Have you heard the one about the Taiwanese exchange student in Texas? It seems the highway patrol wanted to pull him over so they put the flashing lights on and drove up behind them. The hapless student led them on a merry chase for twenty miles, all the while blissfully unaware that he was in a scene from Smokey and the Bandit. When apprehended and asked what he thought he was doing, his reaction was: Huh!?! How could I know you wanted to stop me. There were no hints. Likely apocryphal, but possibly it’s true.
For those who don’t know, Taiwan’s police drive everywhere with their flashing lights on. It doesn’t imply any sort of rush, emergency, or desire to apprehend you. The flashing cherry simply tells the world: Hey look. I’m driving,… in a car,… and it has some flashing lights…. Fun!
Many foreigners, when they arrive, ask the obvious question: Why? Most Taiwanese can’t answer because they’ve never thought it strange, but it is weird, prevents stealth, and impedes police work.
I have a theory. During martial law it made a lot of sense for cops to drive around with the lights a-popping. They weren’t a police force as we currently understand it. They were a force of oppression, there to keep the citizenry in check, and be a visible symbol of governmental power and reach. It makes perfect sense to try to draw as much attention as possible. We see you. The government is everywhere.
I think when martial law ended, the police showed up for work the next day, and exhibiting the Asian preference for doing it the way it’s always been done, turned on their flashing lights and headed out. A few decades later, and no one has given it a second thought—except yours truly.