Stickman Readers' Submissions March 1st, 2006

The Accident

It was a Saturday morning and a co-teacher and I had a Saturday morning babysitting class to run. For those not in the know, this means we get to look after M.1 (age 12/13) through to M.4 (age 15/16) kids whose parents don’t really want them around so they send them to school to learn English… at first we thought they were motivated kids who wanted to learn English, but we soon realised the reality of this.

It had been raining particularly hard early that morning and the roads were still soaking wet but the skies were clear and the heat of Bangkok was not far behind to start evaporating it away. The classes had started and Dave was nowhere to be seen, and as it was unlike him to be late, I decided to call him up after 20 minutes to see if he was ok.

He Clinic Bangkok

Me: “Hi Dave, Your class is waiting for you, where are you mate?”

Dave: “Nargh!”

Me: “Errr! Are you alright?”

CBD bangkok

Dave: “Urrrgh!”

Me: “Erm! Have you had a crash or something, you’re late for school”

Dave: “Ye…argh! Grinf!”

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…. The line goes dead.

wonderland clinic

Slightly worried now, I tell the kids to wait a moment and then leg it downstairs to let the Vice Director know that I will be running both classes because Dave has had a little accident on his bike and to not worry.

It was about five days later that we finally found out where he was and what actually happened. Dave is sat next to me now checking that my facts are right as I write this and this is his account of what happened…

Apparently, he was on his way to school, the time was about 9am and there was only him and a single taxi on this 3-lane road. It was obviously a quiet stretch of road for Bangkok and as such a rarity for sure. As he was riding along, he could see that the taxi was driving relatively slowly and differing from one lane to the next. The taxi driver was either drunk, not sure where he wanted to go, practicing his weaving skills or a combination of all three and so Dave decided that it would be best if he just went past the taxi and left him to his weaving, something I’m sure the majority of us would do given the same situation.

Dave throttled back and started to accelerate to get past the taxi. The taxi however decided to use this as an opportune moment to weave into Dave’s’ path. Dave was only a few meters away by now and sees the weave coming and so turns his bike to go around the opposite side of the taxi, unfortunately the wet of the road had other ideas, and instead of providing him with the necessary grip, it takes the wheels right from under his bike and sends him on a skid down the road. Dave is an experienced rider and so is reasonably relaxed and fully aware of what is happening as he is skidding down the road, and while on this new angled journey with the bike, sending sparks up and around him, he managed to sigh with relief, knowing for sure that he had managed to avoid hitting the taxi before the skid kicked in and that he had continued to miss it as he went zipping past. With a clarity that often comes when in this situation from heightened senses, he realised as he was skidding along that because the road was clear ahead, he felt comfortably sure that he would merrily skid along until the whole experience ran out of steam, be able to pick himself up, dust himself off and happily get back on his way, subject of course to his bike being able to do so.

Unfortunately, as is so often the case in Bangkok, things were conspiring against him and no sooner was he into and enjoying his skid along the wet greasy road when a rather large curb came running up and decided to intervene with a sliding tackle… This caused him and the bike to flip up and as such somersaulted him up into the air. Normally this wouldn’t have been too bad in itself (well all things considered that is) but this particular curb happened to have the roadside equivalent to slugger Jones the world wrestling champion of lamp posts backing him up and as Dave went sailing through the air, arms and legs akimbo, slugger Jones the lamp post stepped in and rugby tackled him around the midriff and deciding as it did so to keep hold of him. This sent poor Dave into a spin around the lamppost, resulting in a Boston crab manoeuvre being performed followed by an elbow crash to the head to make sure he stayed down.

As Dave lay there, waiting for the inevitable pain to catch up with the numbed senses… his one thought after his head hit the ground and his helmet bounced away down the road was:

“Oh dear, I think I may be in trouble…”

Then the pain kicked in…

Fortunately for Dave, a Thai guy who just happened to be out walking and who had seen Dave on his journey to lamppost ville, ran across and did the right thing and took care of Dave. He also managed to keep the Thai vultures away who by now had started to circle their way in for a good gawp as well as managing to protect Dave’s assets from being stolen (i.e. namely his money and his wallet). He also arranged to get Dave sent to the nearest hospital in one of the Thai hospital transit vans come ambulances that you see spiritedly running around Bangkok. The police took the motorbike away for safekeeping, and as for his helmet, well no one seems to know what happened to that. Obviously it rolled off in disgust and was never seen again. Dave did try to find this helpful guy some weeks later to thank him but was unable to track him down.

As for the taxi driver who caused all this mayhem in the first place, well he only hung around long enough to file a report with the police to claim for 50,000 baht compensation. This he claimed was for “being made to jump with fright by the stupid Farang having a motosai accident” and he even expected Dave to pay for it too…but more on this later.

