If The Accident Doesn’t Kill You, These Random Busybodies Will

, , , , , | Legal | June 28, 2020

This happened a few years ago when I was still in my twenties. 

I drove home from work on a sunny afternoon. Just next to a cafe on the main road with heavy speed regulations, I got involved in an accident together with three other cars.

In front of me were two cars, and we all were going at slow speed — 50 KmH — as is usual in closed villages. Right after a curve in front of the cafe, the first car, all out of the blue, went to a full stop without slowing down first or indicating anything. They just hit the brake fully without any reason; the street was clearly empty.

Both the car right in front of me and I managed to slam the brakes and stop in time. But only barely so. You could only manage to get a sheet of paper between our bumpers, and despite the slow speed, we’d both managed to leave skidmarks and you could hear our tires screeching on the asphalt.

My heart was pounding and I sank forward against the steering wheel, relieved I hadn’t run into the car in front of me. The next moment, another car slammed into mine from behind and rammed it into the car in front. I was forcefully thrust against my headrest when the car impacted, then forward into my steering wheel when my car was thrust upon the one in front of me, the safety belt doing nothing to prevent that. I’m lucky the airbag didn’t open.

The very moment the last car shoved us together, the first car that caused all this ruckus by stopping for no reason sped off into a side road and was gone, leaving marks on the asphalt from speeding up.

Feeling fuzzy, I got out of the car and looked around. The driver who had crashed into us was in a nervous frenzy. He continuously excused himself. It was clear the accident shocked him.

“I’m so sorry,” he exclaimed. “I think I was going too fast. I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry! I didn’t see you! I’m so sorry,” he repeated like a broken record on and on.

I was still dizzy, standing on the side, completely useless. The driver who was in front of me looked around and immediately called the police while two women who were sitting outside of the cafe came over and watched.

The police there mere minutes after the call. They must have been just one street over when they were called and they immediately started taking notes as soon as they got out of the car.

A female officer talked to us and told us we would be able to give account, one after the other, while her male colleague took photos of the street, the tire- and skidmarks, the cars, and everything else.

A waitress from the cafe came out and offered cold water to all of us, which we were very grateful for.

First, the officer talked to the driver who slammed into us from behind. He never denied anything, constantly saying sorry and scribbling his insurance info on little pieces of paper to hand to the other driver and me.

During all that, the two women from the table started to glare at me while the other officer finished taking pictures and started to talk to the man who was in the car right in front of me. 

When the officer turned to me, they chimed in before she could say anything, “We’ve seen everything very clearly! We know exactly what happened!”

They looked and sounded very annoyed and immediately started giving a very confusing report of the accident, constantly talking over each other. They didn’t say anything wrong, but it was clear that somehow they had the opinion that the accident was my fault, because I’d come to a halt so close to the front car. They made no secret of their opinion that the poor guy, who already admitted to being at least 20 KmH too fast and distracted by his radio, should only have shared responsibility because of me keeping too little distance.

The officer took the contact info of the women and notes of what they were saying, but got clearly annoyed the longer the two ranted on, and finally, she cut them short.

“You don’t have it right,” she said. “Regulations say that as long as she manages to stop without hitting the car, the distance is enough! The driver who hits is the driver who’s responsible. She has to keep one second or fifteen metres apart in town, and if she hadn’t done that, she couldn’t have stopped in time.”

With that, she turned to me to take my contact information and statement. I’d not said a single word so far since the accident, and the whole ordeal had only taken about twenty minutes so far. I still couldn’t believe everything was happening so fast. Without any reason apparent to me, both women glared at me with full hatred now. 

Before the officer could say anything more to me, one of them started another try to shift blame to me: “You know, officer, I’m not so sure anymore that she really stopped in time. I think she bumped the other car just a little.”

The officer turned around to them again and looked as if she was about to explode.

All of a sudden, the other officer chimed in, “Excuse me, ladies, but that’s not at all possible. I’ve just talked to this gentleman here and he clearly stated that he saw her stopping right behind him and didn’t hear or feel anything crashing or bumping into him before the other car hit them. And even if it happened that he couldn’t recall that, the tire and skidmarks very clearly show what happened here. So, if you change your statement now, that would be a false claim and a crime. Just trying to inform you before you do something stupid.” He smiled at them wickedly.

