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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Police and an Empty Wallet

In Canada, if you pay for something with cash it can really mess things up. First off it better not be in big bills because anything over a $20 is subjected to anti-counter fitting scanners. In fact often you will see a sign that says “we do not accept $50 or $100 bills” simply because they can’t be bothered to take the chance. I in fact have a friend that was busted with a counterfeit $20 that he received from a bank – but the hassle he had to endure over proving that it did not originate with him was substantial.

However here in Vorarlberg, Austria this is not the case. It is all about cash. I have even had the pleasure of experiencing the awkward moment when it came time to pay and as I handed over my visa was advised that they did not take cards.

So I now go to the bank. Or rather the bankomat. And it spews out Euros in denominations of €50’s and €100’s. The first time I handed over a €100 bill for a €5 purchase I did what any other Canadian might do – I sheepishly asked if I could pay with my €100 bill. They looked at me as if I was from another planet and promptly made change.

This weekend has been a busy one for me. I’ve had commitments all over the place and burned through cash like crazy until all that remained was 5 euros. Still busy I put off going to the bankomat until it was more convenient. As I was rushing off to the next thing and singing along to Maroon 5’s latest I suddenly saw two police officers jump out into the middle of the road in front of me and flag me over.

As I handed over my British Columbia driver’s license and every single official looking paper I could find in the glove box the police officer informed me that I had been going 30 over the speed limit. Now in Canada I wouldn’t have been able to manufacture enough tears to get out of that one – not only would I lose a ton of points but I would also receive about a $300 ticket and a letter from my insurance company informing me how displeased they were with my driving habits. So I was clearly nervous. I had no idea how they would feel about my driver’s license and if I gave them the correct papers and if I was off to the nearest Austrian jail as a result of the combination. (By the way, in my defence I have been driving in Germany a fair bit lately and getting into the no speed limit highway driving).

You can imagine my absolute shock that once the police officers had completed their examination of my ID and papers that they then asked me for €35. Now. Of course it was then that I opened my wallet saw the remaining €5 bill. It was now time for the officer to look shocked. I am sure he was thinking “how can someone speed without cash? That’s not very organized.” Instead he said “there is a bankomat up the street.”

Doing as I was told I headed off to the bankomat and returned immediately to the scene of the crime just as I had been instructed to do. I handed the €50 over and the officer gave me change and a receipt.

As I drove away I couldn’t help but smile. I had just handed a police officer a 50 after being caught speeding – try doing that in Canada and see what happens.

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