Post 47: Installment of – On The Road To Romania
Tolls & Border Crossings
We cruised south, making good time. In the distance, about twenty kilometers before the border crossing into Slovakia, I noticed something far ahead in the middle of the lane. I slowed down and saw a short thin man in what looked like a Boy Scout uniform, waving a diminutive hand-held stop sign. He motioned us over to the edge of the road and gradually made us understand we were on a toll road (Ah, so that was what those highway symbols meant) and we did not have a little medallion on our windshield which indicated we paid for use of the tollway. He wanted us to follow him into town to pay a small fine and purchase the medallions.
Dr. G muttered he did not want to follow him anywhere, because it was a waste of time, plus we were almost to the Slovakian border which might require different medallions than the Czech ones.
Reaching into his pocket, Dr. G pulled out several small denominations of U.S. currency and stuffed them into the man’s hand as he warmly said, “You such a good fellow for telling me this. Pleaze, you help us. I give you money and you pay zee fine and toll costs for us. OK?”
Considering it had taken us ten minutes of Babel-like conversation (similar to those with the man fixing his car), this little man instantly understood the request. Excitedly, he grinned and nodded his head to indicate he could handle the situation for us. No receipt was offered—or requested.
“Beeal, you always have to be nice to people, and they will help you,” Dr. G said happily as we climbed back into our cars.
Just before the Slovakia border crossing near the Morava River, Dr. G took the lead. Instead of following traffic into the check-point lanes manned by uniformed border guards, we pulled over into an unmarked area near a small, official looking building.
I got out to stretch and watched as Dr. G opened the trunk and unzipped one of his enormous suitcases. There was no delivery table inside. However, there were some medical supplies jammed helter-skelter with tons of new or almost new clothes—men’s suits, ladies’ dresses, blue jeans, shirts, shoes, underwear, cheap jewelry, knickknacks—and new watches. In fact, a number of watches. They looked like they were from a K-Mart clearance table or one of the huge flea market in the Chicago metro area.
Tucking several watches into his suit pocket, Dr. G sauntered toward the uniformed officers waiting inside, a big smile planted across his face. I couldn’t hear what was said, but through the windows, I caught glimpses of them laughing and him patting the officers on their backs. About ten minutes later, he walked out, still laughing and waving goodbye to his new best friends in the Slovakian border patrol.
“Beeal, they so helpful to us, I give them each a nice watch!” Later he mentioned it took a little longer because he had to explain why we didn’t have tollway medallions and how he paid the little man in the uniform.
We pulled out, bypassing the inspection lanes, and merged back onto E65, angling south and east toward Bratislava, Slovakia. Still with no toll medallions, no insurance, and I had no idea what those car titles looked like. But, I was beginning to get the picture. It didn’t matter what they looked like. It was the watches, stupid. The watches!
Next week: Another review of Face Your Fears