As I tell this story I would like to offer one caveat. I tell it from an American point of view, that has absolutely no idea how anything works here.
So as everyone knows from my previous post, driving is scary here….at least for me. Nathan seems to have gotten used to it, but I am still having a really hard time. The most difficult part is navigating while I have to concentrate so hard on the actual driving. The other day I had to pay the electric and cable bills. One can do this at the Post Office (POS – this is their acronym not me being cheeky). The smog was really bad, so B was out of school and stayed home with Suzi. I decided to drive to the POS since the air quality was really bad. It is close, so ordinarily I would have just walked. I missed my turn twice, so twice I had to circle the block back towards the POS. Did I mention navigation even with Google Maps is difficult for me here? So I have circled twice, and have to make a quick right turn to do this I have to get over three lanes of traffic. This is really hard to do and you kind of just have to force your way over. I missed my street so I was getting over the final lane so I could turn right at the next one to circle back the other direction, when a moped cut me off. So I was trying to change lanes and not hit a moped and there was a concrete block from construction work sticking out in the lane that I did not see. I hit it and and popped my tire and rim and broke my front fender. It was not fun, there were instant tears. I was perfectly fine, since I was moving at a slow speed, but really shaken up.
Here is the damage to the car:
I think those blocks that are laying down were already like that before, and one was in the street that I ran over. If I had knocked all of them down there would have been a lot more damage to the car.
Please note the number of motorcycles and mopeds in this shot alone….
So I hit a concrete block and I have no idea how to handle this. I call Nathan, as I am not the first, nor will I be the last expat or expat wife to get into a wreck driving here. There are people at his office that can help. As I am crying hysterically on the phone, an Indian man on a motorcycle in an official looking shirt rides up to my window. He starts telling that he is some kind of city official and points to his shirt, and that he has been trying to tell them that these concrete barriers are in the street and that they are a hazard, and someone is going to get hurt. He has been telling them that for weeks and that I need to take pictures and put them up on social media. TAKE PICTURES!!!!! He is yelling at me repeatedly. Just as I am going to ask him if he can help me he rides off. So I get out and take pictures. I have no idea where to post them, so here they are on sort of social media. Hey Georgetown move those concrete blocks!!!!
Nathan is trying to get info on how to get the car towed, what we need to do, etc. from the office. After a series of phone calls back and forth, we establish that a representative from the rental car company is coming with a tow truck and replacement car.
In the mean time I have to sit in the car, while looking at the backside of the mall and my building, thinking the last time I was in a car accident (which was when I was 17) I was also within walking distance of my home. While I am sitting, there are people circling my car taking pictures in what seems to be an official capacity, but no one wants to talk to me. Then two guys on mopeds show up and put on green vests, kind of walk around and take more pictures. They finally talk to me, I figure out their job is to make sure the car gets towed. That is their only job, no accident report, just to sit and wait to make sure the car moves out of the road. As soon as the tow truck arrived they disappeared.
Finally after about 45 minutes the rental car guys show up with a tow truck. He doesn’t say hello, or introduce himself or ask what happened. He says to me “you will have to pay for this” pointing at the car. “The hell I will, and who are you exactly?”, probably not the best response, but he already had my back up. I explain what happened, he realizes that it wasn’t actually my fault and in order to file an insurance claim here you must have a police report, but the police do not come out to car accidents. You have to go to the police station within 24 hours of the accident and file the report there. He then informs that I have to come with him right now to the police station. “the hell I will”. I informed him that I was in fact not going anywhere with him, especially the police station, and that I would not be going to any police station without my husband. Nathan cares a lot less about confrontation or if he pisses someone off by asking questions than I do. If I were in Texas, I would have been able to take care of this myself, but here I feel like I need a witness with me that is in support of me, so I don’t get railroaded into agreeing to something that is not in my best interest. So I informed the man that my husband was going to leave work early and we would go to the police station together this afternoon. We argued about this for a few minutes, when he realized I was not going to break, he backed down.
He then says that is your replacement car, pointing to the giant Toyota Camry – this is about as big a sedan as you see here. In Texas, this would be a normal size car, it is amazing how your perspective changes when all you see are tiny cars driving down narrow streets. He says to me, “you need to take me to the Equatorial Hotel”. The hell I do (are you sensing a pattern here? I was not my usual accommodating self in this particular situation.), this hotel is not close at all, it is half way to the other end of the island. I said to him, “I am not driving again today at all. In fact I need to you to drive me back to my condo, which is right there (pointing at my building) and I will put you in a cab if you need”. There is a cab stand right in front of my building, which I will be taking advantage of in the future. So that is what happened. He called a friend on the way back to the building, and proceeded to make fun of me in Malay. I understood enough of what he said to pick up on that, there was a lot of laughter happening as he was on speaker phone. I was not a happy camper by the time I returned home.