“So, she gets away with this!” one woman exclaimed, just to get stopped by the female officer again. She had calmed down a little but still looked angry.

“That’s all, thank you,” she said.

The woman tried again, but her friend had caught the clue and tugged at her sleeve and they walked away. Both shot me another hateful look.

I was close to tears by now. My body ached, I felt dizzy and sick, and for the love of God, I had no idea what motivated them.

The female officer took my contact info and a short statement. She curtly nodded at me, gave her colleague a thumbs-up, and walked away to their car to radio in. She sounded and looked extremely angry the whole time. Her colleague saw me shaking and carefully led me back to sit down next to the police car on a chair the waitress had also provided and where the two others were already sitting and waiting.

“Do you know those two?” he asked me and I could only shake my head. “And you?” he asked the responsible driver who had been next to us the whole time, and he just looked bewildered and shook his head, too.

Then, he looked back to me and sighed. “Don’t worry,” he said to me. “This has been the most obvious accident in my whole career. The front driver even remembered the license number of the car who stopped in front of you — no idea how he managed this — and at least you’ve been hit by a gentleman who owns up to his mistakes. Nothing will happen to you.” He encouraged me with a friendly clap to my shoulder and a smile.

Even his colleague now managed to give me a smile while she called towtrucks and an ambulance since I felt so dizzy. The other driver still kept apologizing almost incoherently now.

It turned out later when we phoned about insurance that he hadn’t been wearing his seatbelt and got a concussion from hitting his steering wheel too hard.

Everything turned out fine. The hospital told me there was only a very mild impact on my head and most of my dizziness came from staying too long in the sun after the fright I’d experienced, and after a few days, I was right as rain.

The insurance of the other guy paid with no quarrel, and I found a new used car even better than my old one. When I got back to the cafe to thank the waitresses for their kindness, I got a nice slice of free cake on top, and I never heard anything back from the police.

All in all, for having such an accident, I was still lucky.

But to this day, I have no idea what motivated two complete strangers to pour so much hatred on me, and why they decided I of all people should take shared responsibility for something I had absolutely no control over.

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Home Is Where The Landlord Is A Pain In Your Butt

, , , , | Legal | June 25, 2020

I get a new job in a city away from home where living is expensive and hard to get. I go home on the weekends, so I rent a furnished room, lucky to have found something in time. 

The landlady wants the rent in cash — a red flag for me — but I figure if she wants to evade taxes, it’s her problem, not mine.

She also says she does not need a written rental agreement but understands that I insist on one. To cancel a rental agreement for a furnished room in Germany, you need to give fourteen days of notice; this goes both for the tenant and the landlord. She insists on two whole months for both sides. Needing this room and knowing that writing this into the contract is actually void because the law says otherwise, I agree to that, as well.

When I finally want to register this room as my second address — as you are required to do in Germany — after putting it off for far too long, this goes down.

I have shortened the conversation a lot.

Me: “I need to register now!”

Landlady: “Oh… We haven’t discussed that, you know?”

I think, “We shouldn’t have to; it’s the legal thing to do!”

Me: “Is that a problem for you?”

Landlady: “Yes, I would have to make a different statement for my taxes.” (Meaning: “I would actually have to pay taxes!”) “Is it a no-go for you to just do it this way?”

I think, “Yes, absolutely; it’s illegal!”

Me: “Well, I need to register in order to be able to get money for commuting.”

Landlady: “I’ve been renting out that room since my kids were small.” (This means at least ten years.) “No one ever registered here before! Because then I can’t just throw them out when there’s trouble.”

I wonder how she can argue this way and still want an illegally long cancellation period. Then, she drops this:

Landlady: “Can’t we just pretend you live here free of charge?”

Me: “Well… I don’t know how to do that. I also have to pay extra taxes that depend on the rent in order to have a second address, so I don’t know how they would do the maths, then.”

Landlady: “But there must be a way to do it when people live with family.”

Me: “I guess… I can look into it.”

Landlady: “Then we do that. And I need you to give me back the rental agreement and I would trust you not to take a picture of it.”

I immediately think, “I am SO going to take a picture of that agreement!”

I am absolutely not happy about this idea but I am scared both of conflicts and of losing my place to stay. I also tend to be easily persuaded as long as the person is still in front of me, so for a split-second, I actually consider this. Begrudgingly, I agree to look into it. 

