Because Getting Hit by a Cab is Totally What I Had in Mind, Universe

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And here I feared I wouldn’t have a thing to write about my mere 28 hours in Finland. Color me silly. That’ll teach me to count my chickens and all that jazz.

You see, I battled such severe jetlag that after my 19 hours in transit from San Francisco to New York to Dusseldorf to Helsinki, I checked into my crappy hostel in the city center of Helsinki on Thursday afternoon and drifted in and out of sleep for awhile (professional traveler no-no number one) while the rain beat against my window, doing nothing for my fatigue. Four hours later, I ventured out long enough to grab my first meal in 12 hours, but the 30 degrees quickly drove me back to the warmth of my single bed, as I set in for a couple hours of Freaks and Geeks viewing on my laptop and yet another sleepless night.

At 5am, it was apparent I was going to get no beauty rest, so I decided to do some work then wander around the city a bit. It was even colder that day, and I was glad I decided to throw my running shoes and rain jacket into my small carry-on last minute, as the precipitation did not abate. By 10am, I’d seen most of the pocket-sized city and decided to head down the ferry terminal and buy my ticket for that evening’s boat ride to Tallinn in advance, lest it be sold out due to the weekending boatsetters.

At 11:05 a.m., I was mowed down by a cab.

Yeah, no, you read that right. A cab. Freakin’ hit me. And knocked me over. Like Abe Lincoln, I do not tell a lie.

When SVV and I lived in Denmark, we would make fun of how rule-abiding Scandinavians are. If we ever crossed at a walk when there wasn’t a little green man telling us to do so—no matter if no vehicle was visible for 10 miles—we were met with glares by the Danes who were standing patiently at the crosswalk. If someone tells them to do something—or rather, not do something—you better believe they’re going to obey.

But. This particular time I was abiding by the rules! See where doing what you’re told gets you? Right into the downtown Helsinki poliisi precinct. But I digress.

There I was, crossing with THREE little green men permitting me to, at the major street that ran parallel to the harbor, when I saw a cab VAN, not just any normal compact car, whip around the median and pull an illegal U-turn (his light was red). Thinking surely he would stop, as I was wearing a bright purple raincoat that only a blind person would fail to see, I continued to walk. As he inched closer, quickly, I realized that hey! he had no intention of stopping. So I threw up my arms in boxer fashion to shield, not my face or own body, but my camera equipment, natch. At that point, he slammed into me and still didn’t stop! I fell over from the blow, sort of caddycorner into the median, which finally caused him to pull over and apologize. I muttered some choice expletives that no doubt would make my mom blush, but c’mon, like you wouldn’t have done the same when getting hit full-on by a haphazard cabbie. It’s only a good thing that U-turn meant he wasn’t going to terribly fast yet.

I didn’t really know what to do. I mean, I’ve never been hit by a car before, let alone one in Finland. I stumbled about for a bit in a daze. I wasn’t hurt, just sore on my forearms and the shoulder that took the blow. So I texted SVV, who immediately responded with some expletives of his own, and told me to go directly to the police station. But first I had to find it. Lucky for me for the first time that day, there was a visitor information center just in front of me, so I went in, burst into tears and asked what one does when one is hit by a cab. Because I’m a girl and that’s what we do when angry/upset/traumatized/pissed off: We cry. Funny enough, they already had a flier printed out—this must happen often or something—and directed me to the precinct down the street.

I marched right into the precinct, sat myself down and gave my spiel. I think there were more tears. The poor young officer, Akerman, didn’t know what to make of me, as I’m pretty sure Finns, they never cry. His English was good, thank God, so I related the story multiple times before he sent me to the fourth floor to be fully interrogated. I’ve never even been in a police ward in the US, as I haven’t been pickpocketed or had my car broken into or anything to that effect (knock on wood), so this was a bit exciting for me.

Yet, I would get the only person in all of Scandinavia not fluent in English as my interrogator. He would say things in Finnish, I would dumb down my English and try to crack the code, frustration would ensue. There were a lot of hand motions, some legal charades, as I re-enacted the scene once more, just to make sure he got the full picture. There would be annoyance by all parties involved.

