Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Friday, September 9, 2011

State of uncertainty

I've always been afraid of police. A completely irrational fear that exists alongside fear of being locked up, fear of not being good enough, fear of being found out, and so on. The idea of police makes me trembly and wary. It's not that I think they are bad people in the individual sense. Those that I have dealt with recently were courteous, helpful, even friendly folk. It's just that once I know you are police, I look at you hard, wondering what goes through your mind about me. Do you sense that I too am a criminal at heart? I have the same irrational fear in front of immigration officers, soldiers and some security guards.

Every time I have to visit a police station, my heart thumps in my chest. I probably remember every single occasion that I've had to present myself, timidly, expecting to be bouffed, and trying to be careful and polite.

So I bolstered my courage to go to our community station to request the pass so that I could drive to the airport to meet the daughter arriving at eleven. A perfectly normal outing, except we now need permission to be on the road between 11 pm and 4 am.

Me: Good morning, I came to request a curfew pass. My daughter is arriving at the airport tonight and I have to meet her.

Woman police officer (WPC) in well-pressed uniform to corporal in dark blue sweater sitting on bench behind me: Who supposed to give out passes?

Corporal: You could do it. I will sign it if you want.

She fetched a photo copied blank curfew pass, and a big notebook. I showed her the travel itinerary, my TT ID card. She filled out the pass with my information.

Corporal: Only you must drive the car. No one else.

Me: My husband could accompany me? Do you need to see his ID?

Corporal: Don't need that. Only you driving.

Me: Does my daughter need to get a pass in the airport? Does this pass allow me to go and come?

Corporal to WPC: You responsible. (To WPC) Write on it in red, 11 pm to 4 am

Me: Do I have to display it on the windscreen?

WPC: You just have to show it if you get stopped.

She turned the big ledger towards me for my signature next to name, address, contact number. I am still perplexed at how simple it is, how little information is actually required (not even the car make or number), no passenger information. Is a badly photocopied piece of paper going to get me through police checkpoints?

WPC to corporal: I signing the pass...

As I receive the letter sized sheet, the corporal says, I'm not going against the officer, but you could display the pass somewhere.

I ask for their names, and in police style, they give their surnames. I leave, still feeling uncertain and inadequately covered.

As it turned out, I drove through deserted streets to the highway (not a hotspot) - busy as ever. The airport carpark is full, and people are standing around the terminal (as usual) waiting to meet their family or friends coming off flights. Many of them have the lettersize sheets in their hands. Going back home, my pass taped to the inside of the windscreen, there's one checkpoint - a WPC smartly uniformed and everyone else (the men) in jeans and t-shirts - at the junction to our hotspot region. The valley seems unpeopled, not another car on the road. It's an eerie nervous quiet, being outside during curfew. The state of emergency feels like someone is always looking over your shoulder. But who?

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