Tuesday, March 16, 2010

(Uninteresting) Run-Ins with the Po-Po

I promise I'll write about my weekend travels soon...I just need to take more time to do it.

So, today was a beautiful day. After putzing around, I finally got a call from my program's internship advisor. I've been out of the seminar and without an internship for about a month. This means that in the average week, I have only 6 hours of class, which is a little less than stimulating. At first, it was a lot of fun spending the days wondering the streets, going to art museums, and walking through parks, but it got really dull after the middle of the third week or so. It also means I usually don't have a lot of human contact during the week other than Pilar, so it was pretty welcome to get a call from Nuria about the internship. I have an interview tomorrow.

After going to the university to add my name to a waiting list (I should plan these things) to go on a trip to a bonfire-based festival in Valencia and to print out my resume again, I decided do go read in the park. It was a really nice day out and I had almost finished my book (Brief Interviews with Hideous Men - I highly recommend it). I saw a nice place in the sun to sit down and started reading. I thought to myself that this would be a really nice opportunity to air out my feet. Best I can tell, it's really rude to have bare feet in Spain. We were told not to walk around barefoot in our houses (though I'm not sure to what degree just socks are acceptable) and I hear that people here never wear sandals. A book I read even emphasized that a man was barefoot in a woman's house to show how strange he was. This means that my feet are confined to shoes almost all the time, which I resent. I saw a woman on my way in who appeared to be barefoot, though, so I assumed it was at least minimally acceptable for me to do the same. Feeling the sun and open air on my feet was well worth whatever mild discomfort the people around me might have felt.

After less than 10 minutes of reading, I saw a police car drive slowly down the park path. It was from the Cuerpo Nacional de Policía, one of the two national police forces, and the one that enforces immigration and works in urban areas. I don't see why they were in the park, since there are a ton of municipal police there, as well as a special park force. I also really don't like police. I get stopped on a regular basis in New Jersey for the horrible crime of walking around after midnight and the officers are usually less than friendly.

I am most familiar with the Cuerpo Nacional from when they stop non-white people and vagrants at the subway station near my apartment demanding identification. I didn't know why they were in the park, but I didn't want to deal with them. See, in Spain you need to carry identification at all times and the police can demand to see it for no reason (in the U.S., they can ask for it, but you don't have to comply if you didn't commit a crime). For Spanish people, that means your national ID card. For foreigners, I presume that means your passport, but I don't carry mine for fear that it will be lost/stolen. We were handed copies of our passports and visas by the program for this reason, but I accidentally ripped the visa part in half, so I don't carry it. I think you're allowed 24 hours to show it, so I guessed I was safe in the unlikely even that I was stopped.

My two thoughts upon seeing the car were a) I really should put my shoes on just in case that's illegal; b) I don't have any identification on my other than my NJ driver's license and my university ID; c) if I put my shoes on now, they've already noticed; and d) I should stop staring at them. Sure enough, two police officers got out of the car.

"Good afternoon. Do you have any identification papers on you?"
"Do you have any identification?"
"Uh, I only have my driver's license from the U.S." (I handed it to them and one examined it)
"Are you a student?"
"Yes, I study at the Autónoma. I can show you my student ID if you like."
"No, that's OK. What do you study?" (Are they trying to have a chat or validate my story? One would think the student ID would do a better job of the latter.)
"Politics and economics."
"OK, thank you. Good bye."

They left, not stopping anyone else on the way out. I am still totally confused as to what happened. If the issue was* my lack of shoes, one would think they would have mentioned it. If it was a routine check, one would think I wouldn't have been the only one stopped. If it was immigration, the real question was how the knew I wasn't Spanish. Pilar tells me on a regular basis that I pass well if I don't speak, and it seems like the consensus that most Spanish associate foreigners with being non-white. Was I that suspicious for looking at the police car while not wearing shoes? If I was suspicious, how was this all explained by saying that I was a foreigner studying politics and economics? Do political scientists and/or economists have a reputation for not wearing shoes and being uncomfortable around police?

I won't pretend to understand.

On an unrelated note, the IP address tracker I put on the blog seems to indicate that there is a regular visitor in the Stockholm area, though neither David nor I think we know anyone there. As I'm going to Stockholm for a few days over spring break, I'd appreciate any tips you have for the area, whoever you are.

*Editorial note: Should these sentences be in the subjunctive (were, rather than was)? I've tried it both ways and I really can't tell.

No comments:

Post a Comment