Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Bedroom Slippers Stop A Truck Driver's Funeral In Berlin

Truck or bus? That is the question.

When you see a half-demolished plaster scallop shell portico, the main suspect for  causing this sort of damage has to be either a bus driver or a truck driver in 99% of cases. Why? Let's just say it takes one to know one and as  I drive past in my car, I imagine the grinding and shrill squealing sounds of a large vehicle connecting with the door. I've done it on numerous occasions. A bus station roof, a loading bay, some supermarket gates, posts, bollards a wheelbarrow and my own front door.

A friend of mine once reversed a truck into  the side door of a Golf in the centre of Berlin. He was unfortunate as he was being guided back by a passer-by. As the Golf's door inverted, the do-gooding Berliner scarpered. The car's owner was unluckily eating his supper and watching the proceedings. he was down on the pavement in 30 seconds.

'I will now ring the Polizei,' said the Golf's owner calmly, firmly and in perfect English.

My friend took out his wallet: 'Now there's no need for that. I'm sure we can come to some arrangement,' he said, peeling off some Deutsch Mark notes (for it was before the Berlin Wall had come down and the Euro was still just an idea).

'Nein. The Polizei must come.'

And they did.

First two; then four; then eight. West German Police, West German Military Police,  British Military Police and even a man from Interpol showed up at one point. They took everything seriously. So seriously that the it resembled some major criminal scene from an episode of Starsky And Hutch. The road was cordoned off with yellow tape. Policeman began chalking the road, unwinding measuring tapes, searching every corner of the truck and then going through the log book with a toothcomb.

'What have I done to deserve this?' wailed my friend.

'It is very simple,' said the officer in charge. 'You have reversed into the door of a car which is owned by an off-duty German policeman.'

The fact that West Germany had helped to knock England out of the 1982 World Cup with a 0-0 draw, did nothing to improve the mood of the policemen. They were sour and intent on triyng to give my friend a hefty fine.

The accident took place ouside the hotel we were staying at. The hotel owner had permitted the truck could be parked overnight in the  hotel car park, directly behind the hotel. It was while trying to reverse into this narrow space that the Golf has crunched.

Half way through the Police investigation, the hotel owner appeared in the car park, gin and tonic in one hand, cigarette in the other and wearing his bedroom slippers. Whether it was his appearance or what he said in heavily accented Anglo-Deutsch, but the police packed up immediately and went back to the station without charging my friend.

President Obama once said: 'Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching boots...,' That doesn't seem to be the case in Berlin.

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