The most remarkable feature of the man entering this newsroom is that he is bi-pedal,
ambulating in the direction of my office in a manner Nature reserved for the more
deserving evolved. His species are better known for crawling, slithering maybe,
and sometimes leaving slime as a record of their regrettable existence.|
dressed as an officer, willingly exploiting any assumption that he earned those
stars on his bony shoulders. But he is the worst of a breed too plentiful here:
the weasely, bloodsucking pirates in patriots' uniforms, who use the cloak of
authority as a money bag for personal gain.
Usually you can spot their bellies
long before other features make an entry - pregnant men who rape their own - made
fat by taking from others' plates.
But this one is of the other variety:
Skinny, like a dog ill at ease, whose necessity to guard his bone from predators
of his own kind leaves no opportunity to enjoy the meat.
He comes in with
a hand stretched out and wearing a bully's disingenuous smile. I am a whore for
shaking his hand, but I want this routine to pass as quickly as possible.
other repugnants are with him, consistent with the species' self-preserving pack
behavior. There is safety in groups, but also confirmation. The other two don't
do anything, but are there, I suppose, to convey the impression that they would.
uniform allows him to say that he is here in his duties as a public officer. His
real intention, however, is of a private nature.
Our veteran translator
has endured this sort his whole life, and knows their greasy game.
much will it cost to get him to leave?" I ask my colleague.
me the bribe is $150.
I can't stand to see it go that easily, so I decide
to at least make the pompous imposter explain himself.
are we paying for?" I ask.
He doesn't have an answer. So, like a teacher
trying to short-cut the learning curve I say:
"I guess maybe the fee
is for your public utility service . . ."
"Aiyo, aiyo," the
intruder answers, nodding his yes as if he's glad the gringo finally gets it.
of course we want to comply with our obligations," I say. "But, you
know, we're going to need a receipt showing that we've paid, and what the payment
He hears the translation, and from his spindly neck up, he
becomes nothing but frown . . .
"Che! Che!" he snorts the negative,
in a manner that, even without translation gives me the message: "Are you
out of your #@%&* mind?"
I respond with one of my few Armenian
phrases: "Haskanum em." I understand.
What I understand is that
if we don't pay this extortionist $150, the title he hides behind gives him the
power to shut us down for fabricated reasons. I understand that, like a Brooklyn
barkeep paying off the Gotti boys, I am buying protection.
we work in an environment where paying bribes assures a hassle-free existence,
even if you've done nothing to be hassled for. From the traffic cop to the judge,
to the university entrance examiner, hush money talks in Armenia. It is a system
so widely accepted that there is no mechanism for fighting it.
What am I
supposed to do, report this thug to his superior? As if the guy at the top of
the stinking heap isn't taking his share?
What I can't understand is how
these people with whom I gladly share this neighborhood have endured lifetimes
as victims of such vultures. They deserve better.