On Monday I had my first contact with a Romanian lorry. Shortly afterwards I had my first contact with Romanian justice. I use the last word there in the loosest possible sense. So loose in fact, that it is actually more or less antonymical.
What happened is this: I was driving a rented car with my parents as passengers down from Brasov towards the touristed village of Bran. We drove through the village itself, noting the castle for which the village gets its fame, and all the pensions and trappings of the tourist village. Having entered the next village, Moeciu, we decided that we should turn round and head back into the village where we were intending to spend the night. I saw a driveway on the left, checked behind me, and ahead, indicated left, checked again (nothing was ahead, and there was a lorry about 50m behind me), and turned into the driveway. Just as I was halfway in, there was a huge bang and a judder. At first I thought I’d hit a pothole or something, but then quickly realized that I had been hit by something. That something was the lorry I had noticed behind me when I’d started to turn. It was a bloody massive long lorry, carrying nothing, so it was going very quickly (as Romanian lorries are wont to do), and it had just clipped the very back corner of the car, smashing the lights and damaging the bumper.
This was obviously something of a shock, and it took me a while to work out what to do next. The other driver stopped and came over and remonstrated with me – presumably for something to do, since it was clear to me even in my semi-daze at that point that he was at fault, and it is even clearer to me now that he was. (Basically, I can surmise that he thought he could get round behind me, wasn’t really concentrating, and didn’t bother to slow down in the pouring rain, and maybe I went slower than he thought I would). I called home to ask Erika what to do now and then the woman from the car hire company, who was very helpful. Having been told that I’d need to go to the police with the other driver, we eventually tired of waiting for them to show up and drove down to the village police station. This was locked up with a note on the door giving a number to call. We called, and eventually about 20 minutes later, the village cop drew up and opened the door, ushering us both inside. He didn’t look that happy at having had his evening interrupted, and then when he realized that I was a foreigner and didn’t speak Romanian his mood darkened even further. I’d been told by this time that the process would involve him taking our statements and then deciding who had the fault in the incident. Already I could sense that this process was unlikely to be based on extraneous stuff like facts and that I could be onto a loser.
I called Erika again and asked her to speak to him for me. When he asked her where she was and she said Miercurea Ciuc, I could see his face getting even more thunderous – maybe because she was too far away to come down and translate, but more likely, I suspect, because she was clearly a Hungarian*. He wouldn’t let her act as translator over the phone, so we had to find someone – the car hire woman’s brother who was in the area came down to help out. Adding another 15 minutes or so on to the time of the report and more importantly on to the policeman’s dinner time. In the meantime, the lorry driver gave his version of events – a laughable tale, given the evidence. When I heard him tell the cop that he was already passing me when I started to trun, I had to step in, and in my terribly broken Romanian started illustrating how ridiculous this story was. I even drew a picture of what it have looked like were his version true – ending with the made up phrase – Acum sunt moarta (an attempt at "Now I'm dead") – illustrated with a theatrical imaginary knife drawn across my throat.
Eventually my translator arrived and I told my side, while the cop also filled in a report – now I know that he was actually making out his version of events – before I’d even given mine. At the time I thought he was just doing some more paperwork. Sign here and here the lorry driver was asked, and then me too. Only then did I realize that what he had actually written down was that I was the driver at fault. I protested again, but he had already made his mind up – and since I was exhausted and somewhat drained from the whole process, and since he had fined me 250,000 Lei (approx 5 GBP / 7.5 Euros) I didn’t have the energy to make too much of a big deal out of it.
Now, however, I am furious. Yes, we were incredibly lucky, in that if the lorry had hit anywhere further up the car we could have been killed, but in fact it was the other guy’s fault. My crime was to be a foreigner. The police officer at Moeciu is a xenophobe and I have no problem accusing him as being such publicly (not that he’ll ever read this of course). The whole thing is a joke. He even looked at the damage on the car so he knows full well who was at fault, yet he gave me the ticket. It’s fucked up. (There is of course one other possible explanation as to why he gave me the ticket and not the other guy, but I am pretty sure that no money changed hands, so I am not prepared to make that kind of accusation. Not sure whether corruption or rampant xenophobia is the worse accusation, but anyway).
So, I’m pissed off. Pissed off at the village policemen who decided to wield his power so unjustly. Pissed off at being found to be at fault when I so plainly wasn’t. And pissed off that this kind of thing goes on all the time, all over the world, and that I just see it once in a blue moon. If I were black, this would no doubt just be another day dealing with authority.
So, in closing, I’d like to give a hearty middle finger salute to Police Office Bigot in Moeciu, and hope that one day he gets his comeuppance.
Oh, and you’ll be happy to know that we’re all fine, and there were no injuries, and the only thing wounded was my sense of fair play.
(*Obviously I have no evidence for this but subsequent events have convinced me that it is more than likely. He's probably the kind of guy who votes for Vadim Tudor, and thinks Gigi Becali is a nice bloke who's got his priorities right. Tosser.)
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