Sunday, September 23, 2012

Four Armed Police Officers & A Missing iPhone

We told her not to have the phone hanging out of her pocket like that, but 'I told you so' is just not the right thing to say to a 13 year old girl in the middle of the castle grounds on a busy Sunday afternoon when she discovers that there might have been a bit of wisdom in what adults say.
And it wasn't a great week for the phone to get stolen, having both sons have their bikes stolen in the space of a week. We came here to get away from all that stuff, but apparently crime also exists outside of Ireland too.
It's just how it's handled that's different. When the young fella had his iPhone stolen in Galway, we went to the cops and showed them where Google Maps could locate it, to a street that I didn't fancy going looking for it on my own, but they told us that the police don't do Google Maps, and anyways, the squad car was out in Connemara somewhere dealing with a domestic stabbing incident.
So when Google Maps showed me that the iPhone was slowly on the move in some residential area about 10k out the road, I only went to the police station as a formality and a gesture to the daughter that I would at least try to recover her phone, because there was no way I'd be buying her a new one.
There were tears. There was disappointment. There was a post mortem. But then all of a sudden there was a police car with two armed policemen asking us to sit in the back, wear our seat belts and please let them have my phone to follow the location where the 'find my iphone' app told us the phone was.
My heart started pounding. Here we were as part of a police operation in a country where the most exciting thing you might normally do on a Sunday is go for a nice piece of Black Forest Gateau in a local Confisserie. But now, we were heading towards a real forest to attempt recovering the phone. The police were armed and had bullet proof vests. But what about us? I could see it all roll out in front of me. There would be a group of Russian bandits hiding out in the forest with the iphone, and once we approached there'd be a shoot out. I'd jump in front of my daughter and save her life, but I would die in the shoot out and she would end up orphaned and with a withered arm or something as a result of a gun injury.
Or worse, we'd be stabbed. Again, I'd end up as victim of the stabbing in order to protect the daughter, and although initially I would bravely walk away with a knife in my heart, I would later die in hospital. My daughter would be left stabbed. I would be forgotten about within a week.
But it was a bit different. We pulled in at the area to be met by another police car. So now there were four armed police officers and two cop cars on the trail of the iphone. I had handed over my own phone at this stage, which had the mapping info. We drove along forest trails and then into this nice residential area where they were able to pin down the phone to. It could only have been one of three houses, so they split up, called to each house simultaneously and at that moment pressed the function that makes the phone make a loud noise.
I could only see the door of one of the houses, being afraid to leave the back seat of the cop car. An elderly couple came out, looking quite bewildered at the gathering of cops in the area. Seems the other houses were similar. We left.
One thing that really struck me was that if I was scared of getting murdered looking for an iphone, I wondered what kind of risk these guys really put themselves into every day. All of a sudden I liked the police, they weren't just nasty people who came to dampen parties or deliver speeding fines. I had been in rotten mood earlier in the day, and the phone going AWOL had been the cherry on the cake. I had been feeling invisible and inadequate, always left to every damn thing on my own. But now, there was somebody actually helping me - four people, all armed!
The view from the back seat of a cop car
We drove into another estate, then another drive along the forest, and then they decided to give up. I felt a bit guilty, but hey, I was alive - no bullet wounds, no scars. So that was it. The phone was gone.
We had exhausted all channels - texted it a million times, called it a trillion times, traced it with four armed cops and sent a gizillion messages out to the universe to get it back. I couldn't help calling it over and over again, and then, all of a sudden I get an answer!
'Hellooo, ya, I found your phone, it eez in safe hands, ya, I vill brink it you tomorrow.'
So of course, armed cop in the passenger seat takes the phone from me and talks to yer man who has 'found' the phone. Tells him we will drive to his house and pick it up.
So the cops start to chat about collecting the phone from this dude. They say they're going to see what their first impression is of the guy. But I don't need first impressions. It's black and white: guy either steals or finds phone,  thinks it's his lucky day,then realises that it's traceable, sees cops scouting around and then answers the phone. Pathetic. And now I'm even happier that the cops are part of all this. Oh and... and and and... we are in a 'plain cops' car, and the blue light thingy is on the floor and I know that once we get closer to the phone thief they are going to ask me to hand across the blue light and I'm going to be just soooo super important...
When we get to the phone thief's house, my heart is in my mouth, feet, lower back and pulsing thru my neck, at this stage I cannot even speak. Suddenly I am Charlie's Angels, Wonderwoman, I am Joan of Arc, Tamar of Georgia. I am Septima Zenobia leading my army on horseback, defeating the Roman legions back to Asia Minor, just that I'm doing it in a middle class terraced housing estate in the outskirts of Karlsruhe. I am the samurai who has let my sword rust whilst my army follow with truncheons and pistols.

