The Toilet Excuse? Really?

“I need more drugs because I had a heart attack yesterday and in my monumental pain I flushed my Percocet down the toilet.”

I stare.

 

AWwww, MAN, I don't know WHAT happened, man.

“No really.  I’m serious.  I don’t know what’s going on with my heart and I accidentally flushed my drugs down the toilet when it was causing me, like, serious pain.  I REALLY need some more.  I’m in like 24/10 pain.”

 

“That’s a pretty strange fraction.”

“Well, that’s how bad it is.”

I hope my eyes are at least a little more than half-closed, “Dude.  That’s your excuse?  Really?  That’s the best you have for me?  Flushed?”  My ever-blindingly cheerful mood deflates a bit.

“Well, it was the case manager who told me to come to you for more Percocet.  I tode her Dr. SW101 isn’t cool with narcs, so I figured you wouldn’t go for it, but she told me to try.”

“So, the NURSE made you do it?”

“No…well (looks hopefully at me), uh, maybe?”

 

Dr. SW101 set me UP!

He did utter one truth, I’m not cool with writing for unfathomable doses of highly-addictive, mind-altering substances that have outrageous street value and regularly cause the utter destruction of families, careers and lives.

 

He’s right.  I’m not cool with that.

Sometimes it feels like I’m just sitting in my clinic handing out bullets…each one stamped with “If this causes a disaster of any kind, please blame Dr. SW101.  His bank account number is 7749220485, and you can find his children at 13 XX street, usually after 6pm.  Punish him accordingly for making such a mockery of his Doctor’s Oath, society, God, the memory of Elvis, Stonehenge, Hello Kitty, Gooeyducks..and everything else even remotely sacred to humanity.”

But I’m used to that.  I’m used to being the candy man.  What I’m NOT used to, is being taken for so dimwitted that the medical equivalent of ‘the dog ate my homework’ excuse might work on me.

“You’re really using THAT one on me?”

“Look man,” (whips out his Blackberry Smartphone, provided free of charge by the Army to help with his healing), “I got pictures of the pills in the toilet.”

I decline the visual.  Don’t even need it.

“You’d need to pin my face to a cork-board with something in the range of 34,000 thumbtacks to talk me into giving you more narcotics with that lame excuse.”  I say.  What I DON’T say is that aside from fighting the good fight against blatant drug addicts (I do take care of true heroes; he’s not one of them), I’m just flat-out annoyed at the excuse.

“Frankly, you’re story is miserable.  Put in a little work, and you might score a few hits out of me for creativity.  I’ve been known to drop a few Vikes on someone just to tribute their impeccible style alone.”

“Style?”

“Yeah, you know, do some deep-thinking before you try get me to double your daily horse-halting, blue whale-euthanizing, brontosaurus-stupefying doses of addictive opiates.”

“Liiike, a better story?”

“Yep.  I loovvve fiction.”

“Um, like what?”

“The doc I’m replacing was partial to “I washed ’em in my uniform”, so I’d say that’s a little, uh faded haha no pun intended *aHEM*, sorry, not making light of your “pain” or whatever, just a little side-joke for this glorious Army morning.  Anyway, where was I?”

“You were helping me come up with a story to score more narcs out of you.”

“Oh YEAH.  Thanks!  Let’s see, maybe I can help you….next time, try something along the lines of:

 

They're real. Seriously.

After a valiant but ultimately tragic battle, a saber-tooth tiger ripped your friend’s head off.  In desperation, you heroically dispatched said wildcat with your bare hands (careful with the back).  Then, without pausing to consider yourself, you gave him your ENTIRE BOTTLE of pills strong enough to drive the entire population of Gambia into rehab.

