By William J. Furney
The Bali Times
There was soothing piano music, chilly air-conditioning and garlands of flowers, albeit plastic. Was this the grand foyer of some delightful hotel in Nusa Dua? It was not. It was the driving-license section of Denpasar Police Headquarters, known as Poltabes, where I’m delighted to report drastic changes have been made since my last visit – for the better!
It’s good to know the top brass read my column and are taking heed, for when I last wrote about Poltabes, in November, it was a horror of a place where you had to battle to get processed.
What a difference four months makes!
Now, officers are so helpful in the driving-license application process that not only do you not have to take the written test, but for those unfortunate enough to have to, helpful hints for future transgressions are included in the exam.
Take question 15, for instance:
“When you accidentally hit a pedestrian and bring about fatal injury that people in the scene furius [sic] and threaten to attack, you may leave the scene to avoid attack, but than [sic] you are:
a.Change your license number to avoid being ider tified [sic] by the policeman.
b.Report to the nearest Police station right away.
c.Keep yourself unidentified by the police unrder [sic] that police can not frecognize [sic] you.”
Thankfully I didn’t have to answer such bothersome questions, but a cursory official attempt to adhere to the rules meant I was handed the three-page questionnaire anyway. And then I gave it back, but not before I told all the answers to my driver outside the door, himself about to take the test – supposedly.
On the street-sign section we puzzled over what a blank circle meant, until I asked an officer, who said, “It’s meant to be red” but it didn’t show on the photocopy.
Still, it’s a delight now, getting or extending a car or motorbike license. I asked officer Dewa, who over the years has become somewhat of a friend, especially as he lives near me in Canggu, how the mobile driving-license unit – a program launched a couple of years ago – was working out.
“It can’t cope with too many applications,” he said. “The computer gets hot. It’s only really for remote regions.” Where I presume not that many people are making applications. But it’s a good PR move on the part of the police, who for long have suffered a bad rap.
A middle-aged man with a European accent that may have been Dutch was also a getting license, and was seated and chatting with a middle-aged European couple in the tiny foreigner-application office normally manned by officer Dewa, who’s young and loves horsing around. I overheard the man say he was married to a woman from Lombok and, perennially curious, I asked him how it was getting a driving license on Bali’s eastern neighbor.
But it turned out that he didn’t live there, and had no idea. My interjection into his European-folk conversation seemed to give him the green light to launch into one with me about how “lawless” this country is and how you can “get what you want” if you “pay for it.” His words, not mine. Do you agree?
I had an array of things to do that morning and couldn’t wait around for my new car-driving license – even if it was being expedited – so I said I’d be back the next morning for my mug shot and electronic fingerprinting and signature that make up most of the license card itself. I didn’t see officer Dewa and told a colleague of his I’d return bright and early, before the heaving masses gathered.
“Where did you go?” said Dewa when I arrived in his office at 8:50am the next day. “I tried to call you.” What I like about this officer, apart from his genuine good heart and helpfulness, is that I get to pay the amount I want for licenses. “How much was it last time?” he’ll say, and I’ll mention a figure I like and away we go.
First in line, snapped, printed, signed. And driving off at 9:10am. How’s that for service?