In The Green Maria
Helping the German police
I was walking through the park to Düsseldorf airport to catch the Friday evening flight home when I saw it. Someone had lifted up one of the manhole covers, leaving a huge hole in the middle of the path. It seemed a fairly stupid thing to do, the nearest street light was several dozen yards away, and somebody could easily fall in. I couldn’t see anyone else around, so I tried to put it back myself. I failed miserably. Those things must weigh a ton.
No problem, I thought, there’s a cop-shop just by the entrance to the airport, I’ll tell them. After all I’m early, I’ve got the time today, I can be a good citizen, do my moral duty to God and the town council, and still catch the flight.
The copper didn’t seem over enthusiastic at first.
“There’s a hole.” he said. “How deep?”
The tone of his voice made it clear he was expecting an answer in centimetres, and he wasn’t very interested.
“No it’s a manhole cover, somebody’s removed it, and the hole’s deep, like 3 or 4 metres.”
Then he asked where it was. The park path didn’t have a name, and I couldn’t remember any of the street names nearby. So we had a short and unproductive discussion on the lines of “under the motorway and turn right. No, not that right, immediately right.”
Eventually he gave up and called one of his mates in.
“Go with him, and show him where it is.”
“OK, but please remember I’ve got a plane to catch in 45 minutes.”
“No problem sir, we’ll have you back.”
I wasn’t too sure, but I couldn’t really back out now. He showed me to a big green van, and opened the rear door. He and his mate got in the front.
At this point I realized two important details. This was the German equivalent of a Black Maria. There was a heavy wire grill between me and the two in front, and there was no handle in either of my two doors. I was shut in.
The two in front drove off. Down the road we went and under the motorway.
“This is it, here.”
The driver swerved off the road, and down the park pathway. I expected him to stop where it narrowed, but he seemed to think that was bit cissy. I did wonder how he was going to turn round, or whether he intended to reverse out down a winding unlit footpath.
Then the hole loomed up. It wasn’t deserted now, three young lads where just climbing out of it. The brakes screeched, and the two cops leapt out. The lads didn’t run, I don’t know why – maybe they were too shocked by the speed of events. The policemen did a quick arrest, and marched them over to the van. They opened the door, ordered them in, and shut the door again.
I thought they were going to get in the front, but they didn’t. They must have heard something else, because they went back to the hole, and disappeared down it themselves.
At this point it occured to me that I was sitting, locked in the back of a green Black Maria, alone with three young men who I had just got nicked, and with less than 30 minutes to go before takeoff. I clutched my bag to me and tried to look criminally nicked myself.
Then the coppers reappeared with two more youths, and made them replace the manhole cover. They shoved them in the van as well. It was getting rather crowded by now in the back.
H-Hour less 25 minutes. The cops climbed back in and did an amazing three point turn down one of the side paths, then roared back down the footpath. Left onto the main road. Fortunately the traffic lights were in our favour.
We screamed to a halt outside the departures entrance, and one of them came round to open the door.
“Thank you very much, sir,” he said as I climbed over the legs of the five newly nicked. The lads themselves looked baffled at the polite tone.
I didn’t stop to see what happened next. Twenty minutes to go, I grabbed my things and ran. I just made it.