 

Unfortunately, when he swallowed them – since his head was removed from his body – your pills just dropped out on the ground, all slimy and spit-covered and quickly dissolved.  Thinking fastly, you propped his body up and then held his head over what you figured was the esophagus part of  your life-long friend’s neck so the remaining few pills – “Damn you, Johnny, swallow! – dropped out and settled into one of his neck-tubes, hopefully not the trachea.  Then you got him to a local ER, where they skillfully re-attached his head.

ONLY THEN, after your friend was recovering (he just might pull through, snif), did you think of yourself, realizing that you were, in fact, out of drugs for your endless back pain and heart attacks which you’ve been suffering from since you were born, 20 years ago.”

That would work?”

“No.  But honestly, that story has more credibility than, ‘I flushed ’em, brah, gimme some more.”

8 Pigeons? I’ll Check the Regs…

I love urban legends:  The one about the killer calling the babysitter from inside the house, or the acne that turned out to be a quivering pod of spider eggs.  You know, all those.

akBut my favorite is the one about how you can cause pigeons and seagulls to explode by giving them Alka-Seltzer.  I’m serious.  EXPLODE.

This myth is cool for the science-fair, medico-extravagance of it.  But I also harbor a fairly pathological grudge against seagulls.  Sure, their winsome cry carrying on the breeze hearlds the nearness of the endless sea.  Thousands of poems and stories and paintings concern themselves with these ocean-going fowl.  But I lost all romance toward the seagull when a GIANT group of them ate an entire bag – including the bag – of Chips A’hoy cookies while my buddy and I were surfing once.  I’m STILL looking forward to eating those cookies, and that was 8 years ago.

Why do they explode?  Apparently, birds have a one-way alimentary tract, which means they can’t burp.  Give them something effervescent, all that gas has nowhere to go aaaaand – POW! Alice, straight to the moon.

You can understand, then, why my favorite patient currently is a guy who actually tested this one-way-no-burp-POW! theory.  For all my grudges against the birds, I’m still too much of a softy to actually blow them up.

Not Jake, though.  He went for it.  And still doesn’t feel bad about it.

He went with pigeons – same class as seagulls, if I was the ornithologist in charge – and trying out the theory got him kicked out of the Army.  ‘Course, he tried it on 8 birds at the same time.  After he stuffed them into his commanding officer’s new Chevy Tahoe.

“So, it really works, then?  They blow up?”

“Yeah, it works.”  He said, looking bored and chewing on a cuticle as I nearly wept with laughter.

“They ALL exploded in your commander’s car?”

 

2 pigeons
Uugggh, did you eat a bunch of those little white crackers too?

Suddenly he perked up, eyes sharp and intelligent, “Nah, not all of ’em.  Some just shit all over the place.”

Imagining his commander’s reaction the next morning after finding the most colossal mess of all time, just brightens my day every time I think about it.

 

By some miracle, this guy got away with his life after that episode.  More miraculously, after getting CHAPTERED out of the military (basically a court-martial without the court or jail), he got back into the Army just a few years later. “On a wavier for bi-polar disorder, in remission.”  He said with a wicked smirk.  “Needed a paycheck.”

I can only imagine the ever-positive recruiter.  “Oh, well, 8 pigeons?  Only 8?  I’ll check the regs…there’s probably nothing in there that expressly forbids entry into the military for blowing up birds.  No problem, man.  I’m sure we’re good.  Now, I can’t promise you a bonus, you understand..”

Now he’s on his way back out of the military, via my unit.  He’s wry, filled with black, intelligent wit and flat-out hates authority.  I’m not sure I’d call this a mental disorder… but in the Army, a guy like this is nothin’ but stark-raving nuts.

Of course, once he gets bored…he’ll be back.

 

explosion
POOF!

 

 

Danger: Broccoloi

 

broc
An R-rated food. Must be 17 or accompanied by adult to eat safely.

Highly-intelligent child holds up half-eaten stem of steamed broccoli:

Dad, will this make me dead?”

 

Family doctor Dad replies, “ABSOLUTELY, son.  Some stuff just wasn’t meant to be eaten by 3-year old boys.  Put it down quietly before you mom sees, and go get the chips.”

