I still don't know why I blew through that checkpoint outside Mazatlan on my last drive North up through Mexico even though the police went out in the middle of the road with his machine gun motioning me to stop. I exited onto the autopista (superhighway) and sure enough soon noticed flashing red and blue lights in my rear view mirror. I found the film can with the last half joint in it, thought about throwing it out the window, then stashed it into my toiletries bag instead of the usual secure spot deep within a smattering of coffee grounds and banana peels in a rotten milk box in my litter bag on the floor of the passenger seat.
I played dumb gringo (you're probably thinking now that's easy) as they went through my stuff and I soon saw the film can in one of the policeman's hand and another had found the Mexican match box with the joint residue inside.
"Marijuana!" the English-speaking cop said triumphantly with a big smile. "You're in big trouble now!" He took out his handcuffs while I staggered a little within, then began to negotiate.
"Can't I pay a fine?" I asked.
"Here?" the cop asked. He handed me back my drivers license. "How much you got?"
I opened my wallet and offered 200$USD.
"Look! $200 he has!" the policeman said with a laugh. "How about three?"
I looked in my wallet and found two 50s to go along with the two Franklins. "Oh, one for each?" I said, referring to the other two cops who'd arrived in the second vehicle.
"Yeah," said the cop.
I paid the $300 just as one of the cops discovered my new, unused tennis shoes. "Can I buy these from you?" he asked.
I was ready to give him the damn shoes when a federal highway patrolman stopped by to see what was up with these state cops out on the autopista. Just before the fed rolled up in his black and white one state cop handed me back the film can and I considered tossing it immediately in the weeds but stashed it back in the car.
I told the cop $20 for the shoes and we completed the transaction before the eyes of the Federale. I took the 200 pesos, looked at all four cops sandwiching me in, and asked if I could go. I pulled out still thinking I should ditch the joint out the window, then at the rest stop with the Federale parked nearby I thought about dumping it in the trash. Instead I took off, still feeling a little shocked and stopped under an autopista overpass. I re-rolled the joint, burned it up, and then rolled down the highway. I was finally clean in Mexico and vowed to get my life together.