Tuesday, 20 July 2010

The Buffalo

My missus is amazing. No doubt. Of her talents her never-ending desire to cook me amazing dinners (separate post with pictures required) is one of my favourites.

She is currently sporting a bump for the four months of pregnancy thus far and, though she gets plenty of rest, she still charges around like a maniac and insists on cooking said amazing dinners.

Sunday, as is often the case, truly was the day of rest and I went foraging for my dinner. We headed out to the car with the little fella en tow – he’s an easy sleeper during car drives – and took the five minute or so journey to the market.

Upon arriving and finding a decent parking space, I dashed out and ordered myself two lots of khao mun gai, not my favourite but is safe given the number of times other, more exotic, dishes have proved to be let downs when returned home to consume.

Dinner purchased, locals mildly impressed with this farang’s Thai...we’re all set to go back – via the longer route, of course, so the little man can doze off to his favourite English nursery rhyme CD. Reversing out is always tricky at markets in the darkness of evening, people walk back ignorant of cars, bikes plod along in their own world and motorcyclists weave between gaps in a hurry.

So, minding the pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists I backed out. Given I had a precious parking space it wasn’t a surprise to see a pickup flash to let me out, so off I went...then suddenly...bang...shit...did I just kill someone.

I moved the car forward before jumping out to see what I’d done – ten years as a driver, my first accident awaiting me.

Seems the guy flashing me out was actually flashing me to say I couldn’t come out. A flash of the lights in Thailand is more a warning than invitation to go...though in this situation it was usually the opposite.

He looked pissed, very pissed, so immediately I apologised, politely calling him P’ and also giving a wai, the respectful greeting in Thai.

“You didn’t look, did you?” was his response...

“I’m sorry,” I repeated, “I looked you flashed...then...”

“Buffalo,” he shouted as a crowd of onlookers grew watching this farang who’d just crashed his car.

Now that is not a respectful way to talk to anyone in Thai. At this point I was pretty angry – with myself for crashing, it was clearly my fault and with him for the insult, petty though it may be – but I managed to stay calm and told him I’d already apologised, but he wasn’t listening.

“Look what you’ve done,” he said, insinuating that I’d decided to crash into his pickup on purpose. “Look!” he shouted.

On inspection, the ‘damage’ was little more than a one inch paint scratch and a little abrasive damage to the wheel hub area.

“It isn’t much,” I told him, beginning to think he was taking me for a ride.

“Yes it is,” he repeated, “why did you do this?”

By now he was snarling at me but I managed to stay cool. Just nipping out to the market I’d left my phone, as had the missus – who had got out of the car and was coming over to see.

I gave him my number and told him to call me tomorrow, but the missus – who was getting angry after him insult me – wanted this sorted out. With no phone and little fella with us, I jumped on a motorcycle taxi and headed out to get my father-in-law, who just happens to be a local police chief and a definite fixer of situations like this.

Cutting a potentially very long story shorter...I came back with FiL who told the guy, in no uncertain terms, they were going to get the car fixed now. The guy was talking a lot, I could understand most of it, he was saying the damage would require extensive work and would need a lot of money.

FiL, on the other hand, was arguing that repairing the wheel-hub part would be fine, and his grand plans were unnecessary. It got a little heated in parts with other people and a market security guard in attendance agreeing with FiL. The argument was that this should be settled now, at a garage, with us paying the full cost of repair – more than fair I thought.

The guy looked very angry but FiL made perfect sense and, as a more senior and respected man, the guy had little choice but to go along with it. The missus and I took the little fella home in FiL car while he went on in my car with the other guy to get his car fixed.

After waiting a while, FiL got back, I somewhat nervously asked how much it came to and  was happy to hear 2,500 baht was the answer.

All-in-all I managed to escape my first accident without breaking the bank or writing off a car (as my brother did as a teenager). Though as Khao Mun Gai goes, a 2,500 surcharge on 50 Baht of food isn’t all that great – but I can live with it.

The accident was my fault, despite his flash, but the guy’s attitude really bothered all of us – particularly my mother-in-law who said she wanted to go over there and bash him up.

The guy is in his forties, was with his wife and kid, but yet he completely lost it with me being aggressive towards me, and apparently the missus while I was gone, insulting me and generally being a tosser.

This is just another example of how fortunate I am to have such great in-laws and a master-fixer of things for a FiL.