Numb and Numb-er

I’m happy to announce that I now drive a Mercedes-Benz.  It’s true.  A real in-the-steel-and-glass Mercedes.  The model is a C-180, which is the 4-cylinder, 4-door model.  The smallest engine they make (great gas mileage).  To boot – it’s green, my favorite color.

I’m a doctor now, people.  Apparently helping sick people entitles me to the high-life.

Truth is, here in Germany, the term “hooptie” is a known, legitimate noun.  The term is used to describe nice German cars that are (usually) bought by Americans and then run into the ground.  You can pick up BMW and Mercedes hoopties for 500 euros.

 

merced
Mine looks just like this one...but way cooler.

My car isn’t exactly a hooptie.  In the States, it would probably have cost at least $5,000, maybe more.  I don’t really know because I’ve never been in the market for Mercedes-es.  But I got mine here for a few thousand bucks.  It’s still in good shape and as long as I take care of it (an expensive proposition in Germany), it should get me around for at least a few years.

That is…unless it takes a few years until my new monument to affluent living is allowed to take me anywhere.

Take the Army’s torrid and longstanding love affair with bureaucracy and combine it with 1000 years of rulership of the masses in Europe, you get the process I dealt with just to be allowed to drive a car.

Buying the car is easy.  But in this Germo-Americo Funkenthink, the quagmire starts there.  You first need a special driver’s license, which requires a half-day class and then a 130 question test ( which I immediately failed by about 15 questions).

You also have to have insurance on a car before you actually register it.  And, the car needs to be inspected.  But you can’t drive it to the inspector’s unless you have it registered and insured.  But if you fail the inspection, you’ve just registered and insured a car that sucks.  So, you have to de-register it (I did that – twice – before I settled on the Mercedes).  De-registering requires a trip to the local customs office (American) plus a second trip to the other customs office (German, 35 min drive), numerous forms, money, waiting and…all the while you still need the insurance.

So, I’ve been a little reticent to drive much unless I have to.  I’m always wondering if I actually have all the paperwork and proof that will allow me to stay out of jail were I to get pulled over.

Instead, I came up with an alternative (heh, heh):

Through some highly unfortunate events in my brother’s life, I ended up with his Harley motorcycle.  Now, make no mistake – I owe him for this very expensive bike.  It was a ‘take-care-of-my-hoss-for-awhile’  kind of proposition.  Of course, being a deeply loyal brother, I immediately agreed to “help out”.  But, not being a big Harley-lover, I…well, I sold it.  And I bought a BMW motorcycle instead.  Initially, I sold it to help fund out trip out here, and a portion of the Harley money was a HUGE help in getting us here.  That said, I GUESS whatever money we had left over should have been sent back to my saintly bro.  But with all these fantastic German road machines around, you sorta just get Beemer Fever.  What was I supposed to do?

And anyway, my bro is about 10,000 miles from me.  Is he really going to come get me when he realizes I sold his Harley?  I mean, c’mon, I did the guy a favor!  BMW vs. Harley is a no-brainer.

 

bmw
Mine's just a LITTLE less shiny and has panniers.

So I now fly along the German Autobahn on a R1150 RS BMW.  Riding a bike like that, in this part of the world (any part of the world if you worship BMW bikes) is an experience that is hard to replicate.  Harder to describe.  At 80 miles an hour, I blow by stunning autumn trees, taking in their blurred resplendence in shimmering hues of gold and yellow and red.  “My” bike purrs along effortlessly.  When I lean over the gas tank and duck behind the faring, the engine sounds something like a sewing machine, but even softer, maybe more like two feathers rubbing together.

There’s only one problem…Germany is COLD.  The other day I left for work in the dark, road sparkling with frost, at a temp of -2.5 Celsius.  Buh-rrr.  And this is only OCTOBER.

