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Comment: Bite Me

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Bite Me

Morditas (little bites) are the same all over the developing world.
I don’t mind paying for good service, such as the happy efficiency of on-the-spot resolution of minor infractions like rolling through stop signs. It beats the American bureaucracy/insurance matrix’s confounding the flow of one’s life. But chipping in every time the local constabulary needs pocket change for the weekend can be annoying.

Here’s what I do in my own little corner of the third world, and works every time. Hundreds of times, in fact. It’s all attitude and panache. A doe in the headlight gringo will always be targeted as a soft touch for propina whether you are stumbling around a busy market or bumbling down the road in your rental car. If you have the momentum, shoulder through, avoid eye contact and keep moving … carry on a conversation with yourself or companion even if you just mumble “ … Blah, Blah, Blah …”. Look away and over your shoulder like you are distracted trying to execute your already-in-process maneuver to avoid the gang of thieves gesticulating with drawn weapons trying to throw a leg in front of your vehicle to herd you into their barricaded corral. If it’s too late for that finesse because the uniformed or fatigued Barney Fife is signaling forcefully that you must pull over and submit to his pretended authority, quickly assess which of the goons is the ‘commandante’ (they like to be called that especially if they are not), establish commanding eye contact only with the boss, without the slightest flinch, and at the right moment, flip the little wannabe tyrant a down stroked casual 2 finger, half military salute, with an ever-so-slight confident but almost too important and busy to bother head pop nod, chin forward that says by the gesture: ‘carry on soldier’ as you unhesitatingly and steadily continue on your way. It’s important that the salute not be the least bit subordinate nor deferential but rather something like you’d expect MacArthur to toss as he would be chauffeured through the lines returning from assessing the conditions at the front. Remember they are all military trained and their immediate instinct in the half second it takes for you to blow past them is to start to stand at attention when a superior addresses them. And that’s what they’ll feel you are ( maybe CIA or military attaché) if YOU feel unintimidated throughout the ever-so-brief head fake confrontation.

I always keep a few cigars handy for the one-in-a-hundred encounters where perhaps traffic congestion catches me flatfooted with window down and I need to hand him something to make the less-than-anticipated-little-bite-me-tip palatable without haggling as I might say something cavalier and preoccupied like: “Here, Primo (cousin) … I need to get to the capital by 2:00 o’clock … have a nice day”.