My Impression of Policemen 警察印象

by Xiang Ping
    “I picked up one cent from the roadside, hand it over to a policeman……” When I first heard this popular children’s song in China, I had past my childhood. Nowadays, I occasionally hum it, and feel amused by the memories of my life experience with policemen.

I grew up in the time when Lei Feng (a soldier and hero of the People’s Liberation Army) was made as a moral model for young Chinese, and we were taught not to pocket the money or anything one picked up. If one picked up a coin or a small thing that did not belong to oneself, he would hand it to the teacher, or if it was important enough, should hand it to the police. As a reward, he would be praised in the school, which was a great honor for a young student. I had always prayed that my luck would give me a chance to pick up something important, for example, I imagined, a wallet full of money, and then I could hand it over to the police for them to find the owner. But this had never happened to me. I guess that people couldn’t afford to lose a wallet in those days.

Interestingly, things happened to me in a different way some years later when I studied in an institute in Beijing.

It was near the winter school holiday when I was planning to visit my family in the South. An old friend from my hometown sent me 180 yuan to buy her a heavy coat from Beijing. I put the money into a used envelope, casually inserted it into my pocket, and went shopping. I took a bus from Dongdan where I lived, past 2 stops and arrived at Qianmen Shopping Center. Getting off the bus, I touched the pocket and found the envelope was not there anymore. Where was the money? I sweated. The 180 yuan, that was equivalent to my 4-month living allowance, was not a small amount to me.

Helplessly I went back to the institute. My colleague Yang, a close friend, heard my story, believed that it was stolen by a pickpocket in the bus, and suggested me to report it to the police. I did as he told, but had no hope of getting it back. Catching a thief on the bus was not such an easy thing for the police. Even if the thief was caught, who could tell that the money belonged to me, especially if the envelope was destroyed? I had to accept the bad luck. I managed to gather another 180 yuan to buy the coat for my friend without telling her of the bad episode.

I returned to the institute after Chinese New Year. When I arrived, Yang told me with excitement: “Good news for you! A policeman just called, the thief who stole your money was caught, and the police got your money back!”

I couldn’t believe my luck! I felt as if the money had fallen from the sky and landed in my hands. How wonderful! Without hesitation, I invited my friends to have Beijing duck in Quanjude (the most famous restaurant for Beijing duck) for a celebration. I intended, but did not dare, to ask the policeman to join us — better not to get him into trouble for bribery. Since then, I have sincerely praised the police in Beijing.

While living in Australia, especially since returning to Australia after a couple of years staying in the United States, I am really impressed by Australian police with their polite and gentle manner. Generally, they look strong and handsome. They are well-built men and charming young women. Those lovely, vigorous girls wearing their hair in one or two plaits remind me of the time when we were young. Very often, we see a policeman and a policewoman riding on horses side-by-side in the street, talking and laughing. If they were not in the trademark uniform, the light blue shirt and navy blue trousers, I would rather believe they were a loving couple dating or seesighting than police on patrol duty. It is a unique enchanting scene that I always admire. Probably you can only see the police having such a life of leisure in this land.

It is well known that the policemen have played a key role and made significant contributions in the situations of bush fires each year. However, I have never seen the policemen fighting over or catching criminals in Australia, although occasionally I have noticed a police car rushing by. More often, I see them on duty maintaining traffic order, or testing a driver’s alcohol level, always being gentle and polite.

One day, I drove to pick up my son from a sport club. On the way back at a turning point to a main road, I neglected a “Give Way” sign, and nearly bumped into a police car. “Bad luck! I will be in trouble!” I was terrified and thought to myself. I immediately stopped the car at the roadside, and waited for the inevitable penalty.

The policeman got out of his car, walked over and asked me to show my driver’s license. Worst came to worst, I realised that I left the wallet with my driver’s license at home. Fortunately, it was only approximately 1 km away from my home. I timidly asked for permission to leave my son with the car there, and rush home by myself to get the license. By looking over my son and myself, he believed my honesty. Before leaving, the policeman told me to always follow the traffic rules in the future, and to keep my driver’s license with me all the time. I surely never forget the lesson.

In the mid 1990s when I lived in the United States for a couple of years, I gained some new knowledge from American police. Probably getting the first impression from Hollywood movies, I am always struck with awe at American police, especially those blacks who are highly alert and somehow violent. When we moved to Florida, the State that had the highest criminal rate in the US, we lived in a large round apartment complex. Immediately it was drawn to my attention that several armed police lived in the neighborhood, police cars were parked everywhere in the surrounding car park and one was just next to my car. Later, the next door neighbor told me that the agent gave a special rate for rental to attract the police. It sounded a very good idea to have the police as free security guards. Think about how powerful it might be when those police cars were parked there!

However, this was not as powerful as I thought. One evening, I heard a gun firing outside, followed by a police car siren coming closer and closer. Looking through the window, I saw an armed policeman holding his gun against the back of the trouble maker, a teenager in his 17-18th. The young man rose up both of his hands to attach to the back of his head. When he seemed to attempt to move, the policeman gave him a prompt hard hit that made him fall onto the ground on his face. It is a common knowledge in America that anybody who does anything against the police will only bring disaster to himself.

