This scooter was parked across the street from a police station in Beirut a couple of nights ago. When I tried to take a picture, an officer sitting in a wooden sentry post outside the station took offense.
“You,” he bellowed from his side of the street. “Stop taking photos!”
“Why?” I yelled back.
“It’s forbidden,” he said. “It belongs to the police.”
But I like the ‘playboy’ emblem,” I said.
“Doesn’t matter. Photos of the police are forbidden,” he said, adding a stern look.
A moment later, another officer standing outside noticed me. He was chit-chatting with a dozen camouflaged colleagues on the sidewalk near the sentry post.
“Hey, what are you doing!” he hollered in my direction. “That’s my bike!”
“Can I take a picture of it,” I yelled from my side of the street.
“Of course” he replied, trading a wincing look with officer in the sentry post who smiled boyishly, as if he had just scored some much needed attention from the others.
The scooter owner happily rushed over to my side of the street. “You like the playboy?” he asked proudly.
“Yes,” I lied.
“Take as many photos as you like,” he said, warning, “as long as you don’t take a picture of the license plate.” He repeated the last phrase for emphasis.
The Lebanese authorities have recently slapped a curfew on the use of scooters after dark. The fear is that young wild boys use them for late night trouble-making prowls that often become political and sectarian in nature. Obviously, the curfew does not apply to young officers.