Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Of Cops And Corruption

Growing up, I’ve always heard about the rampant woes of corruption that were inconspicuously married to the police department in Malaysia. I’ve heard that bribes of anything from cigarettes to money to dignity could be the perfect compensation for any traffic offence from speeding to drink driving.

And they are true, because I finally witnessed the blunt of this gross reality that perhaps the servants of these institutions are simply ‘bending’ the law because corruption is a means to sustain a living. Or that perhaps setting up road blocks is just a past time not aimed to deter drink driving, but to make money.

Corrupt traffic police officers are no national secret, unlike Area 54, Roswell, Iraqi nuclear warheads and Hong Kong shrimp dumplings. It is blatant coffee shop topic and banter, and possibly more prevalent in Malaysian local context than Twitter or Facebook will ever be.

In such corruption, defines everything that capitalism stands for, that ultimately, money is everything. And it is no wonder that I see the people here drink and drive with such impunity as long as they have a couple of hundreds in their pockets that will miraculously become talisman that will guide them home, or at least ensure a safe enough passage.

At the rate we were drinking, it would have been an offence to even hold your car keys in Singapore. But this was Kuala Lumpur, home to cool restaurants, complicated roads and where consequences sometimes never catches up to you.

When we finished at the last bar on the outskirts of KLCC, we already had 2 bottles of whisky between the 6 of us. It was a point where no one should be driving, or even peeing without assistance, but I saw that nonchalant defiance of all traffic laws in their eyes and I knew that drink driving was a mandatory curriculum when it comes to driving, along with road rage, talking on handphone and illegal parking.

RO was my designated driver, so he was a lot more discerning with the drinks but from what I learnt about rate of alcohol absorption is that you are fucked anyway if you take more than 8 glasses. If there was a road block, he was going to fail it.

10 minutes into our drive on the expressway, we saw blinking beacons in the distant. In Singapore, if you had that much to drink, the lights are actually an indication for you to jump out the car and make a desperate swim for the causeway. Here, it just means you have to make a trip to the ATM the morning after.

Calmly, he started removing cash from his wallet and furtively began slotting them into various compartments of his car. He was driving a hatchback proton that looked like it was a stunt car for the Fast and the furious, so it was practically a mobile bulls-eye.

The whole conversation played out in Malay, so I had no idea what was going on until RO fed me the post event subtitles, but this was basically what went down after we got pulled over.

RO failed both the breathalyzer test, or as what some of the other locals have told me, these test are sometimes rigged, so having an orange juice can sometimes have the same effect as drinking a whole bottle of tequila.

RO: “So how now?”
Cop: “
RM5,000. If not we go to police station.”
RO: “
I don’t have RM5,000. Why don’t we go to the station.”
Cop: “

This was better than the Great Singapore sale. Freedom was having a discount day out and normally I would jump at a grand for having an ‘unblemished’ driving record, but I would soon be taken on a practical course of handling cops in Malaysia. All I needed was a classroom, a notepad and this would have qualified as Corruption Handling 101.

RO: “I don’t have.”
Cop: “
You have ATM card? I can drive you to the ATM

Apparently ATM’s are last options because when they see how much you have in your bank account, they are going to cleave you for all that’s worth.

Cop: “Ask your friend if he has money.”
RO: “
He’s from Singapore. Do you want to give him a bad impression of Malaysia?!”
Cop: “
How about cigarettes?”

I had no idea what was transpiring between the both of them all this time because I wasn’t born with subtitling capabilities and neither did my iPhone come with one, so I did what I do best when I am confused; I started playing Angry Birds.

RO started emptying his wallet and held the cash just below the window frame. The cop took a glance of it and started to walk off shortly after.

RO: “He wants RM500 now. I just told him this is all I got and if he doesn’t want it, he can take us to the station.”
Me: “
We can start hyperventilating now to lower your BAC.”

It was like a game of bluff, RO was calling his dare and only because he knows that this is a staple in KL. It’s about taking whatever bribe that was available or upholding justice and wasting your night doing paperwork.

The cop finally came back and settled for RM150. So that is the price of freedom.

If you actually put that in perspective, they are probably more lucrative than the ERP system because from what I’ve seen about the frivolous caution that the locals practice when it comes to drink driving, he is probably going to make enough for a night to buy over Batam by Christmas.

I'm not implying that every cop in Malaysia is corrupted, God forbid. I believe there are your John Waynes, Rambos and Edward Nortons who are clad in justice trying to better the police department. It's just that I've heard alot of stories from the locals and it's amusing because they talk about it like it is normalized into their routine of life.

I can’t say I hate that system because every wrong can be made right with the right price. It’s like you don’t need to cry over spilt milk there because you can simply mop it up and have it for breakfast again.

But my civic consciousness is knocking against my conscience, or maybe it’s that one too many drunk driving posters about shattering lives or maybe it’s that one poster in Australia that said, “If you drink and drive, you die”, but in any case, we should leave the driving to the cabbies, even if their meters are coincidentally always spoilt.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The 2010 That Went By

We all know by now how fleeting time is. It passes almost in an instant and we’re left wading in our petty procrastinations that when we look back, we marvel at how insignificant time has rendered our year.

