Since I don’t have any computer work at the moment, please forgive me for veering off-topic and into the realm of petrolheads yet again. However, there is some tech involved in being a motorcycle courier, I promise.
My License Plate Was Stolen
Up until last month, I used to park my bike outside the house, literally a yard from the front gate and usually forgot to set the bike alarm. However, I always secured the rear wheel with a hefty chain, more as a deterrent, because if the scumbags really want your bike, they’ll find a way. Anyway, it wasn’t until my wife pointed out that the license plate was missing that I realised that I’d been riding around without it for several days and I hadn’t even noticed. Neither had the police. Frankly, I wasn’t overly concerned at all, because at least I still had my bike and after all, a number plate is only a crappy piece of aluminium, isn’t it?
My next step was to denounce — don’t you just love that word — the theft at the local police station, which is what I did, only to be told that they don’t do physical denouncements any more due to the virus and that I would have to denounce it online. I was tempted to ask what I should do if I was reporting a serial killer or zombie outbreak, but the officer in charge didn’t look as if he was in a joking mood. There then followed the well-trodden trail of bureaucracy that I’ve become so inured to in this banana republic, which involved finding the correct motorcycle registry office, for there are several dozen and taking a trip to their hallowed portal. When I arrived, a large sign on the door informed me that NOBODY would be seen without a prior appointment, so I walked in anyway, thinking, screw it. The surprisingly helpful clerk in the brand-new and freshly painted government department called me over and asked if I had an appointment, to which I replied in the negative and …wait for it… he then suggested that we make an appointment to see him there and then. So I pointed out, helpfully I thought, that in fact, I was already there standing right in front of him. Not an apparition, but a real human person and I was, in fact, the only ‘customer’ present. I then asked him if we could just crack on with the new number plate application anyway and that very question definitely hit the big red button. The system simply wouldn’t allow it, he said. I then suggested that he override the system in an administrative capacity (I was getting daring now), but clearly that was way beyond his pay grade because he looked at me as if I was asking to sleep with his wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/mother.
To cut a very long story short, I returned the following week (26th May), completed the mind-numbing paperwork and was extorted out of a vast sum of cash (credit cards not accepted, obviously) to replace the stolen number plate which would theoretically be available in less than twenty-one days. To get an idea of the extortion, the cost of the metal plate was around $2 with the administrative costs being $20, leaving me with the impression that even when a country is bankrupt, there will always be cash for bureaucracy, weapons and oppression. By the way, as I type this, the plate has still not arrived at their plush offices and I no longer park my bike outside the house, even for five minutes. By the way, I got a local printer to knock up a plastic copy which fell off a couple of days ago.
Oh, and it’s worth pointing out that in the six weeks that I’ve been riding around without a proper license plate, it’s only been noticed by one policeman who quickly waved me on, presumably because he sensibly realised that he had more important matters to attend to. However, on entering a gated community, an officious security employee implied that I was a bike thief and wouldn’t let me enter until I’d shown him every document in my possession. To say I gave him the evil eye would be putting it mildly.
I didn’t really need reminding that Argentina is a police state, but the arrival of the Covids has brought that aspect of everyday life into sharp focus. The city of Buenos Aires, aka CABA, is an autonomous state flanked on all sides by the province of BA and therefore sets its own laws. During my daily courier work, I pass in and out of the city numerous times a day and as I write this, it’s surrounded by a ring of steel in the form of police checkpoints manned by federal and local police, military police and border patrols. Special permits for essential services are available online and now, instead of fumbling around in my pockets for documents, I have everything stuck to the bike windscreen which allows me to sail through the checkpoints with nothing more than a cursory glance from the operatives.
In fact, I ride through the same checkpoints so regularly that they now recognise me, give me the thumbs up and I’m off and away in a trail of dust while the others behind me are still fumbling with their wallets. Frankly, life is difficult enough for all of us, so why not make it a little easier?
On the other hand, I’m still a little perplexed as to why the police need to carry such serious hardware when the vast majority of citizens passing through their traffic controls are merely people trying to get to their place of work. It’s menacing and frankly, out of place in what is supposed to be a democracy. Perhaps I should ask, the next time I’m stopped? If you don’t hear from me in the next few weeks, send help.
In the next installment, I’ll be revealing all the gory details of a delivery day that started badly, became even worse and involved homemade Brazilian food.