My Impression of Policemen  
    (The English Translation of 少賀咫)
                       ¤ 翔 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 Asiawoman 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.)

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