It was Tuesday morning and I was driving back from dropping my mom off at the airport. (BTW, her visit was fine - no casualties. This time... haha)
The morning radio station (100.3 in Denver) was blathering on about how crappy their show had been and it was up to the Last Caller of the Day to make it all better. They said if anyone was conversational or had a good story to call in and the best caller would win 4 tickets to Disney on Ice.
Well, if y'all've been here before, you know I gots some stories (although, how good they are is pretty subjective). So I called in. The call-screener (Jeremy) asked what I had to say. Well, first he asked my name (Ruth) and then asked if people called me Baby. I sighed and said my usual line for such lameness, "Wow! That's the first time I've ever heard that one again." We hardee-har-har'd over that and then he asked what I had to say. I told him I could tell about the time Madeline Albright's head Secret Service guy nearly snapped my arm in half because he messed up or I could tell this other story I had. He picked the other story and I was put on hold. For like 20 minutes! They let you listen in on everything that's going on and I got to hear the other callers they picked.
The first guy had bad luck and every car he'd ever owned would bust within a year. The next caller talked about how her inlaws were visiting for a week and that was too long. The third caller told how her boyfriend kept her up til past midnight last nite so he could sing her Happy Birthday because today was her birthday. Then it was my turn and I told my story and they were all bustin' on me (which they'd warned about when they told people to call in) and I was laughing and vehement in my position and it was fun! Then the last, last caller told about some bottle of wine she took to a party and everyone made a big fuss over it and she didn't know why.
Anyway, they picked me! I won 4 tickets to Disney on Ice! (Well, actually, I won 4 vouchers that I've got to go pick up, then try to get tickets on days they aren't sold out.)
So here's the story I told. Get a snack...
So There I Was...
Stationed in Germany. The second base I was sent to, in Schweinfurt. I'd had my Vespa Scooter shipped to me when I was sent to Germany originally but it took almost 8 months to get it to me and by then, I'd been sent to Schweinfurt (which translates to Pig Town, by the way). So the first day I'm on the road with my little Vespa. Tooling around town, having a nice ride. I'm wearing my usual garb - knee length denim shorts, t-shirt - plus my obnoxiously white helmet (safety first!). I'm going down some random street and this particular street has 2 lanes. The right lane has the option of going straight or curving off to the left alongside the left lane. I'd been down that street veering left, so wanted to go straight and see what was down there. There were 2 young women on bikes ahead of me. They were in the bike lane and I was passing them. I passed the one and when I was passing the girl in front, she up and tried to turn left right in front of me! I was halfway past her already and there was no stopping, so I ran her over!! To this day, I don't know how she didn't notice me going past her! That scooter had an incredibly loud engine - like a mini diesel (or a giant wasp).
She fell and I fell. When I fell, my head (thankfully helmeted) bounced on the road and I slid about 4 feet with the scooter on my left leg. (I remember, as I was sliding, thinking, this is going to hurt!) I lay there for a few seconds, dazed. The German girl jumped up and started in on me and I wasn't even up yet. She was "sprikkin' the sprech" as we said back then (speaking in German) and when I got up and said, "What? Slow down." (I spoke some German but not that fast.) She was saying sorry until I took my helmet off and she heard me speaking English and saw my ugly Army issue glasses. Then she started speaking in English, too but changed her mind about the situation, "My shirt, my shoes, my glasses, my bike - you must pay for everything." I looked at her like she was crazy, "Bitch please, this is not California! I'm not paying for a damn thing - you didn't signal!"
I'd picked up my scooter and left it in the middle of the road where it landed (there was plenty of room to maneuver a car around it). This crazy girl was still trying to get me to give her my name and rank and unit and I told her we'd just wait and see what the Polizei said. We borrowed someone's phone and called the Polizei (and I also called Howie, my MP friend who spoke better German then I did). One car sat behind my scooter honking at me and I motioned him to just go around and he kept honking. I sat on my scooter looking at him angrily and motioning that I wasn't going to move and he'd just have to go around (as I said, there was plenty of room) and finally he did when the Polizei showed up. [The radio people were baggin' on me for using the word Polizei instead of police - but truly, there's a difference between German police and American - it's worth the distinction!]
Finally the police showed up and the girl was speaking in German to him and I asked them to use English please, or at least slow down so I could tell what they were saying. [Here the radio people started talking about how I was being an Ugly American. I didn't think I was, I just didn't want her telling the police something that wasn't true and how would I know if she did, because they were speaking their native tongue too fast for me to keep up??] The girl starts going off about how she didn't have to signal as that was the main street and the going forward part was just a side street.
Somewhere around here, my friend Howie shows up. He talks with the girl and the Polizei guy and then, as I'm standing there, bleeding, Howie looks at me and I can see from his face that things aren't going my was so much. I look at the main street and - Hooray! - "LOOK," I shout, "Look at that bus. It's signaling!! If the city bus has to signal, so does she." The Polizei guy sees it (well, they all do, actually) and ponders it and says I was right. He cites the girl with a ticket and tells me to go back to base. I didn't argue - Howie throws my scooter in his MP van and we get the hell out of there! (Another thing I always wondered about was the girl's friend. She just sort of faded into the background during this whole thing. And when her friend tried to elicit her help, she just put up her hands and stepped back. Another thing that made me feel I was in the right at the time.)
The radio people were calling me Ugly American (jokingly) and I was laughing about it. They were talking smack about not being in California. I explained that the German girl was all cool and apologetic until she saw the GI glasses and heard my English, then she saw her next big paycheck and went off! The California line just came out - I grew up in CA and it's so rife with frivolous litigation that her reaction just grated me wrong and made me instantly angry and defensive. I don't think I was being an Ugly American, I was just standing up for myself and not taking any shit from this gold-digger who really should've signaled. (What do y'all think? Be honest...)
So there you have it. That's actually one of the only accidents I've ever been in! When Howie dropped me at the base (the MP's lived in the basement and the medical staff lived on the 3rd floor of the same barracks), I walked over to our little tiny ER and told them what happened and showed them my leg. It was all road rashed from knee to ankle along my shin. I remember the nurse holding out the iodine scrub thing they use on road rash and saying, "You can do it or I can do it." I took her meaning and opted to do it myself - she would've been quick and efficient but I was gonna be much more gentle, I'm sure! It healed up really nicely, considering - no scars or anything!
Still don't feel Ugly about it, Ruth!