This photo arrived in the mail. Not my best side, I admit. I’d post the entire document but I don’t know the rules about that as it’s from a speeding ticket. I remember the moment well, I was navigating through Stuttgart construction trying to find the zoo while my mom carried a running dialogue next to me, the kids kicked each other in the back seat, and an ambulance followed by a police car (no lights on, therefore no emergency) tailed me. No pressure… Seeing my portrait reminded me of a visit from the police 8 years ago:
The door buzzer hummed.
I jumped up from the sofa, startling my infant son who had fallen asleep nursing. My daughter followed me to the door.
I pressed the intercom handset to my ear.
“Yes?” I asked.
“Mrs. Tolan?” a gruff voice inquired.
“Yes?” I replied.
“This is the police. May we come up?”
My heart leapt in my chest. Was my husband okay? He had walked to work this morning, just right across the street.
I opened the door and waited for the officers to reach our second-story flat. One was older with a salt-and-pepper mustache, and the other younger. Both were wearing matching forest green sweaters and had guns in their holsters.
The senior officer showed me a black and white photo.
“Do you recognize this person?” He asked.
I leaned in, pulling the baby closer to my chest. It was a small, 5 x 5 cm black and white photo, but not small enough to not see who was in it.
It depicted my husband, wearing his bug shaped, mirrored sunglasses, driving my car the day we got “blitz” (German for flash) photographed going through a speed trap in a construction site on the A8. We were on our way to the mountains and I told him he was going too fast.
I KNEW he had been speeding.
“Yes. That’s my husband,” I answered in my ‘talking to police officers’ voice.
He glanced at his colleague.
“You’re sure?” he asked me.
“Of course. It’s my husband. He’s driving my car.”
“License plate number VV CT 24?”
“Yes,” I confirmed.
“Where is he right now?”
“At work. Across the street. Is he in trouble?”
“Would you please give us the address?”
All I really needed to do was point, but of course, I obliged. This was the police! They had guns! My daughter forgot her hunger and whining and followed them with her wide eyes.
They left with a polite thank you.
“YOU DID WHAT?” was my husband’s response when I informed him of his imminent visitors. “YOU sent them to my work?”
“What else was I supposed to do?”
What I was supposed to do was what his mother did some 15 years ago when the police showed up at her work with such a photo that captured him speeding in her car.
She took a quick glance and said, “I’ve never seen that person in my life. Now I need to get back to my patients.”
And she shooed them out the door.
Apparently there is a rule allowing you to either say that you don’t know, or you can state, “I don’t want to say anything,” essentially “pleading the Fifth” in American terms.
Of course, that leaves the question quite open as to who exactly the speeding Mystery Man in your car is. Did he steal your car, speed around, then return it? Did you just forget that you loaned the car to someone else that day?
The Blitzer Police, the team of officers employed to set up speed traps (“Blitzer” being German slang for speed trap, not to be confused with ingesting copious amounts of alcohol), love to decorate the Autobahn. The A8 Autobahn is notorious for its traffic jams, this being one of few routes to the mountains and lakes south of Munich. There is a patch where major freeways merge into the A8, and if you start out too late, you will find yourself trapped for hours, as we learned while also in the middle of the construction zone with a speed limit of 30 km/hr. Whenever a gap appeared, my husband attempted to bust through the zone and pass the stationary vehicles, utilizing his up to 20 km/hr over rule. POOF! went the red light of a blitzer, the red light flashing like the diffused light of a professional photographer in the studio, and in my mind, this is the sound it makes.
“Maybe there’s no film in the camera, “my husband commented.
It did. The speeding ticket came in the mail, and unknown to me, he had contested the ticket and requested proof of the blitzer photo.
The police gladly acquiesced, and came to our home with the photo in hand as requested. There had been film in the camera. With excellent resolution.
My husband was furious with me for turning him in to the police. That would be the last rule for his driving catalog: If the police come to the house with a photo from a blitzer speeding ticket, then you are to say, “I don’t know and if I did know I wouldn’t say anything anyway because I got hit by a plank that day and had amnesia and I could have handed my keys over to a Mystery Man but I can’t say.”
Again, maybe that’s another rule I missed by not studying for and taking the German driving license exam.
Perhaps it’s time to enroll in German driving school.