The night before, I had received a notification in the mail that my car did not have the correct license plates due to a dating error in the – you guessed it – insurance policy.  So, should I be pulled over in my esteemed Mercedes for any reason, I could expect to be hog-tied, whipped and sent back to the States crisply folded into a shoe box.

Thus, while my longsuffering wife dealt with the paper-pushers in Hiedelburg, I rode the bike to work, frost and chill notwithstanding.  I do have some decent riding gear I picked up when I first got the Harley.  I have a jacket with armor in the shoulders and arms, and pants with knee and hip pads.  I have big thick gloves – also a “gift” *ahem* from my bro – and good riding boots.  All the gear is made to withstand serious wind and rain.

 

jeff_daniels1
"Got a little nippy back there going through the pass, eh Har?"

But I’m not sure any gear will hold up for long when receiving a direct 80 MPH sub-freezing air blast for 40 straight minutes.  Mine didn’t.  By the time I got to work, I was so cold most of joints wouldn’t bend.  I walked into the clinic like I was in a body-cast.  I don’t think I even spoke to my first 3 patients that day because I couldn’t unclench my jaw.  I just nodded compassionately with my hands buried in my armpits and gave ’em whatever drugs they wanted.

I probably should have just sold the Harley and given whatever money we didn’t need back to my brother.  But instead I chose to buy a Beemer with the extra cash and freeze my face off in Germany.  If you love BMW motorcycles, you’ll understand completely.  You’ll probably applaud me for such a wise and intelligent idea.

I’m cheering, anyway.

Get On the Plane!

Jerry reluctantly entered the WTU, the unit I oversee as a doctor, just recently.  This soldier has achieved about as much as anyone in the non-officer ranks can achieve.  He’s been in the Army for 24 years.  After 20, you can retire with full military benefits, but this guy hung on by voluntary extension for another 4.

He entered my unit because of a health problem list that runs to 6 or seven issues.  The primary ones being kidney disease and hypertension.  He’s had both for years.  All untreated.

“Why haven’t you taken care of this stuff?” I ask, ready to get all righteous on the Army.

“Well, you can only do what you can do, sir.”  He says, politely pretending that I would outrank him if actually a soldier myself.

“Um, do you know how long you’ve had hypertension, and how bad it’s been?” I say, trying a different angle.

“Listen son, I know exactly what my blood pressure was averaging before my last deployment downrange.”

“How many times have you been deployed?”

“3.”

Making no effort to hide my surprise, I reply, “You’re peeing out half a bicep in protein every 24 hours, your blood pressure is 190-101 today, and you’ve been deployed 3 times?  Each time for over a year?”

“Son, when the time comes, you gotta get on the plane.”

“So, you knew about all of this prior to deployment?”

“Which time?”

“ANY time!”

“Well, sir, yes I did.  But I told my men, ‘When it’s time, I’ll be getting on that plan.  If I don’t, I’ll be dead.  If YOU don’t get on that plane after me…I personally hunt you down, I will find you, and then YOU’LL be dead.”

“There’s doctors downrange, though, right?  Couldn’t you be seen by one of them?”

“Look, I cain’t treat myself too well with the boul-ets whistling over my head.  And I’m not gonna tell nobody that I got problems at a time like that.  They’ll send me back home and leave all my boys there to fend for themselves.”

“Right.  What was your blood pressure prior to your last deployment?”

The thin, muscular man thumbs through a huge stack of medical papers, “Hmmm.  I remember that day.  Headache, bad.  Seeing spots and stuff.  Hmmm.  Oh, here it is:  224/112.”

“That was your blood pressure before you left for a war zone!!??

“Son, you won’t understand because you ain’t never worn no uniform.  But when the plane is for you…you get on that plane.  It’s pretty simple, really.”

“Do you think, just maybe, I can get you to take some blood pressure pills now?”

