Sunday Driving Ban

(translated by Juergen Matthes)


US Airways
US Airways

In the early 70’s we had the oil crisis. To save fuel, in Germany a Sunday driving ban had been imposed. It should take place on 4 consecutive Sundays. Unfortunately the politicians forgot to also impose a Sunday flying ban. It just had to lead to problems!

And the problems were, that our belle etage wasn’t informed, so they didn’t issue any exceptional permits for us to drive to work. Somehow logical, because the belle etage was off on Sundays, what for those permits, then? Apparently they completely forgot about us!

On the first Sunday, when the ban was active, things still halfway worked out. Most people didn’t believe in this yet and renounced using the streets and roads for other things. But the police, they had special permits and didn’t feel like to let anyone else slip by.

At that time I was living in Gerresheim, to get to Lohhausen to the airport was quite a ways, right through the middle of the city. So all kinds of opportunities for the police to ask for my special permit! Which I didn’t have!

First check was halfway decent. Asked about the permit. Ok, none, getting chewed up, protest, must get to work, what work, show [glossary]ATC[/glossary] id-card, that’s why, we’ll check, telephone call to watch-supervisor, doesn’t work direct, get on police radio, tell com center telephone number, have them check, wait …

Then – com center says, yes, he must show up at work. Great! Policeman says, ok, must work, but do you have to go by car? I says: well, but ambulances don’t take the train either. Too bad, wrong answer! You now park car, go by train! Tell policeman, call watch-supervisor again, let him know, will be late, because policeman. Answer via com center – let him drive, supervisior angry, very angry!

After the officers told me to have a good trip, I could drive on. I had the feeling that they didn’t mean it.

And it wasn’t meant to be. 2 kilometers further on, police, stoplight, getting chewed up, the whole procedure was repeated. It didn’t last as long, because com center insisted on getting things straightened out quickly. I was on my way again. But not long: police, stoplight, getting chewed up, … …

Historically speaking, one of those days when enough policeman and policecars were on the road. There was but one more check on my way to work, but I could have gone by train after all, I would have been just as late getting to work!

Only problem: The colleagues from early shift must wait for the relief to arrive, they stay put until everyone is there. Another problem, the colleagues from early shift also drove to work with their cars, but were on the road much earlier, well before the police started checking …

Our watch-supervisor was out of ideas, he felt, on the way to work, he has authority enough to enforce that everybody is exempt, but on the way home? Historically again, the first time a complete team went home by bus and train, including a bunch of delays accompanied by a lot of cussing and swearing, and, the next morning, return to work the same way!

Till the next car-free Sunday was one week. By heroic efforts our belle etage managed to have the special permits ready by Friday and deposit them in the control-room. The only problem: There were those, who had Friday off but were supposed to show up at work on Sunday again! They again didn’t have a permit. I was off that second Sunday, but heard about heart-breaking stories on the streets of Düsseldorf, about cursing colleagues and desperate policemen.

Then, finally – Heureka, I got my special permit for the third Sunday, when I had late-shift again. I thought – that’s it, now I’m in business! Policeman stops, me show permit, me drive on! Great. That was the plan. Unfortunately reality catches up with you, so this was the case too.

Since I had my permit, but yet figured I’d be stopped a couple of times, I only went half an hour earlier than usual. First mistake!

The problem wasn’t the police, the whole way not a single police-car. What a disappointment, I had wanted to show my permit so badly. They ought to have stopped me! The problem were the people on the roads. They had become used to the car-free Sundays and were milling about all the streets, roads and even freeways. There was no way to get through, complaints by everyone, asshole, idiot and much more. On the road: barbecues, hockey, flea-markets, reclining chairs, what have you. Simply everything you can imagine which doesn’t belong on the road!

Additionally it was dangerous, the people had anything on their minds except a car on the road! Kids, pets and totally confused people: a car, today, here, that ain’t possible, this guy must be mad!

And – no police, the guys could have at least forwarded a delay message to my watch-supervisor!

It was a historical day: No cars on the road. Therefore the fear the whole way to be dragged out of the car and lynched! The whole thing was topped by getting chewed up by my watch-supervisor for being late!!

Hard to believe, but there were people who were happy about the end of the Sunday driving bans because of very different reasons as having fuel available again.

I was one of them …