By Robert Lalah
I admit that I remain a bit befuddled by the whole affair, but it is just possible that I've inadvertently stumbled upon the solution to many of Jamaica's problems. It'll require some development, of course, but I think I've got something here.
It all started on Saturday last, in Cross Roads, St Andrew. Now anyone who knows the area can picture the scene. Buses swinging left to right, pedestrians lumbering back and forth, bicycles darting here and there. I was coming from the vicinity of the police station, making my way back to the main road, where the traffic lights are. That's where the buses are loaded and where there's always a policeman or two struggling to keep order. I waited in line for a while behind a couple of JUTC buses before finally making it to the main road. The lights suddenly changed to red, so the driver of the bus in front of me stopped and I did the same. Now, the back left wheel of my car was oddly placed because of the sudden stop. We were in the right lane (there are two lanes heading up) but that wheel was, I suppose, on the line in the centre of the road, leaving about three or four inches of the back end of my car in the left lane. The flow of traffic was, however, unaffected so those in the left lane heading to Half-Way Tree Road continued doing so without interference.
A LITTLE CONFUSING
A corpulent policeman wearing a bullet-proof vest that was alarmingly tattered walked over from his perch on the sidewalk and stood in front of my car. He seemed a little confused to be honest, looking up the road then down, at my car then at the vehicles passing by. A few seconds passed with the lights even changing to green without him saying anything. I stuck my head out the window and was about to ask if he was alright, concerned I was that the heat had taken a toll on him. But before I could say anything, he told me to drive over to the side of the road and park.
I did as instructed and was informed by the good policeman that I would be receiving a traffic ticket. Now a ticket, though bothersome, is certainly nothing to whine about. I was, however, a little confused when the policeman told me that I was not actually obstructing traffic. Of course, I already knew this. But when I asked why he was then still writing up the ticket, he said I would be penalised for being "likely to obstruct traffic".
Who knew you could be penalised for being likely to do something, without actually doing it? To make the situation even more odd, the offence, as written on the ticket by the policeman, is "Parkin (sic) a manner likely to obstruct traffic". Again, who knew you could get a ticket for parking when you're actually driving?
Now this is either the silliest or most brilliant ticketable offence ever thought up. So fascinated was I that I wanted to engage the policeman in discussion on the matter. I figured that between the two of us, we could have had a rational debate. It was a task for which he was, however, clearly ill-equipped, so I simply accepted my fate, wished him well and went on my way.
But since then, I've been thinking. Perhaps the genius of this charge could be applied to other areas of life. The benefits could be far-reaching. Think about it. What if the police were able to charge someone for being likely to commit a robbery? Or being likely to throw garbage from a moving vehicle? Suppose the cops had the power to penalise someone for being likely to play loud music late at night and disturb his neighbours? Or in more serious cases, charge people who look like perverts for being likely to diddle schoolboys? Maybe this would lower our alarming crime rate and bring about as much peace, order and harmony in society as there is on our nation's roads. Hey, I never said it was a perfect plan.
Robert Lalah is assistant editor - features, and author of the popular 'Roving with Lalah'. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.