Thank you very much, Mr. Police Officer

To the unknown Federal Police Officer at the Munich International Airport “Franz-Josef-Strauß”. Thank you very much. Officer, you gave me the nicest birthday present.

Cops don’t have it easy. Their everyday life consists of making decisions that ultimately concern us all. One wrong note, one wrong movement, the slightest impulse can mutate into an unfortunate moment. Within seconds, the officer must then decide what is the right thing to do, recognizing the kind of disaster from which he needs to protect society and their citizens. In such a spare moment, he cannot forget his own safety and that of his colleagues.

The Evil Protector — Protecting the evil

More and more often, however, the people — all of us who are protected daily by our Police Force — forget to respect their protectors, not giving them the recognition, they deserve for their daily work. This creates a lot of misunderstanding on both sides.

I also have faced on occasion a police officer with my fist clenched in my pocket, wishing him no good, biting my lips. I remember one time I could not resist the obscene. Silently, I mumbled swear words from an entire catalogue of shame into myself, letting of the Steam.

Public nuisance

As a tour guide, I am always amongst people. Sometimes I am staying in up to one hundred hotels a year. I am constantly moving, visiting many airports all over the world for professional reasons. There’s often a cause to get angry.

The last two unpleasant incidents happened to me at one and the same airport — the “Franz-Josef-Strauß” airport in Munich.

About two years ago, I was in the departure hall of Terminal 2, on my way to the Lufthansa counter. Suddenly a man — obviously drunk — jumped at me, grabbed my mobile phone and tore it out of my hand with a violent jerk. He quickly ran away with it. Surprised and in shock, I looked around me, then I gasped after him. Shortly before the thief could leave the arrival hall, I managed to overwhelm him and, wrangled to keep the control. I screamed for the police, but nobody came. None around me showed the slightest reaction. While I was still holding the man, I discovered a ticket from Munich to São Paulo in the thief’s shirt pocket. I grabbed the plane ticket, memorized names and dates, let go of the man and went to the Federal Police station. There were two young officers sitting at a desk, barely moving. One of them listened to my story, while he was patterning me from head to toe, with a bored look. After I had described everything, I wanted to file a complaint. But neither of the federal police agents, moved from their desk. They were like nailed down, sitting stiff on their chairs. At my urging to do something, I was told that this was not within remit of the federal police. Their answer was, that I’m supposed to go to the Munich state police station, opposite Terminal 2, and file a complaint.

The superficiality with which I was perceived as a citizen by the two guardians of the law, hurt me deeply. I stood there as if rooted, talking and talking and did not want to realize, that any attempt by me to do something about the thief, was totally blocked by the two federal policemen. Slowly the policemen became impatient with me. I felt, that I had to leave the station as soon as possible.

Where there is no harm, there is no perpetrator

Angry and left alone, I shook my head and went to the opposite side of the terminal, to the state police station at Munich Airport. There the next hurdle was already waiting for me. At the doors intercom a male voice answered me and asked for my request. Completely out of breath, I described the incident in detail. For a full minute I only reaped silence. Then the answer came: “Please wait a moment.” Minutes later a chief inspector, slim and slender, about fifty, opened the large glass door from the inside and stepped up to me. He made an unusually jovial impression on me for a policeman on duty. The reason was clear, he was already privy to my request, and he wanted to talk me out of filing a criminal complaint. I didn’t like that. I was hoping the police would catch the thief at the airport after I gave him the thief’s flight details. I also expected that when the thief got on the plane to São Paulo (if he was the rightful owner of the ticket at all?), he would at least be recorded and questioned by the police. After all, he assaulted me and took my cell phone from me.

But the chief commissioner did not want to address my complaint: “Do you have your mobile phone with you?” he asked me. My answer was: “Yes”. Well, you see. What else are we supposed to do about it? If you file a criminal complaint now, it’ll go to waste anyway. “Did you get hurt at all?” he asked me again. “No.” I had to answer truthfully. “Well, you see,” the chief inspector repeated himself with a smile. Then he reached out his hand to me and said goodbye. I stood there totally perplexed, shrugged my shoulders and muttered something. I could not believe it! Boiling with rage I went back to Terminal 2.
Yes, I admit it… My empathic understanding had now reached its limits. It took weeks for this unpleasant incident to be banished into my long-term memory.

But as we all know, we always meet twice in life. And it was exactly like that.

You don’t turn 70 every day, something special can happen
Some months ago, I turned seventy. Exactly on the day of my birthday I said goodbye to a group at the airport “Franz-Josef-Strauß” in Munich. Again, I had to deal with Lufthansa in Terminal 2 and again I experienced something terrible, that was triggered by myself this time. But wait and see and learn from my story. Forgetfulness and poor concentration can have bad consequences if circumstances do not send an angel to your side, to help you out of trouble at the right moment.