My first-hand experience in dealing with American police was a dramatic event that shocked me but made no harm.

I am always not good at operating anything that needs hand-foot coordination. It took me a long time to learn to drive on the left side of the road in Australia. However, practicing driving in America made my life up-side-down again. Everything inside of the car, switches for the indicator, the windscreen wipers and the gear box, were all left-side-right, totally out of the place! When I tried to give an indication for turning, my fingers moved without thinking and made the wipers go madly dancing. Often in my frantic rush, the old manual car would fire-off, paralyse in the center of the road, and refuse to go. What a pain! I had to be very careful in handling the awkward car on unfamiliar roads.

One evening, it was dark when I drove back home from work. In a narrow street with only one lane in each direction, the fast passing cars from the opposite direction with dazzling lights made me feel giddy. I stared at the front of the road and drove with full attention and extra care.

Suddenly, I heard a sharp siren from behind coming closer and closer. I took a glance in the mirror, and saw all the cars behind me were one by one shifting to the further right side of the road, giving way to the police car. Now, the police car was right at the back of my car. The siren was deafly loud, and the mirror reflections of colorful running lights at the back made me dizzy. The police must be rushing to somewhere for an emergency action, I thought. Carefully I also tried to drive my car to further right near the bush, and let the police car go past me. Maybe the road was too narrow to overtake, and the police car remained behind me. Realising that I should turn at the next street, I gave up my attempt to give way and slightly speeded up instead.

However, unexpectedly, when I made the turn, the police car followed my turn, and kept the siren and lights going behind me. My god, they are chasing me! What is wrong? I have never committed any crime in my life time! By then, I was totally confused and frightened. Without delaying any second, I pulled my car up to the roadside, and wound the window down. Two black policemen, a man and a woman, jumped out of their car and walked towards me. I had never even thought that one day I would became a target for police. My brain was a total blank at that moment, and I did not know where to put my hands. Probably I should raise up my hands as I saw others did in the movie and life, but that was not a gesture I could easily make myself to copy.

Seeing only a small Asian woman in the car, they approached further at an easier pace.

“Why didn’t you stop?” The man asked sternly.

“I am sorry, I …, I never…, never had such experience, and didn’t know you were chasing me.” I answered nervously.

“Show us your driver’s license!” The woman demanded.

I handed up my license with trembling hands.

They quickly glanced at the license and looked at each other with a shrug of disappointment. Then, the women returned it to me. Without one more word, they turned away and walked toward their car.

“Is this all? What does it mean?” I murmured to myself with real confusion. It was now my turn to chase the police.

“Excuse me, could you tell me what this is for? Did I do anything wrong?” I asked in a timid low voice.

“YOU DROVE TOO SLOWLY! Didn’t you see the long line of cars behind you?” They answered loudly and went away.

My god! Is this the reason for all that happened just now? I made a long sigh with big relief.

I was always aware that one can get a penalty for speeding, but I never heard of getting into trouble because of driving too slowly.

What a life experience with American cops!

(I am grateful to Paul Gillespie, a good friend of mine, for reading this story, checking my English and making valuable comments.)

 

湘平
“我在马路边,捡到一分钱,把它交到警察叔叔手里面……”印象中这首歌开始流行时早已过了我的儿童时代,我一直记得这首欢快的儿歌,是因为它唤起我对童年趣事的一些记忆,更引起我对以往生活中警察印象的回忆。

我们小时候生活在提倡学习雷锋和拾金不昧的时代。偶尔拾得几分、几毛钱,或一件小物件,多半交给学校老师,赢得几句表扬。我那时想,若是我捡到一个钱包,一定交给警察叔叔去寻找失主。可是,无论我眼睛睁多大,从来没有过捡钱包的运气,当然也就没有向警察叔叔交钱包的机会。想必那年头掉得起钱包的人不多。

长大后到北京上学,倒有机会让警察叔叔为我找了一回钱包。说“钱包”有点名不符实,那时我穷学生一个,还没有钱包。那年老家的朋友叫我寒假回家给她从北京捎一件呢大衣,给我寄来180元。我把钱装在一个旧信封里,揣在裤兜里,就往前门商场去了。我从东单乘公共汽车两、三站到前门,下车后一摸裤兜,装钱的信封不见了,我一下傻了眼。对我一个每月津贴不足50元的穷研究生来说,180元可是个不小的数字。我哭丧着脸回到所里,师兄说:“你一定是在公共汽车上被扒手掏了包,去派出所报个警吧。”我在同学的陪同下上了趟派出所登记,但没敢抱什么希望,心想自认倒霉,再筹钱帮人把衣服买回去吧。

寒假后返回所里,一进门,师兄说:“嘿!来得早不如赶得巧,派出所刚才打电话来,咱警察叔叔逮着了小偷,帮你把钱给找回来啦!”我大喜过望,拿着这像是从天上掉下来的钱,先请师兄妹几个到“全聚德”吃烤鸭庆祝一番。本想叫上警察叔叔一块儿去,又恐有贿赂之嫌。从此我常常对人现身说法,盛赞北京警察。

