For the first few weeks after it happened, I was reticent to discuss it for fear of repercussions.
I didn't think they made Ford Escorts in the U.S. that go so fast. The car I rented in Munich that June was sailing, well, flying on the Autobahn.
Once I got comfortable with the higher speeds on the Autobahn, I learned to LOVE the rhythm of driving in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. The rule is slow drivers must stay to the right, so that the faster cars can jet by. And it works. I wish we had a similar system in the U.S. That is the rule, but too many times I end up behind a putz.
When I say we toured Switzerland, it would not be an understatement to say we covered most of the major roads and cities in three days. My son is a die-hard, gotta-see-everything kind of traveler, and his enthusiasm is infectious. We made stops in Lucerne, Lucarno, Sion, Montreux, Lausanne, Geneva, and Fribourg. We also wound through the Swiss Alps and past Lake Thun (Tuna) in the magnificent Interlaaken area. And we got stuck in a traffic jam in Zurich. Furthermore ... we drove all the way around Lake Geneva (Lac Lemon, if you are on the France side) to Evian, France, and we merged with a wedding processional going through the town. I don't recollect drinking any of the famous water while there. The traffic was so scary, I just wanted to get back into Switzerland. On Sunday, we decided to head back to Munich through the scenic Italian Alps and Lichtenstein.
The minute we got over the Italian border, I feared my judgment had been compromised. The windy, mountain roads weren't nearly the quality of the Swiss roads. Sometimes in fact, they were very narrow, with only room for a Fiat going in the opposite direction. Slow going it was. By the time we reached Lichtenstein on Sunday, we were still quite a distance from Munich, and we didn't even stop to place our feet on the ground long enough to say we'd really been there. No worries. No one at the rental agency would know that we were arriving a few hours later than scheduled.
After we got through the Italian Alps, we stopped in Locarno and we and a small bird who joined our table had a small dinner. Cruising back on the Autobahn was a bit more complicated as there were spots which did have speed patrols, although it was still possible to go at least 130 kmph (80 mph) most of the time. Suffice it to say, we were going to be late getting the car back after our wild road race through Switzerland.
We arrived in the rental car parking lot at about 10:45 pm. We were exhausted and there was paperwork to be done. We filled in the blanks, unloaded our luggage from the trunk, locked the car, deposited the paperwork and car keys in the box, then headed for the street. It was only a small mile-long walk to my son's apartment.
"Ummmm ... there's a problem," my son noticed it first. There was now a 12 foot high fence where we had come into the parking lot.
"The gate locked ... it must've been on a timer," he said.
I was tired and confused. After my life experiences up to that point, I wasn't afraid of much, but I didn't see how I could scale a 12 foot fence with two suitcases and various carrying bags. Maybe my son could have, but I knew I couldn't. In any event, it would have attracted so much attention that we'd be probably arrested for breaking into the parking lot, even though a magic gate trapped us in.
The parking lot was huge and obviously used for other purposes besides the rental car agency. The expanse seemed to be at least a square block.
"We're going to have to walk til we find a place where there's no fence," I suggested.
My son found a short fence, only about 5 feet. He tested to ensure he could get over, and get out to the street. Meanwhile, a dog which I imagined was fierce and possessing sharp teeth, big claws, and no mercy was barking loudly from maybe 100 feet away. I was shuddering, obviously from fear as it was summer and still quite warm that evening.
Success. The street was accessible.
In the end, I hurled the suitcases, carrying bags, and my purse over the reasonably short fence, then climbed over myself. Not soon enough we were on the sidewalk heading back to my son's apartment.
Would somehow know we returned the car so late was ... were there hidden security cameras in the parking lot? if yes, would I get out of the country? would anyone believe that we entered the lot legitimately with the rental car? would I ever be allowed to visit Germany again, given my fence climbing antics?
So I didn't mention this little escapade for months, not even to my closest friend. I breathed a sigh of relief when my accomplice-son landed in back the U.S. later that summer. But now, I've shared it with you, not as a confession but as a warning:
Be prepared ... you never know how high a fence you're going to have to climb and how far you are going to have to hurl your suitcase.