You know how sometimes sh#t happens, well it happened to me last week. I got home on Tuesday evening and there were two messages on my answering machine. Usually I just ignore them because I get, on average, I would guess, three calls per day from telemarketers, which I just delete. They drive me nuts but, like most people I guess, I don't see how I can stop them. Moreover, I am now starting to get calls from Swiss as well as French numbers and at first I thought about calling back. When I checked in the Swiss telephone directory, however, they actually have a note posted to the effect that this number is being used for unsolicited telemarketing!
Anyway, back to the story line. I did listen to these messages and the one that jumped out at me was "garble, garble, I swallowed my adenoids, Gendarmerie"! So I listened again and got the same mangled message but just about made out the "Gendarmerie" bit in my local town. I called back immediately only to find an answering service. So then I called again the next day and told them I couldn't understand the name of the person who had left the message but here is my mobile number. Well nobody called back so I called yet again the next day. I ended up chasing my tail like this until this Friday when I got a "convocation" to attend the Gendarmerie on 30 May. Since I knew it was open on the Saturday I stopped in Saturday morning. The young man there was very pleasant and told me that it was to do with an incident in my local LIDL where I had apparently knocked over the pole where you punch in a code in order to get out of the parking lot.
Well let's back up a bit. My local LIDL is opposite several apartment blocks and people from those apartments were using LIDL's parking lot so much that shoppers were turning away as they couldn't find parking. I have done this myself, preferring not to waste my time and going to another store. Very wisely LIDL began installing entrance and exit barriers, where you took the number off your LIDL receipt and punched it into the keypad on the pole at the exit to get out.
Now I had pulled into LIDL on Saturday 7th May to do some shopping and as I drove past this pole it fell over. I didn't hit it - it had obviously been clobbered by someone previously, and in any case was only in the initial stages of being installed so I would guess not totally stable. Well someone must have taken down my number plate and reported it to LIDL, who, it turns out, then filed a complaint against me at the local Gendarmerie.
Anyway, on the Saturday morning the young gendarme was very pleasant but couldn't help me. He told me to come back on the Monday morning to meet with the "big boss". So that's what I did. Turns out the "big boss" obviously had a thing for himself in uniform (love yourself much mate?) and he began to spout off about how "I had been filmed in my 4 x 4 on the evening of Friday 6th May knocking down this pole". It took a second to dawn on me but when I queried the time and date again he repeated what he had said. So I pointed out to him that it couldn't have been me as I was flying back from England from my mother's funeral (thank you mom!) and had landed in Geneva around 10 pm that evening, before picking up my car from the airport around 11 pm.
Well that seemed to annoy the shit out of him so he said "well it must have been your husband". (To be fair, they knew my ex well since I had had to call them out on several occasions due to his violence and they actually arrested him at one point, but I digress). When I pointed out to him that I was divorced and that my ex was in the US he said "well it must have been one of your kids". By this time he was beginning to annoy me so I told him I didn't have any kids (I have two but what's a little white lie between friends). He was a real tw@t I can tell you and when he realized I had got him he basically said "see you in court then"!
So I walked on down to LIDL (again) to try to speak to the lady who had filed the complaint and yet again she wasn't there. The young man in charge, however, agreed with me that it couldn't have been me because the film was definitely of a 4 x 4 in the parking lot on the Friday evening. I told him I drove a Ford Mondeo and outlined my story so he said he would take it up with the boss when she got in.
In the meantime, I tried to call LIDL but they go through a centralized telephone unit and they refused to put me through!!!! When I explained my situation to the customer service agent she said to send her an email and she would forward it to the lady concerned.
So I have fired off an email to them and put a copy of my letter, plus flight tickets, etc. in a registered letter to them, asking them "for God's sake call me back". We'll see.
I have to admit I don't usually have any problems with local officers. I cross the border every day and 99 times out of 100 the customs officers/police are only ever friendly and helpful. Trust me to get a Rambo-wannabee! Anyway, we'll see what happens next. Watch this space!