Travels with Anne

Hosting a German journalist in Los Angeles is always fun, but this visit turned out to be more eventful than usual.

Anne Allmeling is a radio and TV reporter based in Cologne. She spent three days with KPCC-FM reporter Susan Valot in Orange County before meeting up with me in Pasadena. You have to give her an A+ for courage because, even though she doesn’t even own a car in Germany, she navigated the LA freeways by herself in a rental car.

After visiting my office to talk about tv and radio talent coaching, we planned to drop off her car at her hotel and then I would drive us to the studios of KNX-AM all-news radio. I thought it would be interesting for Ann to hear Frank Mottek’s coverage of the dramatic downturn in the economy. Too bad we never got there.

Just two blocks away from the hotel, Ann’s foot slipped off the brake at an intersection, and her rented car lurched forward, tapping the bumper of the car ahead of her. Two things became clear immediately: the driver of the car was a Mexican immigrant with no drivers’ license and her 14-year-old daughter was holding her neck and asking to go to the hospital. The mother spoke no English and called her two teenaged sons to the scene. Anne had paid for insurance, but had to file a police report to make a claim.

The boys did not want us to call the police and demanded cash on the spot to fix the car, which looked to me as if it had been dented by something else before the accident. As you can see in the pictures, there was virtually no damage to the rental car. And it was hard to understand how such a minor fender tap could have caused a serious injury. But that’s for the doctors to decide.
We called the cops. Paramedics also arrived to examine the girl. Pasadena police explained to the mother that they would have to cite her for driving without a license and confiscate her car. But if there were no injuries or damage involved, the officers would not have to write a report and she was free to go. Given the choice, the mother opted to face the citation and go to the hospital with her daughter. The boys looked on sadly as the cops towed the car. The police said it would cost the family nearly $1,000 to get the car out of impound. I shared Anne’s disbelief that a police officer would allow an unlicensed driver to continue driving under any circumstances. Apparently, the huge number of undocumented drivers has led to an epidemic of “hit and run” accidents because the unlicensed people don’t stick around to exchange information. The police don’t want to punish those who do the right thing and stop.

This was a classic LA melting pot experience that could almost be a sequel to the movie “Crash”: A visitor from Germany involved in an accident with immigrants from Mexico, with multiethnic police officers, paramedics and bytanders on the scene. Anne got a personal lesson in the issues raised by illegal immigration, such as undocumented people driving without a license or insurance. Three hours later,, we headed into Hollywood for some sightseeing. We finally met up with Frank at the Beverly Hilton, at a celebrity-studded benefit for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization. Frank is a classy guy who always makes time in his schedule to welcome Germans participating in the RIAS/RTNDF journalist exchange program. Both Frank and I have visited Germany as RIAS fellows. As I have said before on this blog, the free trip to Germany is one of the best kept secrets in broadcasting!
I wish Anne the best of luck in her travels and in her career. I hope our paths will cross again under circumstances where we don’t have to drive!