Michaela Merz

How the police brought me to my knees

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sup-blue-mist-compressEnd September. According to the weather forecast it is going to be one those glorious autumn days, which transform a normal Sunday into a perfect day. For the time being there was no sign of this. The mist was a thick white and blocked the view completely. Added to that the temperature was relatively low. Clearly the day still had to prove itself. But I was hell-bent on taking to the water and the mist was not going to stop me.

When I placed my Stand up Paddle Board on the water, the visibility was so poor that beyond a few meters everything disappeared in the mist. The water was calm, no wind and absolute silence accompanied me. Very soon I found myself enclosed in fleecy mist, but the first rays were beginning to burn holes in it. Slowly the wisps of mist were climbing and I could see the surface of the water and in the distance a rowing boat and a sailing boat with furled sails. Suddenly the silence was broken by an engine and a water-skier passed me a few meters away throwing up waves, which standing up I could easily cope with.

In the meantime the mist had as good as cleared. But the lake and the shore were empty. A lonely motor boat was travelling towards me. I watched it, hoping that it would turn away from me and that the waves it caused would remain small. But the boat held course directly towards me. Only now did I see that it was the police. The waves were too strong and, as my board is very narrow and fast, but therefore unstable, there was no alternative but to go down on my knees. Indirectly the police brought me to my knees. They were extremely friendly and didn’t want to see my identification. They wanted to check my life jacket and it was easily visible. They recommended that I put my name on my board. I asked whether that was so that, if I drowned, one could see who it was. They said „No, it was so that, if I lost my board, they could bring it to me at home“. They said good-bye and drove away.

I remembered a similar check decades ago in Rumania. I was responsible for the sports programme of a small travel group. We lived by the sea. I drove them to the morning jogging, I organised a volley ball tournament and a football tournament. I taught them Country Line dancing. That evening we went dancing. We walked along the beach to the hotel. The night was very dark and warm. Someone suggested we go for a swim. Half of the group agreed, the other half continued walking. As it was so dark, there was no problem in going swimming in the nude. The swim was brief. Suddenly the light of a bright reflector appeared and we were ordered to come out of the water. That was embarrassing enough. When we were ordered to show our passports, the situation became grotesque, as in Kafka. Naked, wet people in the sea, where could we keep a passport? I was able to defuse the situation and to talk away the fine that we were expected to pay. And in return we had to promise never again to bathe naked in the sea in Rumania. At least I have kept my promise up to now.

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