When describing my perpetrator, I called him “thin” and was met with a blank stare. “Lean,” “fit” and “not fat” didn’t work either, so finally I had to physically demonstrate what I meant. That was a fun one, let me tell you.

He seemed shocked I didn’t want any compensation—apparently it would have been easy to get—but I wasn’t hurt, wouldn’t require any doctor’s visit, why did I deserve to get paid? I tried to explain to him I was doing this solely so the cabbie would think twice before driving so wrecklessly again. I mean, he does this—drive—for a living. What if I’d been a small child or baby in a stroller and couldn’t handle such a hit so easily? All I wanted was for him to get a penalty and maybe some points on his record, which I think in the end he did.

I always assumed my first trip to an international police station would be for someone smuggling drugs in my backpack over a border in Southeast Asia a la Bridget Jones or Brokedown Palace, or getting my passport swiped off me in the street in Milan. I never thought it would be only for getting mowed down by a cab. How anticlimactic.

  • June 10, 2009

    So glad you’re okay! Normally when someone gets hit by a car the image that pops into my head includes lots of blood and at least a few broken bones…
    A girl I knew when I studied abroad was assaulted in France. There was some legal loophole that only allowed the guy to be charged if she sued him. So she sued him for something like 1 Euro, just so he would get charged (she kept explaining she only wanted him to be charged so he wouldn’t continue to assault people and she didn’t want money, but the police insisted she must name a price). Then she had to go to court. So, given your experience, I wonder if asking for compensation is a similar concept?

  • June 10, 2009

    Protect the camera gear – that’s my girl! LOL Seriously though, I’m glad you’re ok!

  • June 10, 2009

    But ofcourse, in matters of life and death what else would you choose to protect! Good to know that there was no real damage done. Lucky escape.
    Am impressed with all that re-enacting you did. 🙂 Going by my dumb charades track record, I would have been a total disaster!

  • June 10, 2009

    Yikes, that sounds like a hell of a way to start your European vacation! I’m glad you weren’t hurt and managed to sort out the police situation in the end. Hope Germany is treating you better, we’re in the same time zone at the moment which is nice as your twitter comments are keeping me entertained at work. Normally I’m just leaving the office as my American twitter friends are waking up!

  • June 10, 2009

    Ok when I read the title of your post I thought it must be some sort of joke or something. HOLY COW! You were HIT by a CAB! That is crazy! I am so glad you are ok. You handled it really well compared to how I would have handled it. I probably would have just run back to my hotel room, crying and refused to come out.

  • June 10, 2009

    Oh, what brilliant memories you brought back to me, namely losing my PASSPORT after landing in Russia. I was flipping out, flying around the terminal flagging every uniform I spotted, speaking a simple phrase very slowly, enunciating clearly, “I_have_lost_my_passport, what_ do_ I_do?” I found a uniform who spoke English. Yeah. I restated. Twice. He gave me a grave scowl, glanced at his similarly clad uniform friend, they traded a knowing glance. He drilled me directly in the eye and answered my question, “Find it.”

  • June 10, 2009

    Glad to hear you weren’t hurt. What a way to start a trip though! My husband has bad habit of being hit by cars – he’s never been hurt thank god – and he been hit something like 4 times.

  • June 10, 2009

    Jesus. That is just ridiculous. Thank goodness you’re OK.

    But I have to know: When you reenacted the event for the interrogator, did you use sound effects?

  • June 10, 2009

    what!? that was totally climactic! furthermore, you could have gotten hit by, like, a fuzzy bunny rabbit and made it a story worth telling. 🙂

  • June 10, 2009

    I saw that on your Twitter…unbelievable! Of course…texting your soon-to-be-spouse after being hit by a car is kind of unbelievable too, lol.

  • June 10, 2009
    joan van velsor

    Eeeek. when I read the headline I believed it immediately, and had a heart pounding read until I found the line that said “I wasn’t hurt”. Thank goodness for that, and holy moly, what was that cab driver thinking???

  • June 10, 2009

    I’m so glad you’re okay! But you didn’t say anything about the camera? Is it okay?!? Craziness.

  • June 10, 2009

    Glad you are okay! Yeeps. What a nut!