Nathan came home from work after lunch and we headed off to the central police station in Georgetown. Thank goodness it was Suzi’s full day with us, so B did not have to come with us. So we walk in to the trafik office and they hand us a form that is entirely in Malay. Nathan googles words while I write in English. 15 minutes later, I take it up to the officer at the desk. He asks me a few questions. One thing that I found interesting was the question of religion. It had just about all of them listed. So because I am American he automatically assumed and marked me as Christian, which was fine. I was glad at the time I don’t identify as something else, as arguing about what religion I am in a Malaysian police station does not sound like my idea of a good time.
I digress, so he asks me a couple of questions, and then turns his monitor around and hands me his keyboard and has me type in the rest of the form and my statement. He then prints it out and tell us to go up stairs to see one of the Inspectors. Yes, we had to speak with an inspector over a minor car accident that did not involve any other vehicles. So up the very slow, creaky elevator we went.
If you think that state funded offices in the US are drab and creepy, then you should see one in Malaysia. Seriously, it was out of a horror movie complete with low possibly leaky ceilings and flickering florescent lights. We walk up to the door of this guy’s office, it doesn’t look like any lights are on, we knock on the door, no answer. Nathan tries the door knob and it is open. This guy is sitting at his desk doing paper work in the dark. There is a window, but it is not letting in that much light. Dear god.
We go in sit down, and wait for him to finish what ever it is he is working on. We explain what happened. He wants to see pictures. I show him the pictures on my phone. He asks me if I can print them. I think to myself, what in my magic purse picture printer…..but instead I say no, but I can email them to you. He looks confused by this. He definitely does not want me to be able to contact him in anyway. I repeat, “I don’t have a printer here or at home, but I have a smart phone so I can either text them to you or email them to you”. He chooses text and gives me a number. Then tells me it’s his friend’s number. ummmmm kay…..Meanwhile he wants to physically see the car in person. We need to have the car towed to the police station so he can see it. ummmmm kay. So we call the rental car guy and let them hash it out over the phone. They hang up, and he turns to us and says “your fine is 300 ringgit”. Nathans says, “why it wasn’t her fault”? His response was, “she lost control of the car and hit the curb, that is a 300 ringgit fine”. Nathan says “she didn’t loose control, and there was an object in the roadway”. The Inspector responds with “It doesn’t matter she hit something, that is 300 ringgit”. Nathan’s response was “so if I go throw a concrete block in the road and someone runs over it and damages their car they have to come pay the police 300 ringgit? That doesn’t make much sense”. I had broken out into a cold sweat while this exchange was happening. I was also really glad that Nathan was there, because I would have just handed the guy 300 ringgit and ran. At this point the police man was just amused at us. Seriously he started laughing. I am not sure why, maybe it is unusual for someone to argue with them like that. We finally say okay, we will pay, seemed as though we were at an impasse. He takes my passport and DL to get copies of them. When he comes back in he says, “you are free to go”. I ask, “where do I pay my summons”. He says, “don’t worry about it, you can go”. We leave very quickly. I said to Nathan as we fast walk down the hallway…What the hell just happened? His response, no idea, lets just get out of here. I will say it was pretty efficient we were out of there in under an hour.
Fast forward to that evening to B is in bed, we are settling in to watch some tv around 8:30 or so. My phone rings, there is a very surly man on the phone “WHY YOU SEND ME THESE PICTURES OF A WRECKED HONDA? THIS YOUR CAR? WHY YOU SEND ME THESE”???????? So I try to explain that the police inspector asked me to. He yells “WHICH INSPECTOR”??? me – “do you know a police inspector”? “YES. WHY YOU SEND THEM TO ME”????? Me- “because he told me to, this was the number he gave me”. This entire conversation was repeated over and over. I finally had to yell at him that he need to follow up the with the officer in office XX because he told me to. Once I started yelling back, he quieted down some and I was able to get him off the phone. I have never had to yell at someone quite like that to make them listen to me. It was completely wackado. It made me wonder how they get pictures of accidents from people? Do they make purse size printers for this occasion? Should I have one of those? I was glad we had gin, tonic and ice cream in the house, and a bathtub.
Thankfully that weekend we were able to let loose with the Malaysian German Society’s Oktoberfest celebration, with a couple of good friends. It was lots of fun. We pretty much found the rest of the expats on the island. The MGS brought in a band from Germany. They were fun, played lots of good covers, including La Bamba (which I for some reason had already heard twice that day) Sweet Home Alabama and Take Me Home Country Roads (Weeeeeest Viiiiiiiiiiirgiiiiiiinia) it is amazing how universally popular American music is. Most of these people probably don’t have a clue as to where Alabama or West Virginia are, but they sure know how to sing about them. Along with the bratwurst and pretzels there was a food truck from one of the local Mexican restaurants. It was actually pretty decent. We are going to try the actual restaurant out soon. Good beer, bratwurst, nachos and good friends. A fun time was had by all. It was a good way to wrap up a really crappy week.