“Oh sure, doc!  You bet.  Army brought me back safe and sound, see?  Doing fine now.  I’ll take them pills.  Hooah, boy!”

Ode To Mr. Fingerprint

We can’t figure it out, exactly.  There isn’t one thing that we can point to and say, “Yeah!  That’s were everything became too much.”

But somewhere along the way, this little adventure piled up and reduced both of us to tears.  How the Army manages to organize itself enough to go around the world killing people – unless through excessive paperwork – still mystifies me.  But I can say that if they just stuck to the paperwork – threatened to attack the terrorists with administrative paperwork – world peace would be ho-hum news. 

“We give up!  We recant!  Never mind all that Allah stuff!  We’re Americans now.  Look, look, we’re buying Hummers and we all have flat-screen T.V. in our camel-skin tents with only CNN and Disney channels on them.”

I will say this:  With exception of the laudable fingerprint dude, I have never been to an Army office and gotten done what I came there to do on my first attempt.  Never.  And, for the guy to do my fingerprints that day, he had to overlook 2 reasons to send me away. 

If I’d had a trophy, I would have given it to him.  I DID sing his praises; describing his feat in a halting, emotional, too-grateful voice.

“I….I….I just want to let you know that.  *AHEM!*  Sorry, something in my throat.  Some sort of lump.  Anyway….”

Corpulent man in too-short square tie knit by kids in Taiwan R.O.C. funded by Wal-Mart stares dully, shifting slightly in his creaking office chair.

“You’re the first, EVER, to give me what I came to get on my very first attempt!  It’s a record.  Over the past 6 months, in dozens – maybe hundreds – of office visits my wife and I have needed to make just so I can do a job, you’re the first to not send me away on my first request.”

“Huh.  That’s good.  Fill out an I.C.E. card, alright?”

“What’s that?”

“A card.  You know, a card.  Tell ’em how I’m doin’.  Let ’em know I set you up.”

Right.  I.C.E. card.  I took that thing home, spent 45 minutes filling it up with love and gratitude toward the first man EVER to spare me making 2+ trips just to get a simple administrative task done.

Then I realized it would take another trip to that office to put the card in the guy’s box.

And I shredded the thing.

Never Offer To Cut Off Your Own Leg

At least, not in the Army.  They might just take you up on your offer.

Joe (do I really have to tell you that this isn’t even close to the guy’s real name?) had problems with his left leg after 2 deployments to Iraq and multiple exposures to high-velocity trauma.  Lots of problems, shall we say.  The leg often doesn’t work much at all.  Sometimes, this overwhelming feeling of burning pain spreads from his mid shin up to his knee and then pulses up into his thigh for hours.

But what’s debilitating leg pain got to do with being in the Army?  At least, that’s how Joe sees it.  Unlike most soldiers in the WTU, Joe is determined to stay in the military.  He wants to be sent “down range” (deployed) again.  Tomorrow, if possible.  He loves his unit and enjoys the excitement of his job. 

Joe does not understand that a soldier who can’t walk probably isn’t going to do well in a war zone.

Actually, Joe is quite smart.  He understands perfectly well that a debilitated soldier can’t perform a required in a combat situation.  But he doesn’t care.  He loves the Army.  Lives for the Army.  So he has worked with a lawyer for over a year now to keep himself in the Army.  The WTU doc before me has worked to this end – admittedly with some bemusement – for the past few months as well.

Recently, Joe met with a special review board comprised of high-ranking commanders.  They evaluated his chart, looked over the reports of his injuries, and then interviewed him personally.  I think this occurred at Walter Reed Hospital, in Washington D.C. in – the Mecca of Army Medicine.  As you might imagine, this was a big deal.

I don’t know the exact specifics of that interview, but here’s my reenactment:

“Soldier, you’ve served your country well.  We thank you for your sacrifice and heroism.  After thorough review of your file, we have determined that you are no longer qualified for active duty and will therefore be separated from the military with full medical coverage and benefits.  You will be given an honorable discharge and should have no problems entering civilian life.”

