It was one of those mornings where you could sniff the rain in the air and feel the wind’s direction against the skin. I was standing on the veranda outside my doorstep before work, wondering how my pair of sandals/shoes could have been stolen the day before. Then, as I was glancing around, I looked up at the sky. A massive amoeba of a raincloud was charging towards my direction and bringing underneath it a misty fog of pitter-patter. “Ha!” I thought quite playfully at the thought of having a race with the cloud. So I grabbed my laptop bag and a small plastic bag of breakfast snacks and ran, all the while turning my head to check out the raging cloud.
I was fortunate more than I was quick, and I was safe in my little car before the cloud loomed above me and spitefully threw down its spears of rain. “Ha!” I smirked a little as I dug into the plastic bag for the tau-sa pau and turned the ignition key. The tau sap au was quite hard, but I ate it anyway. Visibility was as good as looking through a mosquito net when I began to move.
Before I continue this story, I must first explain this complicated junction that sits a few hundred metres away from my place. At the workshop later, we had to do a few sketches before getting it right, but that’s because I am spatially challenged.
This junction is an accident-prone area, largely because when the traffic is heavy people are unwilling to give way so that they can make it in time for the traffic light. Of course, there are some blur drivers don’t know if they should give way or not and I don’t blame them. Whenever I come to this junction I try to be careful, look left, look right, look left. A couple of times, I have witnessed near accidents and I went ‘tsk tsk tsk’. “Someday” I always tell Zai, “someone is going to get an accident here.”
A self-fulfilling prophecy.
So there I was, cruising down the slope and approaching this tsk-tsk-tsk junction. I scanned the traffic condition and thought ‘Damn! ECP will be jammed and I will be late for class again!” It was at that time, I saw from the corner of my eye a pick-up turning right and coming close to me. I instinctively honked and stepped on the brakes and WHAM! How should I describe how it felt? It’s a little like when a lightning struck nearby, you close your eyes and there in the eye sockets a flash of white dashed across, leaving sparkles of stars. You could do nothing but wait for it to pass. Only that in such a crash, it was coupled with the strong impact of being thrown against the safety belt (thank you) and the steering wheel. Within a second or two, my system recovered rather quickly and I realised that my glasses had flown off somewhere and the car was still moving. I quickly pulled the brakes. Actually, the accident only lasted that few seconds, and to be honest, it did not feel like eternity.
After making sure that I was intact, I looked at the pick-up which was not too badly damaged. The pick-up reminded me of my virgin accident, whereby the driver, a middle-aged man, immediately leapt down the car and shouted at me “How come you drive like that?!” You see, that accident was not completely my fault, and through it, I realised that in accidents one should leap out of the vehicle first to shout at the other driver, to display aggression like a lizard flaring its skin. This is to intimidate the other driver into admitting that they are at fault so that you can claim insurance from them! Accidents are very costly in Singapore, so it does make people behave in our best primitive forms.
Having not such good impression of pick-ups, I braced myself for a confrontation only that this time, I knew that I had the right of way and had nothing to be guilty of. I peered through the heavy rain and saw the other driver putting on a raincoat and preparing to leap out of the vehicle. I was determined to be the aggressor this time, and quickly opened the door first despite the heavy rain. I am quite an idiot, I think!
The other driver saw me on the road and hurriedly came out too. He was quite a young chap, and from the corner of my eye, I noticed a fluorescent triangular sign on the top left corner of his windscreen. Ah, P-plate! Immediately I softened and thought, “Poor thing. I hope his license doesn’t get suspended because of this!” Buddha once said that distractions can cause the mind to change as quick as the speed of light, this definitely applies to me.
The driver looked very apologetic and the first thing he said was “let’s talk in your car.” So we both, drenching wet, got into my little Nissan, which was smashed in its nose. “Are you ok?” he asked. I said I was fine and asked if he was alright. He nodded and quietly said “Wow. It was such a strong bang.” I nodded and replied “yes, I hit the steering wheel.” We sat in silence for a while, and I felt a little bizarre as it felt like we were sitting in a counselling room receiving shock therapy while the rain continued pouring and the traffic was in a standstill. He was still in a contemplative mood as he continued “this is my first accident.” I nodded, a little impatient now. Being defensive as usual, I said, “you know this is a straight road.” He looked at me and apologised, “I’m sorry. Sure, sure I will be responsible. I will text you my number and company name immediately.” So we exchanged numbers. I wasn’t quite expecting such an amicable situation. The other vehicles, however, were not as calm as we were.
“I need to take some pictures,” I said. “Ok, and we had better move off soon so that we won’t hold the traffic, can you see if your car can still move?” he replied. He was such a polite young man, just like me when I had my first accident. I quickly took some pictures of some vital scenes. After moving off, he took my umbrella with him, and said “we’re going to meet again, right?” I didn’t know if it was necessary but didn’t mind if he really needed the umbrella. And so we went separate ways.
However, I soon realised that my battery light was flashing red and the car could not actually run on the road anymore. As I panicked a little, wondering if the vehicle would explode, a yellow citycab honked and tried to overtake me. Kannina.
Eventually, the little Nissan crawled to a safe spot and rested in the vengeful rain.
The first thing on my mind was to call my student and inform her of this accident. I knew that people usually did not believe that someone was late or absent because of a car accident, so I was thinking how to sound genuine. As I was making the phone call, I saw two bright strokes of colours, one blue and the other white, running around my car frantically. The rain was so heavy that the two men were just splotches of colours. Finally I finished my phone call, and got out of the car again in the rain.
“Are you ok?” the men asked. I nodded. “You car got hit over there?” the older man asked. I nodded, pointing at the tsk-tsk-tsk-me junction. Then he asked me how it happened, and I showed him the photographs. “Ok! No problem! You sure win him one! You can sure claim him,” he looked as certain as betting on a winning-horse. I said ya I think so. “Ok!” he spoke again with a lot of vigour for a gloomy day, “you leave everything to us now.”
“My colleague will drive you to your class, you study at NUS is it?” Having always mistaken as a student, I just shook my head and said “no lah, I am giving lesson in Bedok.” “Oh! Very good, our workshop is in Bedok.” It was then I realised that they were staff of a car workshop. “Ok so my colleague will send you to your class, then I take care of everything here. I will call the tow-truck now. Later you can call us again we will arrange a car to pick you up to our workshop.” The way this accident has unravelled so smoothly, I was secretly wondering to myself if I were on a television programme, or a big scam. “Oh ok,” I agreed anyway, with the possibility of not missing the class still a priority. Also, I have heard of my sister-in-law experiencing such coincidence so I was not overtly suspicious. Might have been different in Malaysia, where one of my cousins is a member of a triad which purposely causes road accidents.
So I took all my belongings, and plonked into the car of this man’s colleague, who was trying his best to talk about random stuff to calm me down. Along the way, I wondered if they would have helped me if I were the party in the wrong.
Halfway, I decided it was best that I go to the workshop first, especially because I had forgotten about my laptop in the car. At the workshop, the office lady with a thick perfume smiled at me and the first thing she asked was “you want to eat nasi lemak?” I laughed, shook my head and told her I could not eat. “Otak-otak?” she asked as another uncle opened a styrofoam box and pointed at some kueh. I smiled and said “later lah.” In the office, as we made a report to send to the insurance company, there were plenty of bantering and laughing, which made me good. After thirty minutes, I drove out of the workshop in a Nissan Sunny.
It wasn’t the best day, but as I am recounting this, I do feel a certain gratitude to all these strangers, even to the pick-up driver, for making it not anything worse.
And I could not help but wonder about the role of Destiny, Fortune, Luck or some call Karma, in all this.