Deutschland – Mein Auto ist kaputt!

A few times now, I have opted to take public transit to the airport while travelling. It is cheaper and more convenient than parking at the airport, so I tend to leave my car parked at work over the weekend when I do this. When I do this I take a tram into work the morning after I return, and I tend to leave work essentials in my vehicle parked at the office so that I don’t need to take a heavy laptop, ID, and work clothes I won’t use on my travels with me.

On Monday morning, I hopped off the tram and walked to my car parked nearby to collect my work gear. I was surprised to find the car not-quite where I had left it. It was still in the same space (mostly), but had been rotated about 30 degrees. The driver-side front corner bumper had been damaged, and fortunately a note was neatly tucked under my windshield. Welcome to my Monday =]

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My parking job on Monday morning
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Something’s a little off…

I took (more than) a few pictures, and decided my best bet was to try to get in touch with the note-writer. I collected my things and went into the office, and got a hold of my poor vehicle’s assailant. I didn’t get much of a story out of him, and had the impression he was reluctant to admit guilt despite the fact that I was not even at the scene of the accident when it occurred. He gave me an insurance claim number and recommended I call the rental company with this information.

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Crunchy
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His car, while not pretty, was still driveable

My rental car company suggested I call the police, and eventually agreed to send a technician out to help repair the damage so that the vehicle could be driven to the rental office. Around an hour later, a technician arrived and firmly told me that the police would need to file a report for this, pointing out that the guardrail had also been hit and that without a police report I could be held liable for damages to the property. Fifteen minutes later, the police arrived and filed a report. I called the perpetrator and he was able to be there about 5 minutes after the police showed up, and explained what happened to them in German much faster than I could keep up Eventually the police left and we got back to our work trying to get the vehicle back to a rental office.

The technician began tearing apart the damaged bumper, trying to clear the wheel of any interference with the warped plastic. Meanwhile, he had me try to start the car, only to find that the vehicle would not budge. He did some quick troubleshooting and somehow decided it was the transmission. The language barrier crept up on us again here so I didn’t really understand how he arrived at that conclusion, but I took his word for it.

He called some towing guys on my behalf and said they would arrive shortly, he left and I hiked back up to the office to work for about an hour more until the towing folks called me. Neither of them spoke any English, so my German was put to the test trying to tell them where to go and when I would be there. We sorted it out and when I came back to the vehicle I flagged down the two men pulling up in a massive towtruck – no way we were getting that inside the multi-level parking garage.

I failed to properly convey that the vehicle would not start, despite my best efforts. After they took a few quick tries at running the engine, I found myself pushing my rental car down 4 or 5 levels of ramps, aided by two strangers whith whom I could barely converse. You could think I have reason to complain that I was made to push rather than steer, but be mindful of the fact that without a running engine we had no power steering or assistance on the brakes. I was fine helping push when that was the alternative.

We got the car to street level and I helped the guys line up and hook the vehicle onto the tow truck. They told me where the vehicle would be taken and were about to drive off when I made a split-second decision to stay with the car, as I had no way of knowing for sure where it would be taken and I had no easy way to get there.

A short ride later I found myself at what seemed like a car dealership, though they also did repairs and rentals there as well. No one there spoke any English either, so I did my best to convey what I needed and get some help. Eventually I gave them a phone number to call for roadside assistance, and thankfully the service employe did speak good English. He eventually found me a replacement vehicle at the airport, and told me to take a cab there.

An employee at the rental center called a cab for me and I made my way back to the airport, where getting my replacement vehicle was quick and easy. All-in-all, I can’t be too unhappy with how everything was handled; I drove a different car home that same day.

So yeah – that’s how my Monday went. You might think I was upset or annoyed, but how can I really complain? If I had to be in an auto accident, this was pretty ideal: no one was injured, I was not even driving (and so couldn’t be held liable), my damaged car was not mine (so I don’t need to worry about repairs or insurnce), and I had a ton of help getting the situation taken care of, driving off in a new vehicle the same day. I put my German skills to the test, and walked away with a cool experience dealing with lots of locals.

By the way, I didn’t hear this from the other guy, but he must have been going way too fast to have damaged my car that badly. I suspect he was among the first employees into the office in the morning and thought himself quite the stunt driver – hopefully he learned a lesson!

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