Daniel Adler and the Malaysian Police

daniel adlerWhen you go to a police station in a foreign country chances are no good will come of it. Your case will get bungled in foreign bureaucracy, or they assume you’ll leave the country in a few days or by next week. They write up their report and apologize, having done their job.

It started out promisingly enough, with three cops sitting in the courtyard. Daniel had asked Gema, who he’d kind of fallen in love with when he found out they had the same birthday, to help him file a police report against the Yakin Express Bus Co. He told the cops his story, and tried to elicit sympathy and provide all the details most people would find interesting , but which made him look slightly pathetic and naive. The one affirmation he received was when the young male cop took off his aviators and nodded after Daniel said, typically you don’t leave someone at a rest stop with all their stuff aboard the bus.

They drove to the station. Daniel sat in the back with the tundung-wearing female cop. He imagined himself the only cause for work these cops had seen in days. It started to pour torrentially. The old Indian cop sat with Daniel and asked him to relate his story, translating Daniel’s superfluous details into pidgin legalese.

He wrote how when Daniel had dealt with the Yakin Express Bus Co. in Kuala Lumpur they told him to come back in the evening and asked for money to give the driver for making the return from Penang. And when the bus did show up of course his laptop bag that he’d left on the seat was gone, and they’d blamed it on the bus passengers.

At 11 ‘o’ clock the chief arrived. The Indian cop put down his pen and stood. The chief asked what he was doing with Daniel and the Indian cop told him the story– “laptop” is translingual; the chief nodded and told him to proceed. Then they sat at a desk where another high-ranking cop who didn’t speak English turned the computer monitor and loosened the keyboard so Daniel could type up the story, fixing some of the pidgin. When he’d finished Daniel sat for a few minutes while the cops discussed. Soon he was handed a phone. A man who spoke good English told him that since he didn’t see who took the laptop there wasn’t much they could do. “It’s not like you have an idea of who took it, do you?” Daniel assumed the question was rhetorical and let a silence hang. “Do you?” Of course I don’t, he thought. It could have been the driver or one of the passengers or even that one-armed Indian at K.L. How would I know, I was stranded by the bastards. “No,” he said flatly.  The officer made closing proprietary statements Daniel knew he had to make. He wished the conversation over.

The Indian cop rehashed the same sentiments. Daniel imagined them settling back into an afternoon of protracted laziness and inertia once they dropped him off. Not that finding my laptop would be easy, Daniel thought, but these guys don’t look like they’re used to detective work. The young cop with the aviators was flirting with a skirted police officer behind the doorway. They enjoyed the benefits of a government job; this old Indian cop had long since wished for high-speed chases and bursts of adrenaline, was comfortable enough fulfilling his duty when duty called. “I’ve done all I can do,” he said as they stepped out of the car in the Red Roof Cabana Inn parking lot. Daniel shook his hand, said goodbye and waved at the other two, wondering if he should’ve shook with the aviator guy, as a token of appreciation for his early sympathy.

Later, over another delicious Georgetown lunch of watermelon juice and noodle soup with chicken and veggies, Aaron asked if he somehow felt free after having lost his last burden– his last possession of any worth or import in his life. He paused, momentarily regretting having lost 1500 photos and numerous unedited stories. Then he told him about how Hadley Hemingway lost Ernest’s juvenilia on the train to Geneva. “Yes,” he said. “I feel entirely free. Like I can start over, like I can begin a new era of my life.”

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.


  1. I’m sorry to hear that Daniel. I can empathize. It’s devastating to be relieved of your precious possessions in a strange country. And dealing with the police afterwards only makes it hurt more. Dealing with the Serbian police after being robbed by gypsies was the same story all over again. Don’t let it get you down. And most importantly don’t let it define the end of your trip. I greatly regret not continuing on after losing everything. Just keep going.

    1. Anthony, I appreciate your empathy. But I can’t help thinking that part of me wanted to lose it. Sure it was unfortunate, but it happened. I managed to finish traveling for three weeks more, and now I’m back in the states, working with my friend on that project in Ithaca, NY. I’ve stopped blogging– with no more computer, and back at home, I just don’t really see a point. Maybe I’ll pick it up again in the future, but for now, I’m just writing for me (and Zypshop). It sounds trite, but after everything I’ve lost, what I have left, what I’ve learned, is worth tenfold more than all that stuff. I have no regrets from my trip– it was six of the best months of my life, and I’m ready for the next chapter.
      I look forward to the day, hopefully sooner rather than later, when we will share stories, and maybe some jalapeno tequila.

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