Falling Down

small accident
Image by chdot via Flickr

Last week I had a small accident on my way home. I was driving with my bike on the right side of the street, with parked cars on my right, when suddenly, just one meter in front of me a car door from the driver’s side sprung open and I had barely enough time to swerve to the left while making a small warning shout. Unfortunately I wasn’t fast enough and the door clipped me on the shoulder and after a brief struggle for control, I ended up on my back in the middle of the road.

Fortunately the road behind me was empty, otherwise this could have ended far worse, but as it was, I didn’t get as much as a scrapped knee (I’m very good at falling. Years of experience as a kid. Hey, flaunt them if your have them.) After a brief pause to pause to compose myself, I got up and looked at the careless driver and…saw him checking up the door for damages…

I angrily shouted “Seht gut gemacht” which translates to “well done” but in retrospect I should have said something wittier, like “Is your door ok?” or something. At that point I was too shaken to be witty though. The guy, who was around his 60s, started apologizing profusely and people started asking what happened but at that point, once I verified that nothing was hurting, all I wanted was to continue on my way home. The driver of course was being now very very friendly and asking me if all is OK,  if nothing hurts and so on.

Call me cynic but I know that his main concern was that he wouldn’t get sued. He was very fortunate that I had no damage on myself or my bike1 and he was especially fortunate I’m not a typical German. Almost every one I speak to says that if a typical German was in my position, they would have called the police immediately, just in case something started hurting down the line. From my perspective, calling the police, taking statements and so on would have been so much a waste of my time that it was just not worth it. The hassle I would go through would be far too much of a cost.

The whole incident however pointed out to me how material-oriented so many Germans are. The guy who hit me was primarily interested in the state of his car, not because a scratch is a big issue, but because the car wouldn’t be perfect and that would speak bad about him as a human person. It sounds ridiculous but far too many people around here think like that. It’s like a nation-wide Keep Up With the Joneses situation and it really ruins human relations.

It’s the reason people are so emotionally cold around here. The judge themselves, and consecutively others, by their material wealth and avoid mixing up to those lower than them. This in turn leads to more and more alienation from your fellow human beings. In the case of my accident above, another person would very likely have a more angry reaction to the door hit, not just because of the carelessness of the driver, but because of where the driver’s primary concern was. The fact that his first instinct was to make sure his status was social unaffected and not to worry about the person he could have harmed.

It’s like a prime example of how crass materialistc individualism can go wrong and poison our society as a whole.

  1. My bike actually stopped squeaking after this []

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