It was four o’clock in the morning, when I left the hotel in the city Centre and drove to the airport in a large coach with my group. There I took my “sheep” to the Lufthansa desk. I said goodbye and sat down on a bench in the hall of Terminal 2, where I wanted to rest for an hour. At 6:00, I decided to leave my suitcase at the airline counter for Frankfurt am Main. Then I went through the security check, etc. As I slowly slumbered on the bench in a drowsy state and dreamed of finally arriving at home, where a comfortable bed was waiting for me, uncomfortable things crept into my subconscious. Have you taken everything, forgot nothing, stowed everything away, is everything fine? Oh, the Swiss knife, put it in the case, otherwise it will be taken from you at the security checkpoint’. A real deep sleep was out of the question.

At 6:00 a.m. I stepped in front of the Lufthansa desk as planned and presented myself with my ID and the reservation number to my flight ticket. The lady at the counter was polite and everything went according to plan. I gave up my suitcase, received my plane ticket and was happy, that I still had a lot of time to get on my plane. Slowly I joined the security check and began to loosen my trouser belt and slowly unpack my backpack. Years of routine at countless airports worldwide have made me an experienced passenger. I put the laptop on the belt. Emptying my pockets. Took the most important stuff out of the backpack and put it on the belt. Everything happened normally. While my equipment was all laying on the security belt, including my backpack, ready for the luggage scanner, I walked through the body scanner with my arms raised. Perfect! Not a peep! No sign of unwanted objects. I must have seemed like a model passenger.

What I did not suspect at the time was, how dark the signs of fortune stood against me. Everyone and everything around me had suddenly become remarkably silent. All eyes were on me. I got a little creepy, feeling goosebumps. Three federal police officers (apparently called by eye contact) approached the luggage scanner without saying a word, calmly taking my backpack. Now a shuddering panic broke out inside me. If I had fainted at that moment in a mixture of weakness and shock, the script for a reality show at the airport of Bogotá, Colombia, could have been perfectly filmed: “German drug smuggler at the airport seized in flagranti”. What a headline!
I wondered why I had suddenly become the centre of attention here? My conscience was clear, a fact that slightly helped to calm me down a little. I hadn’t done anything wrong… Had I? At least I wasn’t aware of any bad deed. I didn’t have anything illegal on me either. Or did I???


One of the three federal police officers — the elder one, a commissioner — put on some rubber gloves and reached deep into my backpack. Then he took the revolvers Smith and Wesson 38 out of my backpack. He took the revolver from the leather holster, opened the drum and removed the screech cartridges. He looked at the gun for a moment. Then he turned to me: “Please show me your ID and your plane ticket”. I did as I was told. While I was looking for my ID card in my wallet, I felt sick and wanted to throw up.

“Do you have a gun license, Mr.Pahl?” asked the commissar. “Yes” I answered and fingered nervously in my jacket pocket, after the gun licence, handing it over. The Commissioner accepted it and then I had to wait a long time. I was surprised at how silently everything went on. Other passengers passing by, looked at me grudgingly when they saw the gun on the table at the baggage scanner. Obviously, I was a violent man up to no good. Why else would I want to smuggle a gun on the plane? That was understandable!

I stood next to it and I kept quiet. Made no effort to defend myself. No attempt to convince the police about me being a good citizen and human being. No, some voice inside me whispered to me quietly: ‘You made a mistake, and everything will clear up’.

“What were you thinking, Mr.Pahl?” It did not take the Commissioner long to put this question to me. “Listen, Commissioner” I said. “I bought this revolver because I almost became a victim of violence on several occasions. Once I escaped a knife attack by a hair’s breadth. So, I applied for this gun license. I was so tired, I forgot to put my gun in my suitcase this morning. I’m sorry”.
“This is a crime”, the commissioner replied. “I’m going to turn you over to the Munich State Police. The colleagues will do everything else”.

Happy birthday to you!

Happy birthday, I thought to myself and took it as it was. It was 7:30 in the morning and I had turned seventy since midnight. What a loud start to a new decade.

The scale of emotions in me changed from minute to minute. Strangely enough, I reacted calmly. Two officers from the state police were just with the commissioner from the federal police and talked to him. Again, about fifteen minutes passed. Again, the Commissioner of the Federal Police talked to me. He had now struck a different note and I noticed, that the tide was turning.

“Mr.Pahl, I will now escort you behind security. Then I’ll give you the gun back. The bullets stay with me. I have enough information about you, and I don’t think that’s ever going to happen again. Go back to the Lufthansa desk, register the gun, ask for your suitcase, stow the gun in the suitcase and register the suitcase also again.”

Man, that had passed the Judge’s chamber by a hair’s breadth, I thought to myself and breathed in and out once deeply. The fact that I had to go through security two more times to get my suitcase and that I had to leave my gun with the Federal Police while I was in the security area, didn’t bother me much, despite all the effort. I had learned something in an unusual way that I will never forget. And, above all, I have learned that the circumstances in life that enrage and tempt you to join in gross prejudices, hinder each other. Often even poison each other. If one already “meets twice in life” (as the proverb says), wouldn’t it be nice if citizens and police could at least meet with a “smile”? Just the way it used to be. This is what I thought to myself, full of relieve, taking a deep breath in and letting it slowly out.

Carpe Diem to all police officers in Germany!