Dave ended up in a government hospital, which quite frankly is not the best place to end up in. The extent of his injuries where that he had broken ribs, a broken hip, a broken pelvis, some internal injuries (almost ruptured his stomach and the x-ray showed that his stomach was now the shape of a bottle of wine) and he had a hell of a nasty bump and cut on his head.

Anyway, the hospital at first put him into a private room, assuming that he had insurance cover to fund this but as it transpired, the agency we are contracted with at the school who allegedly had us covered with insurance, and for which we had been told would cover us for such an eventuality failed to materialise. Our agency then went on to deny any knowledge of any insurance being offered as part of our contract (despite that it’s written into all of our contracts) and thus Dave was pretty much left to fend for himself. The agency even went on to file a report with the police to say that as the accident was Dave’s fault (where they came up with this was anyone’s guess) and as such they stated that any insurance cover offered by the school was invalidated. The fact that all the five foreign teachers refuted this nonsense fell on deaf ears and there was a huge stand off with the teachers and the agency about it all with the school and Dave sitting awkwardly in the middle.

In the end, the agency having been forced to squirm a little after receiving pressure from the school, managed to pull out of the bag some sort of lame excuse that we were all in fact actually covered up to a maximum of 10,000 baht per incident and that is all that they could offer Dave to ‘help’ with his hospital fees. The fact that 10,000 baht wouldn’t even pay for wiping his arse in the hospital is neither here nor there and even now, despite claims and promises to the contrary, we have all failed to see any paperwork to support any insurance cover going forward despite reassurances that we are all now covered. Needless to say, I immediately went off and got my own insurance cover and not only have I decided to pay for it myself, it also gives me more than enough cover should I fall ill or be involved in any accident. You just cannot trust other people here to protect you and this was a great lesson learnt. <An important message here for teachers – if insurance is part of your contract, make sure you get the insurance card and if you do not have it, push them hard until you get itStick>

As a consequence of this revelation and the lack of insurance cover, Dave was moved to a shared room in order to reduce the costs (apparently the agency instigated this without any consultation) and as Dave was in no conscious state to discuss any of this, he ended up sharing a room with a Thai with only a curtain to separate them.

Now you wouldn’t think that sharing a room with someone else would be ‘that’ bad but when it’s a Thai, well it can get rather unbearable depending on your own tolerance levels of course. We as foreigners tend to like our own space and some level of peace and quiet, whereas on the other hand, it would be fair to say that most Thais like having people around them and to be surrounded by nice smells although sometimes I have to beg the question of whether a plate of Papaya pok pok salad has a nice smell or not. As a consequence, Dave had to endure this Thai and his family constantly being lodged in his room, not only were they taking up his space and oxygen, but they were also constantly wondering in and out with various concoctions of Thai food, playing the TV loud and nattering away in very incessant Thai all day and night. Dave in the meantime, was slipping in and out of unconsciousness, was not able to sleep all night due to the pain he was in and the noisy Thais beyond the curtain. Also, due to his injuries, he was often lying there all akimbo revealing parts of his body which really should only be revealed to mirrors, girlfriends and video cameras in the privacy of his own home. To top it all off, he was also leaking and peeing various shades of liquid into a catheter bag and feeling very constipated due to his internal injuries.

Once we found out where he was and knew that he was not able to chat to us, we all trooped in at various times to see him and to try and keep his spirits up. I decided to wait until last to go and see him and after about one week, the wife and I popped over for a visit. He was really in a bad way and was decidedly looking uncomfortable, but I was also glad to see that he was on the mend and had his usual good sense of humour back. It was during this visit that my wife tuned into the conversation from the Thai half of the room and was stunned to hear that they were all muttering away about the Farang in the bed next to them having stolen a mobile phone that one of them had inadvertently left in the toilet.

My wife didn’t say anything at the time because she didn’t want Dave to get upset and so she just kept quiet but I tuned into her mood change instantly. Anyway, when we got outside, I asked her to tell me what was wrong and she told me about what they had said. I was gob smacked! I mean how could Dave steal a mobile phone from the toilet, he couldn’t move two inches let alone get up, walk to the toilet and steal a phone. So I decided to send Dave a text to his mobile at least warning him of what was said. In the meantime, one of the Thais actually walked around to Dave’s side and started rifling through his things, through the drawer by the side of his bed and so forth. They didn’t even have the courtesy to ask him in Thai if they could. They just smiled and proceeded without a care in the world about what they were doing. Fortunately Dave, having been pre-warned by my text message decided to wait and let it be until his girlfriend turned up.