几年后到澳大利亚,尤其是从美国转一圈回来,我对澳洲警察倍感亲切。澳洲警察给人的总体印象是“健美英武,和蔼可亲”。那些男警察们个个身材魁梧(略略心宽体胖的样子吧),五官到位。为数不多的年轻女警察们更是十分俊美,有些时髦女郎还将头发梳成一条或两条小辫子,更添加几分妩媚。常常在城里大街上见到一男一女两警察并排骑在骏马上,随着马蹄声谈笑风生地踱过来,成为马路上的一道独特的风景。如果不是那套天蓝色上衣、藏青色裤子的清爽警服,还以为哪来的富家子弟在谈情说爱、兜风呢。想想也只有澳洲这块平和的土地上才能养出这样闲逸的警察。

 

在澳洲,我虽然偶尔在路上见到呼啸而过的警车,却从未看见过真正的警察捕罪犯的场面。我只知道每年警察们在扑灭森林火灾的战役中贡献卓著,平时更常看见的是他们态度和蔼、彬彬有礼地维持交通,或抽查呼吸中酒精浓度等等。然而有一次,我从俱乐部接孩子回家的路上,在本该让道(Giveway)的路口却抢了道,险些与一辆警车相撞。我暗叫一声:“这下惨了,撞在枪口上了!”乖乖地在路边停车等着受罚。警察下车要我出示驾照,我又偏偏出门时忘了把装着驾照的皮夹带在身上。好在那儿离家已经不远,我表示愿把车和孩子留下,自己跑回家去取驾照。他们望望孩子,再瞅瞅我,准是见我一幅良家妇女的样子,放我一码,只叮嘱我以后要时时把驾照带在身上,更要遵守交通规则。

几年前在美国居住了两年,对美国警察也有所见闻,有所体验。

 

对美国警察我向来敬畏有加。早就从电影里看到他们,特别是那些黑人警察的机警、强悍和暴力。那年初搬到据称是美国犯罪率之首的佛罗里达,住在一个环形的大公寓里,发现邻居里有好几户警察,车场里经常停着警车。一打听,原来房管处(Agent)有意对警察降低房租,以便招来免费保安--警车在那里摆着,有威摄力嘛。即便这样,也还有好几次傍晚时分,忽闻窗外有枪声,随后有警车声呼啸而来。抬眼从窗口望出去,只见警察用手枪抵在闹事的小青年的背部,那青年,看上去也就十七、八岁吧,双手举起迭在后脑勺上,稍一动弹,警察一挥手,就摔他个狗吃屎。任何人对警察稍有违抗,你吃不了兜着走,不死也得脱层皮。

 

本人也有一次与美国警察打交道,惊而不险的记录。我向来运动机能低下,手脚协调能力差,好不容易在澳洲学会左行驾车,到美国后又得改右行,指示灯、刮雨器、换档器整个儿左右挪了位,甭提那个手忙脚乱的别扭劲,一不小心就熄了火,车横在路上罢了工。初来乍到,路生疏,车别扭,我不得不小心翼翼。

那天我下班回家天色已晚,开到一条狭窄的小马路上,来往双向都只有一条车道,只见对面的车擦身而过,车灯也特别刺眼。我两眼紧盯前方,半点也不敢疏忽。正聚精会神的开着,忽然听见后面警笛长鸣,从反光镜里看见后面的车纷纷靠向路边的灌木丛,给警车让道,警车渐渐逼近了我。眼看警笛声声、警灯闪闪就在我的车后,我有些忙乱不知所措。我往路边靠一靠企图让道,也许路实在太窄吧,警车却并不超过我的车前去。想到前面不远处就要拐弯到家了,我稍稍加快了一些。谁知我拐弯,它也拐弯,竟然紧追着我继续鸣笛摇灯。这下我懵了,这、这难道是冲我来的吗?我招谁惹谁啦?我糊里糊涂但一刻也不敢怠慢,赶紧靠路边停下,摇下车窗。果然,警车也停下,从车里跳下一男一女两个黑人警察,步步逼近我。没想到这架式今天冲着我来了,我惊得魂魄出了窍,手足无措,不知该不该把双手举起来,可又实在不习惯那个动作。也许见我只是个黄皮肤的弱女子,警察没动手。

“为什么不停车?”男警察厉声喝道。

“对不起,我、我从来没有过这种经历,不、不知道你们是冲我来的。”我怯怯地回答。

“你的驾照呢?” 女警察走前一步追问。

我战战颤颤摸出我的驾照,恭恭敬敬奉上。

他们看一眼,还给我,竟然二话不说,转身要走。

我大惑不解。这回轮到我追警察了。

“对不起,你能告诉我,我,我做错什么了吗?”

“你开得太慢了!没见你后面的车排成长龙了吗?”

我的妈,就为这啊?!我不由得长长吁出一口气。我从来只知道“超速违规罚款”,倒是第一次领教“低速犯规”,大大地虚惊一场。

被美国警察“追捕”一回,也算是我难得的人生经历。

 

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