Talen said...

Jon, very lucky indeed to have an important family member such as FiL...glad to hear it was all minor although like you said a 2500 baht surcharge for 50 baht worth of food is a little harsh.

Paul Garrigan said...

I think you are lucky that your family was able to sort things out. I learnt to drive in Thailand and during the first year had two accidents. The first time I scrapped the side of somebody's car. At the time I was working as a teacher and the accident happened outside the school. The guy was prepared to settle for 1,000THB; I think he would have tried for a lot more money if I hadn't been his son's teacher.

The next crash was a bit more serious and we had to get the insurance companies involved.

I haven't crashed in the last couple of years, and hopefully mentioning that fact hasn't just jinxed me.

Boonsong said...

Seems to me that he was taking the micky, but you came out of it relatively unscathed. I'd look upon that as a good result if I were you.

All the best, Boonsong

Mike said...

Jon I have been taught that flashing the car lights in Thailand means get out of the way I am coming through. The opposite to the UK, as I almost found out to my cost in similar circumstances to what you describe.

That said the guy was well out of order and you were lucky to be able to get the FIL to deal with it promptly, had it been me I would have called my insurance company and let them sort it out since I don't know any cops.

I am glad it was resolved and no one was injured, given the harrowing tale Ben on Thai Pirate told a few weeks back.

Another reminder if one were needed of the dangers of driving in this country.

Peter M said...

Having spent much of my early life in the UK, flashing lights always means 'Go ahead, I am letting you pass/pullout/whatever'. However having spent a number of years in Belgium and other countries I know the opposite is true for most countries. Flashing lights = get outta the freaking way! So far I have avoided driving in Thailand but I know the time will come when I need to. I take comfort from the fact you managed to do 10 years before this unfortunate incident (assuming you meant 10 years driving in Thailand).

Jon said...

Hi Mike,

Agree flashing is usual a warning but so often with parking spaces it means the opposite in Thailand. I should've been more careful...and am pretty disappointed with myself but, as you say, no one was hurt and all is fine.

The guy was a serious tool, at one point I thought things would turn nasty hence bringing in the cavalry - so to speak.

Thought about ringing the insurance company but, despite the guy's reaction, it didn't look to serious so settling ourselves was best option for the start.

Jon said...

Hi Boonsong,

Absolutely right - the lesson itself is worth way more than the 2,500 price I paid.

Jon said...

Hope this comment doesn't jinx you indeed.

I pride myself on being very careful and accident free so is all a little disappointing but a lesson well learnt.

Jon said...

Yeah he is a legend my FiL.

World's most expensive khao mun gai? Certainly was all the more enjoyable when I got the news all was sorted.

Martyn said...

Jon 2,550 baht is an expensive munch, I hope it was tasty.

You were lucky having FiL as back up. It makes you wonder how a lot of lesser experienced farang get along in these kind of situations. Many must pay out horrendous amounts. Someone screaming at you in a foreign language you can't understand is scary. You just don't know what the irate soul is going to do.

Grab a delivery service menu, they just might work out cheaper in the long run.

Jon said...

Ha, yeah, spot re delivery menu though I prefer gritty (not literally) street food to takeaway McThai or KFC, alas most vendors don't deliver.

My in-laws are legends but it hasn't/isn't always been smooth sailing...FiL is one of the few decent cops out there, a legend among men.

Tom Yam said...

Hi Jon,
How many times have you heard that Thais are a non-confrontational race of people who avoid public shows of temper and embarrassment in order not to lose face. Your little run in just shows how mis-reported this situation is!

Jon said...

Hi Tom,

To be honest, I very rarely see public shows of aggression. I'd go so far to say that this guy was one of the more threatening I've seen in my near two years here. Yet in London, this type of aggression is visible everyday, while things can be more civilised back or, indeed, more ugly.

Not that I'm knocking London, I love it and still consider it my home, but I do find that Thai people behaviour with an acute social awareness. Now whether that is their own temperament (good) or forced (bad) is up for debate.

The issue of face did play a part when my FiL got involved, but though he was aggressive and rude fo Thai-standard, I never felt worried or scared - just p*ssed off with the whole thing.

Cat said...

I haven't been in a two car accident yet in Thailand, so I'm always curious at how these things pan out. Some people have awfully bad luck... but you have your FIL. Nice :-)