Christmas Car Trouble: A Scrooge Story
Christmas morning, my wife and I met with a guy who wanted to buy our car. It's only six months old and we love it, but we're leaving Thailand for a while and have to sell.
The guy talked us down on the price a bit, but in the end everyone was happy. He handed over a check and said we could keep the car until we left for the US. He'd even drive us to the airport. Great news! Merry Christmas!
We then picked up my wife's friend and her 8-month-old baby. They needed baby things so we stopped at a mall.
When we came out, the rear passenger door was puckered and there were streaks of silver paint along the side of my car. I was stunned. I swore at the sky. Then I went back to being stunned when I realized the car that did it was still parked in the next slot – a silver BMW with some of my paint on the left side of its front bumper. Not only that, it also had paint on the right, from the car on the other side. Unbelievable! You could have parked a Hummer in that space.
We called my insurance company and they sent a young man with a camera and a sheaf of papers for us to sign. While we were doing that, a Thai university student in a mini-skirt and spiked heels came toddling out to the BMW with a surprised look on her face.
The insurance man got her signature, and asked for her driver's license. She didn't have one. Nor did she have ID besides a university student card. They then asked how much money I needed from her to repair the damage and I over-quoted at around 40,000 baht for the repairs and a rental until we got the car back. Not to mention the loss of value to my nearly new car that wasn't even mine anymore.
The girl offered a counter quote: "Mai mi satang". She didn't have any money.
I invited her to have a look at her environment. "Luckily there is a shopping mall full of banks and ATMs right here."
She brought out some reasonable English and said she had no ATM card.
I stared at her for a bit. "Let me get this straight: you drove your BMW to the mall, with no money or ATM cards. What were you going to do? Apply for a job? No, wait. You'd need an ID for that."
She tried her best to look apologetic and cute at the same time. She was cute, but that just made her idiocy of clipping two cars in a parking slot without noticing it all the more insipid. Someone had obviously convinced her that cute people could get through life without a brain.
We cooked in the mid-day sun for a few minutes, including my friend's baby. When she saw no one was going anywhere, she called her boyfriend, who turned out to be a retired Australian boat builder. He flatly refused to send money, and instead sent along a stocky Thai man whose job obviously involved doing whatever was necessary to clean up his mess.
This guy started by trying to intimidate us with his police contacts and said no money would be paid whatsoever.
I guessed that there was no real bond between him and the girl, so I doubted that he'd care to disturb his relationship with any police friends over her welfare. I pulled out my phone and dialed the tourist police.
Now no-one really wants the Thai police. If they showed up, I would be lucky to get 500 baht. But the girl had more to lose, facing fines for driving without a license and existing without an ID, plus trouble with her university if the police decided to call them. At the very least, she and the car would be impounded at the local station while the case was investigated.
While I talked with the police operator, my wife reasoned with them in her way. That is, she purred sweetly at them like a tiger deciding whether it wanted human for dessert. She urged them to come clean like good Buddhists and gave them a no-doubt inflated version of what my wrath might entail. This tactic usually works well for her. My wife is also a stone fox, which was doing some good on the Aussie's Thai heavy.
The tourist police told me helpfully that I should stop bothering them and gave me the number for the local cops. I put down the phone and asked the girl if I indeed needed to dial again. The Thai guy said no, that they'd figure out something and the girl got back on her phone to her Aussie boyfriend.
For three hours in the hot sun, the drama went into an infinite loop: Aussie refusing to pay or show up, me threatening to bring the cops. They repeatedly tried to get me to follow them to the BMW owner's house, but I knew if we moved the cars my police threat would be nullified. I sent my wife for drinks for everyone and we put the baby in the car and turned on the air-conditioner.
The Thais might have thought they could out-last me in the heat, but I've lived here for too long for that. Meanwhile, I knew for certain I could out last them for hunger. Thais cant go without food for more than a couple hours, but we farangs are used to deprivation and self-torture – it's part of our Christian upbringing.
Finally, my wife lost a fraction of her calm and flatly commanded the girl to just borrow the money from a friend. It was as if she'd never considered the idea. Hope dawned on her face. "What an idiot," I thought.
The stocky Thai man said he could come up with 15,000 baht by calling a friend, which just about the amount I was actually aiming for. Everyone in agreement, the man delivered the money and we said our goodbyes.
In the end I had to feel a bit sorry for the girl. In the words of American court TV host, Judge Judy, "Beauty fades, but stupid is forever." I was going home with a dent, a few scratches, and a wife who stood by me in an adverse situation. She was going home with a scratched BMW to a Scrooge who leaves his girlfriend out to dry on Christmas day. Plus she now owes a significant debt to some friend of her boyfriend's thug. I hate to think of how that will pan out.
Now, my car is in the shop. The insurance will pay for the repairs so we're doing alright – as long as the repairs put it back to the mint condition it was in when the buyer saw it.
This sort of thing makes me wild. I'm sorry, but this is one trait I see in a number of locals – a complete lack of willingness to take responsibility for their actions. That really riles me. Anyway, you got 15,000 baht for the hassle of a few hours – almost worth it, I guess. Still, no-one wants to spend their Christmas that way.