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Mongol Rally, Day 12: Playing dumb is the smart thing to do

July 25, 2012|By Leon Logothetis

The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.

--David Russell

The Mongol Rally, the 10,000-mile journey from Britain to Mongolia, is a road trip, for heaven's sake. So far, I've gotten acquainted with the the Ukrainian police (50 euro, about $62, fine for speeding) and the Ukrainian police again (I evaded them). I didn't meet the Russian police, although I had laid in a store of vodka in case I did. Now my co-driver, Steve, and I were getting ready to cross into Kazakhstan, where the police apparently were very eager to get acquainted.

But I had my own self-help guru with me, a fellow rallier named Simon. I had met Simon a few hours earlier at a ramshackle bridge in Russia used to cross the Volga river. The bridge was practically sinking. Fortunately we  managed to cross safely into Kazakhstan together. Then both of us were pulled over, apparently for going through a stop sign.

As we walked into the police station, I was mentally preparing to barter for freedom. Simon was smarter. The policeman didn't speak much English, but he did say we should give him a surprise. I took this to mean cash. I looked at Simon and said, "Let's give him what he wants."

Simon ignored me. His strategy was to insist he had no idea what the policeman was saying. I was ready to give in, but Simon continued with his plan. The policeman gave up and waved us on our way.

As we walked out of the station Simon told me that it's not unusual to give the police what you think they want and then get arrested for bribery. Thanks to Simon I am not in a cell. Lesson learned. 

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