Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Planes, trains & the evil automobile

Oh the joys of being an American in Germany. There are positive and negative attributes to living in any foreign country, just as there are nice and not so nice people. In general I enjoy living here with the few minor exceptions of homesickness where I long to go into Wal-Mart at 0200 just to buy cereal or wish that Taco Bell was open later than 2100. Yesterday was a trial of my patients resulting in a costly charge to me, my auto insurance and of course just adds fuel to the fire about why I can’t wait to get rid of my car – properly labeled – The Lemon!

German right of way laws aren’t hard but are not the same as American ones. This is often a point of contention between other Americans and Germans as well. There are some Germans that are quite quick to point out how Americans are incapable of driving and that we (meaning every single one of us) would fail the right of way if tested on it. Now I studied for that test and quite like the right of way rules. I think that I am pretty good at understanding and following them to keep me and The Lemon out of harms way. So when I scraped the doors of my car down a parked car last night to avoid being hit head on by a SUV barreling in my direction I was not a happy camper at how the Polizei and the owner of the parked car decided to treat and talk about me while I stood there.

I had rounded the corner and verified that there was no oncoming traffic before I started to pull around this old white VW Polo. About the time my front wheels had cleared the front bumper of the Polo I see this Mercedes Benz SUV coming barreling towards me, at least twice the speed limit. In an effort to finish passing and yield the right of way I started to pull over. I cut the corner of the car too tight and scraped the bumper down my doors and knocked the mirror into the collapsed position. I got out of the car took a look at the damage and called the Polizei. While waiting for them to arrive a little old lady stuck her head out the window and looked around. I asked her if it was her car and said let me know it was the neighbor’s and what building.

As the Polizei arrive, they ask if I speak German which I replied, a little. So I explained auf Deutsch what happened. I explained where the guy lived and waited. So he took all my info, the neighbor arrived and gave his info. This is when it started to get ugly. He brushed off the mirror like it was no big deal to me but told him how he had to turn it around. While they were talking they spoke about how I must have been speeding, where the Polo owner answered that it was normal – meaning that I was American of course I was speeding. This was while I was standing there, listening even after he spoke to me in German! Then they dropped into local dialect and started to talk softer. I couldn’t hear what was said but they had a laugh afterwards.

This whole thing was turning into a witch hunt. I asked where I could get a copy of the Polizei report and was informed that there wouldn’t be one and I could call the stationhouse and ask him anything I needed to know. I was also told I was being cited with a moving violation (this is a point on my driver's record). So I asked when the American MPs were arriving only to be told they weren’t. So I told them they needed to call them and that I wasn’t given my info to the other driver until they arrived.

When they did arrive the Polizei proceeded to relay the story as that I was speeding and tried to fit where my car didn’t belong. I corrected him auf Deutsch which got me a nasty glare and the English remark that if it wasn’t right I could tell them myself. I did too. I had the TSgt walk around my car showing the damage, basically arguing my case that I was not speeding due to the amount of damage and was clearly in the process of passing when the other car came. Guess what? Come to find out, I should have let the SUV hit me HEADON, instead of attempting to pull over. Because I was in the process of passing when the accident happened the SUV would have been at fault. Okay well lesson learned on that.

The other sneaky trick they tried was to insist that I pay for my citation right on the spot. I said no the first time I was asked and the TSgt told them no as well. I found out later that if I had, it was an admission of guilt – of course he wasn’t going to tell me that. So after all this mess dies down, my friend whom I had called to arrive as a witness to the damage on the vehicles and I were talking. We decided that since the car was worth maybe 1200 euro I should take pictures. See it can be common practice to hit up American insurance companies for all they can – come on man it’s the rubber portion of your bumper, get serious buddy I could fix that by going to the junk yard and pay less than 50 euro.

So before I finish this woman, either the Polo owner’s wife or mom comes out and starts inspecting the vehicle. She walks round, circling slowly as if the vehicle were some 90,000 euro sports car, looking for every ding or dust flake. She even spent a long time looking at the side of the car that faces the sidewalk. So what lady, do you think I pulled up onto the sidewalk scraped down that side of the car then back up so I could scrape the street side of the car? No they just heard the “Cha-Ching” of the thought that they could claim all this other damage to my insurance company.

This car is bad luck man! I am going home today and stopping at the car wash. I need to see how much real damage is there and how much of it is just the rubber from the bumper. Hopefully it looks like the only real damage is the front passenger door. That would be great if the other door isn’t really damaged – popping out the dent on the front door, buffing and painting the door won’t cost all that much…oh wait this is Germany where the paint will probably have to be special ordered and delivered out of the butt of some special paint fairy costing me 1,000 euro of course. *sigh*

1 comment:

The Girl said...

I got SO irritated about this, and clearly I have nothing to do with it!!! I am sooo sorry... sounds like you need to get a new, happy car that doesn't bring such ill will on you!!!

Keep us posted as to what the insurance company says. Good grief!!