  • June 10, 2009

    You were lucky not to be hurt worse. Thanks for posting this as I’d read your twitter and wondered what had happened. I think you did the right thing going to the police. Too bad they couldn’t figure out to get an interogator that spoke at least a little English. Duh! Yet it’s said that hand signs work all over the world.

    Enjoy Berlin!

  • June 10, 2009

    As someone who’s been hit by a car before (on a run!) you should at least go to the doctor when you get home. I didn’t realize that I had fractures in both my hip and elbow after my accident because I felt “fine.”
    ps: I would totally do the same thing, and protect the camera equipment! It’s funny what we do instinctually!

  • June 10, 2009

    Somewhere in Finland a cabbie’s ears are red and burning because I (and everyone else that knows about this) want to do a U-turn on his ASS.. Expletives indeed, he don’t know the half of it.

  • June 10, 2009

    How scary! Just glad you are OK.

  • June 10, 2009

    So scary, I’m sorry! Glad everything (including YOU!) is okay.

    Silver lining: it’s a story for the kids someday?

  • June 10, 2009

    K, I don’t mean to laugh…but this is f**king hilarious! So sorry it happened, though. truly, I am. I hope you are not suffering from whiplash or bruised ego. Your first time in an international police station is because you got run over by a cab. Mine was in Barcelona when a 5-year-old robbed me! Yes, you heard right–a 5-year-old! Ooh, I should blog about that and link to you. We can start collecting international police station posts!!

  • June 10, 2009

    i would totally be worried about my camera gear too! glad you are ok.

  • June 10, 2009

    I’m so glad you’re OK! I was once knocked off my bike and onto my side & back in Berkeley when someone opened their car door and hit my bike! Luckily I was OK and no cars were coming my way, but was shaken up quite a bit, and I didn’t think to call the police.

    And speaking of Helsinki – I flew in there on my way to Tallinn as well, and had a camera failure there which required me to purchase a new one, plus a memory chip, for about twice what I would have paid at home – ouch!

  • June 10, 2009

    Oh my goodness, I’m glad you’re alright! I hope you don’t have any long-term injuries from this 🙁

  • June 10, 2009

    Oh no! How awful. I totally would have bawled too. I’m glad you (and your camera equipment!) are okay. Why is it that the people who make their living driving are the worst drivers?

  • June 10, 2009

    Now when I get a bad cabbie, I’m going to say, Stupid Finnish Cabbie! in honor of you.

    So glad you’re okay!

  • June 10, 2009

    28 hours in Finland and hit by a cab. Now that is one to save for the grandkids!!! Glad you’re ok!

  • June 10, 2009

    Anticlimactic? Let’s discuss some of the details of your story again.
    Not only were you lucky enough to walk away unharmed, but now you have a badass bar story.

  • June 10, 2009

    Wow!! How scary! I’m glad you are ok though.

  • June 10, 2009

    I’m glad you’re ok but of all the places you wouldn’t really think this would happen in Finland, would you? Italy? Spain? Sure. But Finland. I like the protecting your camera equipment. That’s exactly what I did last week when we had a tornado come through and had to go underground. I didn’t take any ID but I managed to get ALL my camera equipment down in the basement with me.

  • June 10, 2009

    your cousin once was interrogated for 2 hours by the austrian govt.

    you are so hardcore. i think you need to move back to tullahoma, get married, have 8 kids, 13 dogs, and a wii and stay safe!

  • June 10, 2009

    Oh no! What a strange thing to happen. I swear, after you told me your story about The Edge & your experience in Dublin, I knew you were a girl to whom strange things happened. 😉 I hope you’re feeling ok, though.

  • June 17, 2009

    Yowza! I can’t believe you got hit! So glad you are ok, but hey if nothing else, it’s a good story! w

  • June 19, 2009

    That sucks! So glad you’re ok & you saved your camera gear too! The only time I was hit by a car wasn’t as exciting – my dad was just backing out of the drive way and didn’t see me (at least I hope he really didn’t!).

  • July 10, 2009

    I can’t believe I’m just now reading about this but: SO glad you’re OK. And choice expletives when you were just knocked over by a van? I would have thrown a slew. xo

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