Friday, September 19, 2014

Driving in Germany 6: The Day I Almost Killed a Guy

My husband is going to love reading this when he gets home from work today, don't you think? Yes, the title is slightly exaggerated because I was only going 30 km/h, but my hands are still shaking as I type this.

All I did was drive to the grocery store and back. I do that three to four times a week. The 4-minute drive includes a highway (100 km/h), two city sections (50 km/h), our residential area (30 km/h), one roundabout, and a windy road with no shoulder but big trucks parked on at least one side obscuring our vision and narrowing the road further (50 km/h).

Today on the way home I was enjoying the smell of the fresh basil plant nestled on the back seat and the knowledge that I don't have to go to the store tomorrow because we're set for the weekend, and pondering on a blog post about how Germans frequently scold strangers for doing things they disapprove of - something I had just witnessed again while exiting the store.  On that aforementioned narrow windy road in front of me was a little helmeted man on a little moped driving snug against the right curb. He had to navigate around the semi truck parked on the right, and I drove patiently behind him. After the truck he swerved snug against the right side again almost onto the sidewalk, but then meandered out again and slowed down. I'm still behind him, grumbling by this time about his erratic driving, but not overly annoyed. He angled right again and slowed almost to a stop but not quite, and the road was clear of traffic coming toward us, so I merged into the opposite lane to get around him. I did not gun it, as I've seen many drivers do (to me, also) to show their annoyance.

Then Moped Man hit the gas, swerved sharply left - directly in front of me - as if he were crossing traffic to turn into a driveway (there was no driveway right there). I hit my beautiful brakes so hard that I felt the ABS kick in - that car can stop nearly on a dime - though I still have no idea how I did not hit him with my right bumper. I may or may not have yelled something that vaguely rhymed with "rolly duck" as the pot of basil threw itself to the floor of the back seat and the wine bottles bashed against each other in panic.

He just kept going, swerving now back around to the right to go into the Aldi parking lot. I hate this man.

He was being stupid on his stupid little moped, but still... I am not as familiar with driving laws over here as I should be, but I'm pretty sure that if a little old helmeted man is knocked off his stupid little moped by a woman in a big angry Audi, I'm pretty sure he would not be even partially at fault no matter how erratic his driving was. I would have been responsible for his bruises, cuts, soiled trousers, tears, and stupid broken moped.

However, when I drive slowly behind a bicycle, moped, three-wheeled scooter-car, tractor or whatever without passing it when the oncoming lane is clear, I then have fuming Germans behind me making gestures in my rear-view mirror looking like they are going to convulse and rupture making an awful mess if I don't somehow get out of the way.

I hate....HATE...driving over here. I suppose I wouldn't mind at all if there were no other drivers sharing the road with me, but that's unlikely.

Update: I did have to go to the store the next day because I forgot parmesan cheese. I walked.


  1. Good on you for driving at all! I keep putting off getting my driver's license, because I know my boyfriend would then make me start driving, and I despise driving stick shift.

    1. I'm lucky I had years of experience in flat, wide-streeted Wisconsin driving stick shift before moving here. I actually prefer it, especially in the winter. The fact that it's so easy in Germany to get around without driving a car makes it tempting to put off serious driving, though. Not only is driving scary as hell, but parking is a major pain in the neck. It's slightly better (in a parking garage, for instance) if you have a very small car, but we don't.

  2. Yes. Yes to all of this. The driving is ok, what gets me is the impatience of every other driver on the road. If you don't take off as soon as the lights turn green, the chorus of horn beeping can, possibly, be heard on the moon. When you take your time on a roundabout, the silent movie which takes place in the rear-view mirror would be funny if it wasn't so scary. Driving 30 in the 30 zone?! That's for losers! I have seriously contemplated taping over the rear-view with duct tape!

    1. Driving is stressful enough over here without all the impatient boneheads who think the world revolves around them. I'm also a little freaked out about all the reports of Falschfahrer and serious accidents resulting from an Überholmanöver (passing maneuver) or someone failing to yield. Even if I do nothing wrong with my own driving, I could still end up in the hospital or worse. Of course the same is true in the U.S., but I felt like there was always at least a _chance_ I could swerve or change lanes to avoid an accident as I had to do too many times there.

      One thing I'm VERY glad about here, though, is that cell phone use while driving is illegal. Some still do it, but not every second driver like in Wisconsin. How on earth anyone can talk on a cell phone while driving stick shift is beyond me.

    2. Hahahaha! Yep, Handy clamped between ear and shoulder, one hand on steering wheel, other hand changing gears. Stressful. Don't know how anybody does it!

  3. Anonymous20/9/14 18:26

    What the heck?! I can't believe this! What an idiot. I am so sorry that happened to you, it must have been terrifying! This is why I get nervous about driving sometimes. It's the other drivers that make me worried for my safety!