Following this conversation, we make some small-talk and I mention how officials make me nervous, especially because when I applied for job seekers’ allowance, they told me I had to tell them about every last cent or I would face serious consequences, blah blah.

She answers with this gem:

Landlady: “But I think it’s very good they scare you in that way! Way too many people take advantage of the system!”

Lady… you just told me you’ve been evading taxes for over ten years!

I started looking for a new flat, especially after one other incident where — after telling me I wouldn’t need to tell her when I was there and when not — she told me how annoying it was that I was home during her holiday.

I found a shared flat that I moved into yesterday! And thanks to home office times during the health crisis, I never had to go back to that room in the meantime except for picking up my stuff. And, of course, I kept the rental agreement safe and sound. I was so glad to get out of there.

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An Internet Connection Emergency!

, , , , , | Legal | June 22, 2020

This story takes place back in ye olden days of dial-up Internet.  

The place where I worked at the time had two phone systems so you had to dial a prefix to select the line. Unlike most places where it was a single digit, they decided to get more convoluted and used three-digit prefixes — 922 for an internal line and 991 for an external line. Why they picked those number combinations, I have no idea.

One day, a non-technically-inclined coworker needed to take a laptop on a trip and he needed the IT folks to set up the dialing program for him so that he could get his email. In order to test that it was working, they set the number to 991 1-800-[number]. Then, they made the mistake of not wiping the prefix before handing it to the employee.

This employee didn’t know that he would need to look up what he needed to dial to get an outside line from his hotel and change it on his laptop. He just plugged in his laptop and tried to connect. It just so happened that his hotel used nine to get an outside line, so his machine was dialing 9-911 over and over and over again trying to connect. He had no idea why it wasn’t connecting, so he was blissfully unaware of just who he was calling until hotel security showed up at his door.

Fortunately, the authorities understood that he had not done it intentionally, so there were no serious consequences for him, but the poor guy was too afraid to try to connect his laptop for the rest of the trip.

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Working Pro Bonehead

, , , | Legal | June 19, 2020

Me: “Good morning, [Attorney]’s office.”

Man: “Yes, hi, I need [Attorney] to help me with my real-estate matter—”

Me: “[Attorney] does not practice real-estate law.”

Man: *Not listening* “—in New Jersey—”

Me: “[Attorney] only practices law in Maryland.”

Man: *Still not listening* “—and I have no money now, but I’m sure I’d be able to pay them once the matter is thoroughly settled.”

Me: “[Attorney] does not now and has never worked pro bono; they require a retainer and a signed Representation Agreement upfront.”

Man: “Oh… so will they meet with me or what?”

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Wanted, Dead Or Alive, For The Crime Of Scamming

, , | Legal | June 16, 2020

Recently, scammers have been calling my grandmother’s landline using local numbers. She has caller ID, so if the scammers call using, say, John Doe’s number, it shows up as such. I live nearby and visit nearly every day to make sure she’s okay, so I’ve intercepted quite a few of these calls. 

The phone rings, showing John Doe as the caller.

Me: “Hey, Gram, are you expecting a call from John Doe?”

Grandma: “No, he’s in [Local Hospital].”

I answer the phone.

Me: “John! How’s that anal leakage?”

Caller: “Um…” *Click*

A moment later, the same number comes up, this time listed as “unknown caller.” I can’t believe they’re actually this stupid, so I answer. The caller has an accent you rarely hear in the middle of Bumble, Nowhere.

Me: “County Mortuary.”

Caller: “Uh, I— Sorry, what?”

Me: “County Mortuary.”

Caller: “I need to speak with [Badly Butchered Version Of My Grandmother’s Name].”

Me: “I’m sorry, who’s calling?”

Caller: “Um. I need to speak with—”

Me: “Do you need a body picked up?”

Caller: *Confused* “No. I—”

Me: “Are you calling for the status of an autopsy?”

Caller: *Frustrated* “No, I—”

Me: “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.”

Caller: “Where is [Badly Butchered Name]?”

Me: “I don’t see her name on any of the drawers. Was she supposed to be picked up? Which facility are you calling from?”

Caller: *Angry* “She lives there!”

Me: “If anybody lives here, I have a problem.”

Caller: *As he hangs up* “What the f***…”

My grandmother gave me a stern look for messing with the caller but couldn’t hold it for long.

This story has been included in our June 2020 roundup as one of that month’s most memorable stories!

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