Later that evening, his girlfriend arrived. Dave discussed it with her and immediately she went off to discuss it with the Thais next to Dave. The inevitable argument ensued and these Thais (particularly the mum) had the audacity to not only talk down to his girlfriend as if she was some lo-so scum, she also said to her “Why don’t you just piss off back to your bar with your farang boyfriend”… now I know his girlfriend and she definitely is not a bargirl and is really a decent and lovely girl too. She obviously retaliated and entered into a slagging match that resulted in many Thai faces going several shades of darker brown and deeper yellow.

It all ended with each party going to their respective corners with both parties leaving final remarks hanging in the air waiting to be popped. The guy from the Thai side left a final remark something along the lines of “I’m big in the city you know and I can have you killed”, while Dave’s girlfriends final retort was “Oh! Why don’t you just F’ off and crawl back to your slums you dirty Indians” which apparently referring to them as Indians is a real low thing to say to a Thai. This was all obviously said in Thai and with it’s own connotations and status attached.

In the end, the hospital got involved and certain nurses and such like were wheeled in and questioned about the missing mobile phone. In amongst the people who were asked was one of the cleaners. Dave says she looked as guilty as ever and as she stood there looking so obviously guilty that she may well as have had ‘it was me’ tattooed on her forehead. However, despite this obvious guilt, and as Dave says, “everyone in the room knew who the guilty party was” but no-one, especially the Thais were prepared to point the finger at one of their own because it meant losing face in front of the Farang and Dave decided not to pursue it as he just wanted them all to go away. As a compromise, they came up with a solution for exactly that to happen and the Thai family moved to another room. As the Thai guy was being wheeled past in his bed, he turned around to Dave’s girlfriend and said, “Sorry about all of that, I ‘know’ it was the cleaner who stole the phone because she stole some money off me a short while back but I couldn’t say anything with my mum being here… you know how it is” and with that was wheeled out of the room.

Dave managed to make a full recovery although this was without total incident. First the hospital refused to let him out until he paid the bill in full (understandable really), but at a tab of 200,000 baht, it was a little unpalatable but none the less he paid as each day added to the tally. On his way out, they handed him some aspirin and a box of laxatives as his take home medicine. Secondly, he was back within a week complaining of headaches only to find out that they managed to miss the fractured skull that he had and for which they totally missed, despite the fact that Dave now has a Harry Potter scar on his forehead due to the aesthetic stitching he received. They obviously thought his headaches were being caused by the constipation, hence the tablets they gave him on his departure.

In the end he managed to claw about 20,000 baht back out of our agency and they also went onto to negotiate some small savings getting the fees reduced slightly at the hospital, but they where pretty useless. The school however, did generously ensure that Dave was paid for the time he was off work (6 weeks) although they didn’t have to that and it was really a goodwill gesture and the head of English managed to also stump up a whopping 1,000 baht claiming it to be a “getting out of hospital gratuity” towards the ‘get Dave well cause.’

A couple of months later, Dave sent his girlfriend to the police station to reclaim the bike. He decided to send her because he felt he may get stiffed for something or other and at first, the police dug out the taxi drivers compensation claim report stating that they wanted her to pay ‘something’ towards compensating the driver of the taxi for his “fried nerves at seeing the Farang have a crash” but she told them that Dave had done a runner after being discharged from the hospital and was now back in England never to return again, and as she was now all alone with no money, boyfriend etc… They just decided to release the bike and let her go on her way.

All in all, the bike wasn’t too badly damaged considering what had happened and is now back up and running. As for Dave, he is his old bright and breezy self and he hasn’t lost any of his faults that his girlfriend complains about. You see, she often complains that he is messy when at home and after recently sharing a room with him at a teacher’s conference in Cha Am, I can vouch for this too. He somehow tends to leave a trail of clothes, water and talcum powder behind him whenever he has a shower, although it has to be said, he apparently now does this with a limp and a twinge, which he didn’t have before the accident. Also it is rumoured that he stands in front of the mirror with a chopstick in his right hand screaming, “Take that Voldermort” with his hair flicked back and his Harry

Potter scar on full display but I haven’t been able to catch him at it. He also has an emptier bank balance to remind him of the event too.

One thing all of this however did do for him, was that it brought home the fact that when your chips are down here in Thailand, that the Thai people, his girlfriend, her family and even the Thai teachers at the school (albeit not the agency) really pulled together and supported Dave in getting well again. The whole thing definitely seems to have brought them closer together and recently his girlfriend's mother popped around with a wedding dress that she just happened to have made… unfortunately for Dave this was the first hint of marriage being on the agenda and he finds it both bemusing and amusing… let’s wait and see if any buffalo bells will be chiming soon.

Stickman's thoughts:

Excellent submission. Poor Dave sounds like he has been the star of a horror movie!

nana plaza