What Could I Have Done?
This is a true story that just happened in October.
It was my second day in Thailand. I don't bring many clothes with me as I just buy what I need when I get to Bangkok. I had been shopping for clothes at the City Center Complex near Pratunam Plaza. By the time I was done it was late in the afternoon and the traffic was horrible. I've found that the only way to get around in that kind of traffic is a motorcycle taxi, so I negotiated a ride back to my hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 8. The driver went on some circuitous route I'd never been before. I'd negotiated the price so I wasn't worried about the cost, but I was a little nervous where I'd end up.
We were going down some busy street when we happened to come up to one of those groups of cops that pull over motorbikes and check their documents. We just happened to be one of the lucky ones that got pulled over. They checked the papers of the driver and then came to me and asked for my passport. I told him I don't carry my passport with me all the time, but I do keep a copy in my wallet. He said that would be ok so I dutifully pulled it out of that little pocket behind my credit cards. Unfortunately when I pulled out the copy of the passport, out came the emergency $100 bill I had stashed there and little plastic bag with a ½ of a Viagra pill in it. I had put the Viagra there 6 months before back in the States when I foolishly thought I'd get lucky with an American woman.
Well let me tell you that when you keep a ½ of a Viagra in a plastic bag in your wallet for 6 months it turns into powder. When that baggy with the white powder fell out with the passport copy I suddenly had 3 cops standing around me, one on each arm and one holding that little bag. They didn't speak much English and I didn't speak Thai. I knew right away it didn't look good and I was in for an adventure.
They called over who I thought was a supervisor because he was much older, and he took me and the baggy of white powder into the little police box on the corner. They kept asking me what was in the bag. I made some motions toward my crotch and explained it was just Viagra, but he started saying something about cocaine and heroin. I said I was 54 years old and I didn't use illegal drugs and I would be happy to take a test. He left the room for a while and came back in with a younger cop. They talked about going to the station for a test again and I remembered that I had the prescription bottle back in my hotel. (Of course I was going to bring my Viagra to Thailand.) I made more gestures towards my crotch with a limp wrist reiterated that it was just Viagra and I had it legally. I offered to go take a test again, and told the supervisor to taste it if he didn't believe me. He opened the bag, licked his finger and touched the powder. When he tasted it he made a face, spit it out and said something like "yuck". He left the room again but came back a little while later looked me in the eyes and said "This is for sex isn't it?" When I said yes, he gave the bag to the younger cop and said something to him as he left the room.
The young cop seemed nervous; He could hardly speak any English, but I did understand when he started talking about urine tests and jail. After all this time he finally told me to empty my pockets. All I had in my pockets was some change and a small pocket knife. He picked up the knife and made some poking motions like it was a weapon, but I just chuckled and made motions like I was cleaning my finger nails. I told him I wasn't worried because it was all legal and I had a prescription from my doctor.
When he started to sweat I asked him what it would take to end everything and make everyone happy. At that point he said it was up to me and looked at my wallet. By then he was really looking nervous and couldn't stand still. I saw it to be the lesser of two evils so I offered him all the baht I had (I think it was about 1,500 ~ 2,000 baht) he motioned to the $100 bill that dropped out. I looked him in the eye and said "No, I didn't do anything wrong". I actually asked him to take me downtown to test the powder and take a piss test.
He got even more nervous and started looking around, finally he said "OK, 1000". I gave him a thousand baht note and he gave me back my wallet, pocket knife, and the little bag with the white powder and told me to leave.
I didn't waste any time, the motorcycle taxi was still there so I got on the back and we left. The whole thing took about 10 minutes.
When I think back I really don't know why they let me go. I think the old cop could tell I was telling the truth and didn't want to be bothered. He just told the young cop to see what he could get out of me and let me go. The young cop was scared of me for some reason. Maybe he was nervous because I was older than him, maybe because of the language barrier, or maybe because he was afraid of getting caught taking a bribe.
I now think I was a fool not giving him the $100 when he first asked, for some reason I felt I had the upper hand. I know I'll be more careful about what I have in my wallet in the future.
That is all rather bad luck.
I remember once when I went to buy a new camera and lens and had approximately 100,000 baht in cash bursting out of my wallet and on the way to the shop I saw a police checkpoint. I started to get really nervous even though I had done absolutely nothing wrong. Fortunately I was not pulled over!