Herr Nettmann Von der Ehrlichkeit  (Mr Nice & Honest) is there with the phone, his bicycle and his girlfriend. He's like, twenty something and explains that he found the phone in the park and read the messages we sent to it but couldn't respond as he was cycling back home on his bike, but had sent my daughter a message on facebook to let her know he had it and would take it to her school tomorrow, as she had requested in one of the text messages she had sent to anyone who found it.
I say thanks in one of those squeaky voices that you get when you're mortally ashamed of yourself and your body has seized up from the neck down. I want to explain why we have arrived to pick up the phone in a squad car with two armed cops, and that actually there was a second car out looking for him too but that they are gone home now, but I decide that this will only make things even worse. There's an awkward silence. We leave.
We are dropped home by the police. We all have our phones. We are alive. Under the circumstances I would almost prefer a scar. Just a small scar, a modest seven stitches above the eye as a result of fighting for justice and retrieving the iphone from the bandits in the forest. I want to see concerned faces but assure people that no, honestly, I'm fine. It was nothing. It was for my daughter. But this is the story of my life. A happy ending was never a best seller.

Next Sunday we plan to go to a nice Confisserie and have some Black Forest Gateau...

Saturday, September 1, 2012

German Party Rules

An Irish friend of mine was telling me recently that she had to call the cops because of her neighbour's loud party next door. Well not really, it wasn't so much the noise as the fact that they were out on the street at this stage, mashing broken glass, fists and hurleys into one another. Eventually the cops came, but it took a while as there was probably only one car covering every fight in the west of Ireland.
In Germany, of course, things are a little different. So when my 17 year old angel had a barbecue the other night that ended up with over 20 teenagers making noise on a balcony, the police were immediately banging the door down by midnight. Of course I was the one who got the letter from the rental agency telling me that I had been there, that I was too loud and blah blah, and not to do anything like this again.
But that's what happens when you're Irish in another country. People just assume that you are a reckless partying alcoholic.
For those who don't know me or my origins though, I'm beginning to look like a German. I've reverted to practical flat soled shoes, no make up and a rain coat, and I travel by means of bicycle with a basket on it.
German Party Animals Drinking Beer

So even though it wasn't me who got sick out of the hall window on the fourth floor and despite not even knowing enough people to throw even a dinner party, I have now ruined my otherwise flat soled reputation and have to go around the place wearing my glasses and trying to look glum.
But it's not all bad. Good things happen despite bureaucracy. For example, Karlsruhe runs a car sharing system. You join it and then whenever you need a car, be it big or small, you can pick one up for tuppence, and for hours days or weeks, depending upon your need. Now I think that's pretty cool, so I headed over to their office having looked it up online. Being German, the deal is that you have to go there in person and bring your completed application form along with a valid passport, and being a good expat, that's just what I did. Only problem was that because I'm not German they need some other documents, so it'll just have to wait until I have another weekday morning off work, seeing as German retailers et al only open when everyone is at work.
See - I'm starting to give out, which means I must be settling in. And bizarre scenes, such as naked sunbathers, waiting staff hurling abuse at customers and men wearing white socks, shorts and sandals, are all just starting to seem normal. I have even stopped shrugging my shoulders when I hear about people going to bed at 9.30pm.
Which reminds me, it's after 11pm now, and the bakery only opens until 11am on a Sunday, just that time when people are beginning to get out of bed. So I better turn in for the night, early rush for those pretzls in the morning...