“Sir, it’s the leg, right?  That’s the problem?” Says Joe.

“Correct, Sargent.”

“What if the leg wasn’t a problem?  What then, sir?”

“Why, you’d stay in the military, Son!  Send you down range week after next.  Get you back in the fiiigght, boy!”

“Then cut it off!  Just cut the damn thing off!  I can run on a prosthetic.  There’s less to clean up if I get crosswise of an IED (roadside bomb) again, right?  Just send me down there with a couple of extra legs in my pack and I’m all good.”

This – honest to God – is a relatively faithful reenactment of this soldier’s conversation with his Army superiors.  Admiring his courage and commitment, I was more surprised to find that, following this meeting, our doctors in the WTU received this order from on high:

****de, de, d, d, deeeee —Official communication from High Command:  SGT Joe to be referred to surgery for evaluation of chronic leg dysfunction and pain.  Consider surgical correction.  Amputation a viable option.——-de, d, d, deeee,

***** Stop.

Moo, Baa, La La La

“What are you gonna do, Napoleon?”

“Whatever I want!  GOSH!”

That’s me.  Doing pretty much whatever I want.  The problem is, I’m not really sure how to handle this kind of freedom.  With apologies to Sandra Boynton, I figured a great title for this post would be in reference to creatures like cows and sheep, etc.

I’m used to residency.  Every moment of your life for those years is owned, every minute planned and directed.  Residency training brought out the cow in me, built it up and filled it out.  I’m good at being told where to go, when, how.

“Dr. SW101,” Someone asked yesterday.  “You are the team leader of 15 medical professionals overseeing a wide panel of injured soldiers.  How do you want to proceed?”

“Ohh, haha.  That’s easy.  Mooooooooooooooooobaaalalala!”

Good Samaritan…Law?

I recently fell victim to a rule here in Germany entitled ‘The Good Samaritan Law.’

The statute irked me even before I suffered under it, because it evokes a sacred parable, but totally misses the enduring message of the story.  Worse, for those not familiar with one of the most important stories in all of Christianity, familiarity with this law will likely make you presume the exact opposite storyline of The Good Samaritan.

You can read the story yourself in any self-respecting Bible containing the book of Luke.  Specifically, Luke chapter 10, verses 25-37.

Incidentally, Luke is my favorite of the Gospels not only because he was a doctor, but also because without him, we wouldn’t really know much about the early church after Jesus died.  Luke wrote Acts along with his Gospel.

Doctors.  Always so thorough.

473px-Rembrandt_Harmensz._van_Rijn_033Anyway, for a brief run-down of the story, a guy gets the smack-down by bandits while traveling by himself on a lonely road.

While laying there – naked, hacking, bleeding and wheezing – 3 different people walk by.  The first two people are the most likely to stop and help him because they’re either from his tribe, or religious-types who might just kinda want to reflect the love of God to the lost and suffering (and involuntarily naked).

However, those guys pass right on by as the man lays suffering in the gutter.  The person who does stop is the sworn enemy of the  beat-up guy:  the Samaritan.  Jews and Samaritans hated each other back then.  So much that cultured Jews wouldn’t even speak the name ‘Samaritan’.  Both groups had all these issues with each other and the way they regarded themselves as El Guapo of God, etc.

So, the story in today’s parlayance would be something along the lines of: a hyper-conservative-to-the-distant-right-of-Pat-Robertson guy stops in a discordant wave of compassion to help a bleeding man with a pink neon sign strapped to his body cyclically buzzing “I’m a proud man-flamer and really, really damn proud of it.  Christians SUUUUCK!”  This would be after Richard Simmons, Barry Manilow, Franc from Father of the Bride, Surge from Beverly Hills Cop and Bruno all sauntered past without so much as a 2nd sideways glance.

