Do you recognise the guy in this photo?
Yeah, it’s me all right, but if hadn’t told you, how could anyone know?
It’s a lousy scan of a bad photocopy of a fuzzy image taken through a bug-splattered windshield as I slapped my head going through a red light this past summer in Freiburg, Germany. There were two flashes, actually. The first camera got the license plate, the second my so-called photo.
Guilty as charged!
Since I’ve had lots of practice, I don’t mind owning up to my mistakes, but nevertheless…
Back in the day when they didn’t have cameras set up permanently at intersections or as speed traps, if you drove too fast or ran a red light, you’d have a cop to deal with right away. A human being who you’d be able to look in the eye and tell your story. With the proper intonation and 10 bucks you might even have been left off with a warning. If not, at least it was all over with, so you could put it behind you that much sooner.
But since robots have taken over half the job and left the rest to dust-covered bureaucrats hundreds of miles away, the process takes months to complete. We call that progress? Here’s how I came to pay a €50 fine for running that red light:
(Translating and paraphrasing, of course…)
August 10: Ran the red light.
September 12: Wife gets letter from Freiburg City Traffic Department, which reads: We know this is your car, but who’s the dork at the wheel?
Is it you? Y/N.
If it’s not you, who the hell is it?
September 17: Letter sent back to Freiburg. Answer: It’s my husband. Here’s his name.
October 15: Letter received from Freiburg addressed to me, which reads: You have been observed by our traffic cameras running a red light at the intersection of Schlappschwanzenstrasse and Main at 17:55 Sunday, August 10.
Did you do this? Y/N.
If you put no, you’ll have to come down to Freiburg for a court appearance and you’ll lose anyway. If you put yes, you have to pay a €50 fine. You may fill in any statement you wish in the following space.
October 21: Letter returned confessing to infraction, with explanation that we were following our friends’ car on the way back from a wonderful hike through the Wutachtschlucht Gorge (as briefly outlined in this previous post I am quite certain only four people have bothered to read thoroughly.) Our friends were leading us back to the freeway. You’ll understand how as tourists, it’s important not to get lost.
November 15: Letter received from Freiburg Traffic Department with notice that I am being fined €50 plus €23 processing fee – probably all that postage – and that my first three points in Flensburg are now on the books. Seven more, and I’ll have to stick to the bike.
Flensburg is German auto drivers’ shorthand for the city near the Danish border where the traffic records of the country’s 53 million drivers are administered.
November 23: €73 transferred to Freiburg Traffic Department.
Now, I ask you: is that progress? Nearly four months to get it all done? German efficiency, obviously.
Too bad I didn’t have a right-hand drive car! A Brit has been speeding around Germany with a muppet in the driver’s seat.