The past week and a half or so the Army has largely left me alone. I do my thing, babysit a warrant and a few Soldiers, and occasionally get told that I am too angry because I sent snotty messages to my reports officer when he asks for another PowerPoint slide so he can show the Battalion where we are and what we do. Nothing out of the ordinary.
So that, naturally, means that it is Germany’s turn.
The other day it snowed. This being on the same latitude as Canada, one would think that this would not come as such a shock to the local residents. Tragically, one would be wrong.
0500, as it turns out, is way too early on a Saturday for a German to be out plowing the roads. It makes the Works Council (yes, there is such a thing… like a union but fewer mafioso and more whining) unhappy to think that the plow operators might have not had enough rest to sleep off the beer from the evening before. A reasonable concern, but doesn’t help anyone when the snow started the evening before. By the time they wander out into daylight, which is around 0800, there is a fine layer of ice under everything else. I like to think they are just trying to make it more fun.
So when I drove to my friend’s house to help her make cookies to send to Soldiers recently departed for points south, I noticed the roads were a bit slick for my 1991 rear-wheel drive beast. I confirmed this fact when I passed a Polizei sitting and reading a book in her car next to the scene of a flipped over and completely totalled vehicle. I then narrowly dodged being hit by a car sliding around a curve, who I then watched spin out in my rearview mirror and bump out to get stuck in a field less than 50 meters from the Polizei, who looked mildly annoyed. Her having seen the accident, I kept plodding along, making the 15 minute drive to my friend’s house in about 30 minutes.
The way back, almost 11 hours later, was no picnic. Slipping to my car and then taking five minutes just to convince my car that backing out of a spot onto the road was a good idea, I figured it would be prudent to take my time going home.
Apparently, this was where I went wrong. I made it to within a mile of my house, just turning onto the main road in town, when the blue lights and the “STOP! POLIZEI!” lights flashed behind me. I went a block ahead and found a place to pull over.
Upon discovering that I spoke English, the Polizei decided to speak it as well, which was fun because his English was about as good as my German. We understood each other enough for me to communicate that I have a strong dislike for poor driving conditions in darkness, and for him to communicate that he thought I was coming from the nearby American Refugee Camp, also known as the local Irish Pub. He wanted to know why I was driving so slowly and more towards the middle of the road, and why my car looked like it was weaving and slipping a little. I gave him an incredulous look, but then realized that I recently had Botox shot into my face as part of a perverse headache treatment attempt, so really I probably just looked rather young and blank. I instead explained to him that I have been in an accident on icy roads, and just that day had seen a few, so was trying to be careful. He sneered at me. He actually sneered at me. I don’t think he tought I would notice. I did. I was not happy. This is a culture that cannot seem to keep their roads clear, eventually just putting sand down on top of the snow when the plow guys decide they had enough for the day, had two accidents in a row just that I had observed in less than 12 hours, and he sneers at me because I tell him I am trying to be a prudent driver in poor weather conditions. Plus, I think I recognized him from previous trips to the indoor rifle range. We will see who gets expert next time, buddy, we will see…
I watched his partner slip and slide back to the Polizei vehicle to get her Breathalizer and agreed to play his game. To not do so would have meant a Driving Under the Influence with Refusal to Submit to Testing, plus a forced blood test on the spot, so I didn’t have many options aside from chatting with him to wait for her to return with the machine. To make small talk, I asked him if the roads were clear near where I lived. He tried to give me directions to my house. I stopped him to try again, and got more directions to my house. I decided I should give up and wondered which of us should take the test. He asked me if I was from Arizona, since that is where my most recent license is. I was getting tired, so I said sure and told him the desert is hot. He agreed. We were both content.
I blew a 0.00. They had me try again, apparently hoping for a higher score. I must have lost the game, because they seemed very disappointed when I failed to produce any trace of alcohol. I told them I had last had a glass of wine with dinner five hours before, but they could give it a third try if they really wanted to. They declined my offer. Before slipping back to their car, the nice Polizei told me to drive carefully. I bit my tongue, rather hard in fact, so I wouldn’t point out that was what had caused the trouble in the first place.
I know the nice Polizei were only trying to do their job by making the roads safer, taking the drunkards off the streets. I know I could have pointed out the quality of my automobile or the darkness or the ice that was raining down in little flecks onto his head to make him understand, but I knew that no matter what I was going to take the test and he would continue letting others speed by and whipping themselves into fields. Laws of German Nature, I suppose.
So instead I just told him he should really be wearing a hat to avoid catching cold, turned on my car, and plodded home at the same speed I had been traveling earlier: a few kilometers an hour under the posted speed limit. Meanwhile, they whipped around and went back to stake out the Pub. I finally made it home safely with nary even a citation to help explain the delay to the cat. It was only then that I realized I had forgotten to take any cookies home with me.
I blame it on Germany. If the Army isn’t doing it to me, it can only be the location. A few more months and there will be all new adventures. So long as I drive slowly enough but obviously not too slow, I should be able to live to see the day.
And that, I suppose, is the best I can hope for.