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Rules of the Road: Stories From the Land of Cheese

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I need to take it down a notch. Not that this will be a sad installment of cheese, but we had a bit of mini-drama on the road. Addi and I were traveling home on a perfectly normal Friday morning. In fact, I was just starting to feel independent—really getting my wings, as they say—and thinking that “Hey, I can really do this.” The “this” being the whole living in Europe thing.

Then, it happened. I was rear-ended. I was waiting to turn left into our apartment complex and focusing on on-coming traffic when we were hit. I haven’t been in an accident in a while and I was surprised by the impact. The “thud” and shear force is amazing. I had also forgotten the sounds of an accident. You know that horrible noise that metal on metal makes? It is nothing compared to the shrills coming from your own daughter in the back seat.

So, I’m in a little bit of shock because I just didn’t see the guy coming. Then, BAM! It was surreal. I pulled off to the side and saw a big, white delivery truck do the same. I raced around to Addi’s door, but it was jammed and I couldn’t open it. I could see her and she was not bleeding, just screaming bloody murder. I darted to the other rear door and threw it open. I then grabbed her and hugged her to my chest. She seemed fine, just scared. Then, I tried to get out of the car. I was locked in! Blasted child-safety doors! I was frantically pulling on the door handle, screaming, “I can’t get out!” when I saw my guardian angle. He was a vision in a Boston Red Sox hat.

The driver of the random white delivery truck opened my door and helped me out. He spoke English and had a huge American smile. He introduced himself as “Mickey” and said that he saw the whole accident.

This turned out to be a good thing. The driver of the other vehicle came storming over, shouting in French. Basically, he was trying to blame me for “stopping in the middle of the road.” He claimed that I just stopped in the middle of the road without my blinker on and that is why he hit me. Mickey argued right back (in French) and put the French jerk in his place. I mean, what kind of man yells at a crying woman who is clutching a screaming five-month old? Really!

The police were called and Mickey stayed around to translate. While we waited for the police, Mickey and I struck up a conversation. I disclosed that we just moved from Michigan and his eyes lit up, as he was originally from Detroit (which will now be referred to as the “D”). And, like I said, he had a Boston Red Sox’s hat on … and I have a deep love for those Sox. Seriously, could life be any more random? Here I am in the middle of Switzerland, talking to a man (in English) about the D and the Red Sox.

The police arrived and suited up in their “official” gear. This consisted of day-glow orange safety vests, a fluorescent orange triangle placed on the pavement, and a clipboard. Mickey introduced himself as “Junior” to the cops (apparently Mickey is his street name in The D) and explained the situation. I scrambled around for my insurance information and presented my International Driver’s License. Note: I was a little nervous about said license since we procured them from AAA—I mean, do those really work? Some flunky at AAA issuing a paper booklet with a passport picture and all that makes it official is this wanky little AAA stamp? The police accepted it, along with my Michigan driver’s license, and apparently, they work for a year.

French jerk was cited and I received the paperwork as one of the officers swept up the wreckage. His car was totaled, but mine just needed some bodywork. The cars were hauled away and the French man just shrugged an apology. Mickey and I parted ways after I thanked him profusely. He was literally my knight in shining … well, in a Boston Red Sox’s hat.

Later that day, we took Addi to the doctor. She was just fine, thank goodness! I had a little whiplash, but mostly it was just my confidence that was bruised. Our car was taken to a garage and I received a sexy little car to zip around in for a couple of weeks. Nothing like shedding the “stay-wag” persona to help the confidence bruise heal.

Since then, I’ve learned that the Swiss don’t mess around when it comes to driving. Speed seems to be their target. Mind you, the Swiss are generally rule oriented. If it’s the rule, then you follow it.

Hidden cameras have been installed on the highway and in less obvious spots as well. A friend of mine was recorded speeding around a bend. Apparently, there was a camera hidden in a brick wall. The camera snaps a picture of your license plate and then the citation comes in the mail. Sometimes, as in the case of my friend, your license is suspended for a month. Then, it’s train-city for you.

But, some entrepreneurial Swiss has devised a plan to rent cars to those who have been busted for speeding. You are allowed to drive to and from work, but you are only allowed to go 45 km/hour. Now, this is the equivalent of traveling about 30 mph—on the highway. The “Speed cars” also have huge “45” decals on every possible surface and advertising saying, “If you have been banned, rent me!” So, basically, the Swiss don’t just want to fine you but they want to embarrass the heck out of you as well. Driving around in one of those shameful cars has to sting worse than the original fine. Plus, as soon as you gain any speed, the governor kicks your foot off the accelerator.

When you are in an accident, the police ask you if you want to press charges, or have the driver at fault pay a fine. I said “no” at the time of the accident, but now that I know about the “shame mobile,” I should reconsider. I would pay money to see that jerk stuck behind the wheel of car, blazon with “I suck at driving, so watch out!” slogans all over.

Sweet revenge!

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Past Columns:  

Stories From the Land of Cheese: Old World Charm and Moon Boots

Stories from the Land of Cheese: How Do You Say “Vomit” in French?  

Stories from the Land of Cheese: Buoyed By Mont Blanc

Stories from the Land of Cheese: You Can Get Lost in These Holes

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Letter from Italy: Snapping Out of It In Naples


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