Maybe some of you beat incredible odds, like winning the lottery, getting pregnant by accident, getting caught for drink driving or getting laid for the first time since hitting 200 pounds. Maybe some of you have had such a placid year that you have no memory of it. And maybe some of you are just glad that the year is coming to a close.

As with how I’ve done my previous reviews on the year, I’ll draw on the milestones of the year and award myself with memories that have defined my year.

Most Embarrassing Moment

Some time earlier in the year I had one of those nights that started out with good intentions and then exacerbated into a drunken frenzy that started with me first talking to a stone dog, then doodling on the stone chair, then trying to erase off the ink with my saliva under threat from the security guard to call the cops. All that while being caught on camera.

It didn’t end there. We ended up at St James and the security there was asking me to leave because I was walking around with a t-shirt torn at the centre that would have passed off as a vest. It is apparently inappropriate to dress like that unless you have washboard abs or a vagina. Read it here.

Or maybe it was the time I stood at the weighing machine and realized that I had gained 5kg since I got back from New York. It’s a pity weighing machines don’t accept denial.

Worst Outdoor Event

When we planned to attend the rave party at Genting, it was based on a promise that there would be VIP tickets and a solid 4 hours of trance that would tickle every impulse in my body into abandoning fatigue and dancing till my tendons waved a flag of surrender.

Not only did we not get the tickets, we ended up buying it off the black market at a marked up price that will make all exploitive capitalist proud. To add insult to injury, we also realized that there was no alcohol available at the event. The only thing that would have been worse is dancing naked on Mount Everest.

First Accident

There are things we brag about in life, like sexual conquests, pocket money, the cars our daddy drives and who has a bigger gun. For me, it was about an unblemished 11 year accident free record that unpropitiously ended when I was hit while being stationary in my parking lot.

It was amazing because one moment I was tearing my coupons and the next I’m out of my car taking particulars and then 5 minutes from that, I was making a police report with fervid expletives because the guy had given me a bogus contact number, till the cop on the line had to tell me to “..mind your language”.

Read it here.

New York

Bright lights, big city and everything you wish to see on E! Entertainment. What they don’t sing about are the drive-by shootings, drug peddlers and overpriced strip joints. But that is precisely what makes New York the mosaic masterpiece city that the world celebrates about; the imperfect world of dreams.

I never realized how much I missed the place until I got back and started going, “Hey, I was there” or “I know that place” every time the scene of show was filmed against the backdrop of Manhattan.

My time there, was a self-discovery on varying spectrums, like realizing that I’ve been too comfortable in my career, that I can survive a month without doing the laundry, that I can live with public transport, that I don’t need supper to continue my existence and that I don’t need a medium sized bed when I’m sleeping alone.

Best Gift

When I first started my blog, I had a dream, and that was to write professionally and with enough merit, luck, recognition and money, publish a book. I had other dreams as well, like becoming a movie director, selling pirated VCDs and stopping time, but it all sounded so insignificant compared to world peace and I didn’t want to be inferior to beauty queens.

Although I can’t pen a novel about wizards and flying broom sticks any more, I haven’t had time to draft a screenplay and I’ve been procrastinating on blog posts, I still managed to fulfill that dream of having a book published courtesy of Poca, who compiled a series of my writings into a book for my birthday.

I have 10 copies of that and it is the most brilliant composition since men discovered how to write. It’s not sold in bookstores because it is so awesome, they have to discontinue the encyclopedia if it ever hits the shelves.

2011 Resolution

The last time I actively made a resolution, I was still drawing with crayons and was too young to appreciate the finer things in life like coffee, tequila and cleavages – not in any particular order or coupling.

As I approach the big ‘three zero’, resolutions become more of guidelines for the year than targets or recuperation for the soul. I am making the resolution out of fear than I am for general well-being, or maybe it’s just vanity knocking at my door and that I’m giving myself a chance to recapture youth, or the feeling and look of it.

I need to lose weight or tone up, whichever is easier and less tedious. Normally I would recommend myself a religious schedule of bulimic workouts on my digestive tracks, but public toilets are just not too conducive for masking the grunts of self-induced puking, and also because mouthwash is expensive.

I need to lose weight because I risk a wardrobe makeover and never getting to poke fun of obesity anymore. It would be tragic only because I would lose half my wit if I have to exclude a demographic I so fondly love to ‘subjectify’.

I just want to be able to take that flight of stairs with that same confidence as Sherpa Tensing did when he took Everest, or when Monica took a whole load of Bill in and on her, without fearing that I would go into cardiac arrest or tripping.

So here’s to the new year, even if I spent it singing in an elevator with LB, RotiPrata and Totti, or if I disappointedly remained sober through the night. Here’s to loved ones, who have always stuck by us, even when we’ve gained a few pounds. Here’s to friends, who made us laugh at ourselves and gave us bad suggestions, because we learnt what’s right from doing wrong.

And here’s to 2010, because you passed so quickly and taught us that life is given to those who take it. Hello 2011, I’m coming straight at you this time…