There was an empty police car at the gate to the park, ominously stationed there next to the closed shop that sells sweets and pre-packaged ice cream, like Soleros or Cornettos. The ice cream shop has been closed for a while due to the fact that ‘artificial Italian-themed cold dessert substitute’ is deemed surplus to requirements by the Spanish government. On that point they are probably right. Another thing to add to the bonfire of stuff from a pre-quarantine world that it turns out that life functions perfectly well without: Cornettos.
They let kids out a last Saturday, another facet to the general easing of restrictions across the nation. There was a prevalent thought that folk, especially children, were beginning to physically decay into a never-ending cycle of sofas and shit TV, glued all day to a screen to video calls in lieu of education, the schools being closed. This lack of physical exercise, and indeed movement in general, was deemed to have a detrimental effect, both physically and mentally, on the general population. Therefore, we now have a new timetable for when we can go out and when we can’t.
It’s a little complex, but nothing impossible. Adults, old folks, kids, old folks, adults; that’s the deal. Carte Blanche applies to dog-owners, whose lifetime of picking up warm faeces from the street has finally manifested itself into a degree of relative liberty. Shoppers are also exempt.
I know the hours, I know the rules, and I literally have no excuse for what was about to happen. I had been reading the propaganda broadcast nightly by state-run TV detailing the mountains of fines that jobsworth police officers had doled out in great abundance to adults who found themselves alone outside at the wrong time, without either appendage of modern living; a dog or a child.
A vacant police car should be ample warning to anyone who is out to flagrantly break the law. In fact, it could be considered prophetic, lucky even that said car was actually empty, thus allowing the potential criminal to weigh up their future nefarious actions. I saw the car and the long road into the park, and decided to stride forward, a bold step in the face of the authority figures.
Said authority figures would soon make themselves visible, the long straight road allowing maximum visibility of the two luminous jackets lumbering up the path. At this point there was plenty of time to turn around, however, lacking any relevant input from my brain, my feet strode steadfastly forward. At no point did my trajectory waver from my date with the lawmen as our paths drew inextricably closer. The exchange, allowing for paraphrase in translation went a little like this.
Officer 1: Hello, what are you doing?
Idiot: I am going for a walk.
Officer 1: You do know that’s illegal at this time don’t you?
Officer 1: Do you know about the timetable?
Officer 1: Yet you are still here?
Officer 1: (pauses) So why did you come?
A very good question, the answer to which was simple: I had figured that my middle-class white British privilege would guarantee me some kind of get out of jail free card, as if the fact that I do cryptic crosswords and read the Guardian would somehow put me on some pedestal that is immune to the whims of the Municipality of Malaga’s penal code. As it turned out, there was no such pedestal, and I was reported regardless.
Not to speculate, but I doubt that the police have given out an easier fine in their entire career. Not only did I provide all the adequate documentation required by the state to process an on the spot referral, I also, for reasons that now escape me, did not sully the whole affair with lies. A fake address, en route to the supermarket (though dubious in the middle of a park), asking for information, the feigned ignorance of Spanish or any other major European language, even a lost dog could have been employed at any point, yet, for reasons of said British middle-class certainty, were not. Deceit in front of authority, a characteristic that so defined my youth now lay dormant in a brain decked out with recipes for vegan lasagna and an in depth knowledge, complete with stale reheated opinion, about the political situation in countries like Lebanon or Libya.
Considering the imminent process of sanctions, I stood with the police as they mispronounced my name and fed details into a little machine that duly produced the same tell-tale piece of paper that is usually merited by the act of urinating on the street or breaking bottles on Plaza de la Marina. No British person has ever received a fixed penalty notice with such passivity; no chairs were thrown, no swear words unfurled in a broadside of profanity, no ever-so-slightly more sober friends were required to take me back to my hotel. The sun shone, dog walkers passed by with free abandon, and the cops asked if I knowingly broke the law to which I said yes and accepted the relevant consequence.
Now it is time to wait. A dreadful period of apprehension while the functionaries of the city’s bureaucracy, hopefully not too motivated by the debts caused by the lock-down, decide which bracket of fine should be applied to my foolishness. Evidently, as with all things bureaucratic in this nation as well as others, there is a backlog, a telling tale of fools like myself who make up a graph on the news and flout guidelines with such aplomb. And what of these fools? Do they also look upon popular TV series like Game of Thrones as overrated? Do they make their own hummus? Do they read Albert Camus as well? Possibly, possibly not.
Anyway, to conclude lest I regale you further with information regarding Malaga’s municipal protocol when applied to human idiocy. There is a tendency when faced with acts of stupidity to rail against all the possible factors, a pointless anger directed at anyone or anything, all the while trying to avoid the elephant in the room, that being the pachyderm of one’s own moronic behaviour. The experience had been the perfect circle of the consequence of action and I genuinely feel I have learned something from it, loathe as I am to leave the house at the incorrect time tomorrow, or any other day for that matter. The question of why and the painful steps of hindsight will always be irrelevant, a mere speculation on the defining theme of the day; that I am an idiot.
Cover image courtesy of Kevin Bluer via Flickr