THAT’S the story.  The point gets at perhaps Jesus’ most profound and challenging admonition: love your enemy.  Volitionally.  On purpose.  ‘Cause you want to, you chose to, nobody made you.

In the Sermon on the Mount – by my estimation, the greatest oratory in all of human history – Jesus says,

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?

Arguably, this idea of extending love beyond your own brethren to everyone – even punks you hate – distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. In my mind, this teaching constitutes both the core of Christianity, and elevates it above the world’s other great religions.

300px-Bloch-SermonOnTheMountLove your neighbor as yourself was espoused by the common religious teaching at the time, thought to be imported from Asia.  Love your brother as yourself is the prominent admonition in Islam.  But love your enemy?  That’s out there.  Was then.  Is today.  Pretty much never successfully followed by Christians, but profound teaching nonetheless.

So, you can see that when I encounter The Good Samaritan used in less-than-exact terms, I get edgy.  That story rests squarely in the central belief system of my life.

And what is the German Good Sam Law?  Simply, that if you see someone in need of aid, you are required to offer any assistance you reasonably can (no road-shoulder femur reductions required if you’re a manager at Staples, for example).

The name of this law probably came from an identically-named law in the States.  However, in the States, the Good Sam law simply protects anyone from getting sued for attempting to be a “Good Samaritan” by helping someone in dire need…and the would-be Sam actually screws it up, or just doesn’t actually help, or only sorta helped but could have done better…or anything else the average creative American might come up with to get themselves a lawsuit against your average kindhearted bonehead.

I don’t mind the name applied to the American law because it’s simply a protection against lawsuits.  It doesn’t reference the parable incorrectly.

The German law is incorrectly named because the whole notion of a Good Samaritan is that their actions are by choice and unexpected.  Furthermore, the Good Sam is helping someone he is supposed to hate.

The German law simply forces you to help anyone, love ’em or hate ’em.  So, the name has been applied lazily, which undermines a story with sacred meaning that shouldn’t be distorted.

Hmph.  Did I get old suddenly?

And how did this law affect me?  Today, while on an exit ramp on the autobahn, we were flagged down by a couple next to their car.  The man waved frantically, wide-eyed, looking like something must have gone terribly wrong.  I would not have pulled over at that point in the U.S.  I would have assumed it was some sort of scam and known that Emergency people could probably handle it.  But this is Germany.  I’m obligated to be a “Good Samaritan” (contradiction in terms…see above).  So I pull over.  The man urgently asks for gas money.

His car is out of gas.

Am I supposed to “help” with this?  Would I be a “Bad Samaritan” in Germany if I didn’t help this guy out?  Worriedly, I pull out 20 Euro and give it to him, furtively casting glances over my shoulder for the “Polezi” and seeing a disembodied officer’s head nod in approval as I hand over the legal tender.

The guy acts instantly relieved and immensely grateful.  He tries to give me his worthless “gold” chain, which we refuse.  I then realize that those 20 Euro cost me about 30 U.S. dollars, plus whatever cost I incurred to get them from the cash machine the day before.  Driving away, I realize that 30 bucks is more than enough to get some gas.  5 would have been fine.  I also wonder why the guy is trying to get money RIGHT THERE, why not wait ’till they got to the gas station, then peddle money?  My cash isn’t going to get him off the should of the road.

I gave more than I could afford, trying to avoid becoming a “Bad Samaritan”, and in truth, I was probably scammed.  In normal life, I virtually never give money to individual people I don’t know because I can’t be sure that what they do with the money will be beneficial.  I’ve long come to accept that giving money to beggars is really about my guilt issues, rather than my genuine desire to help them.

This time, giving that money derived from being afraid that I would go to German jail, forever labeled as a Bad Samaritan.

So, I’m critical of the title of the law.  I also think the whole idea of a law that forces you to help people has lots of ethical and liberty issues with it.

Germany’s great…but they ought to take another look at their law, starting with the name of it.