halk baked morons.

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