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In The Blink Of An Eye




It’s amazing how much can change in the blink of an eye. One moment life is going on the way it has, day after day, year after year, and then suddenly a random event turns life upside down…sometimes with tragic results. Last week I found myself not only a witness to such an event, but a participant as well.

Anyone who has spent any time here in Thailand has undoubtedly seen his or her share of traffic accidents. Hardly a week goes by here in Lampang that I don’t see the bloody aftermath of several accidents, usually involving motorcycles. Given the Thai predilection for driving recklessly, frankly I’m surprised that I don’t see many more. I’ve always simply been driving by after the fact. I’d never actually witnessed an accident before. It’s not a pretty sight.

Last Sunday I was driving home from a local market when I was overtaken by a pickup truck moving like the proverbial “bat out of hell”. I mean this guy was flying, doing at least 100 kilometers per hour in a stretch of road where any sane person wouldn’t drive faster than 40 – 50. Not only was this guy driving too fast, but he was driving in an extremely erratic manner as well. He was all over the road. I was surprised that he hadn’t clipped my truck when passing me. My immediate thought (after uttering some well deserved curses) was this guy was going to kill himself, and hoped that he wouldn’t take anybody else with him.

Not more than ten seconds later my prediction became a reality. This of course was no Twilight Zone moment. It didn’t take a psychic to see this tragedy coming. The truck shot off the road like a bullet into a wall, flipped over and lay a crumpled, smoking wreck. I could hardly believe what I had just witnessed. This wasn’t some Hollywood action movie. This was all too real.

Through luck of the draw, it was suddenly me who first pulled off the road in front of this disaster. What in the world should I do? I didn’t know how anyone could have possibly survived in the twisted remains I saw in front of me, but I had to do something!

Suddenly a truck with two Thai guys pulled up behind me. We just looked at each other and headed to the wreck. The driver’s leg had to be pinned to the accelerator, because the engine was racing. There was a cloud of smoke enveloping everything, and I really thought that there was a high likelihood that the whole mess could burst into flame at any moment. We had better get our asses into gear…fast! We were soon on the ground peering through the shattered windows. Three people were trapped inside. Amazingly, there was still enough clearance to somehow slowly pull them out. I wasn’t hopeful by what I saw. They were a bloody mess. I am no EMT, but I’ve taken a number of Red Cross courses over the years. I was quickly able to determine that amazingly they were still breathing. While I was doing this, one of the Thais pulled a CO2 fire extinguisher out of his truck and sprayed everything down.

By this time a sizeable crowd had gathered at the accident scene, like moths drawn to a flame, or perhaps a better analogy would be like ghouls drawn to blood. Now it is true all over the world, including Farangland, that people do like to stop and gawk at accidents. However I have never seen anything like what gathered around us. It was like a Fellini movie. Dozens of cameras of every variety were suddenly clicking away. People were pushing and shoving to get a better view of the gore and get that “special” shot. It was like the circus had come to town! Not a single person came forward to assist. They just stood there leering. It was truly creepy.

Luckily there was a police sub-station a few minutes away, and soon the boys in brown were on the scene, followed shortly by an ambulance. The police didn’t seem particularly interested in my first hand report of what had happened. I suppose any “real facts” would only get in the way of whatever report they would be concocting. Obviously there was no money to be made here today.

Since I obviously couldn’t be of any more assistance, it was time to head on home. Needless to say, the first thing my darling said to me when I told her of what had just occurred, was to make sure that I washed the blood off me thoroughly…just in case anyone was infected with “a disease”! The second thing was “Can we go to see the accident!” I didn’t really want to, but I obliged. When I asked her if I should stop and try to talk with the police again, she replied with an emphatic “No”! That is of course the typical Thai of looking at things. Don’t get involved. You may only get in trouble yourself!

I don’t know if the guys I helped pull out lived or died. That night I was on the bus to Bangkok to begin a trip to The U.S. Ironically, the reason for my trip was that the accident case I wrote about in “How it all began Part 1” was after almost four years, finally going to court! The outcome of that is still a few days in the future!

One thing is for sure, this experience really hammered home how precious life is, and how quickly it could all end in the “blink of an eye”. We have a car seat for our 17 month old boy Sam, but my wife often doesn’t want to use it. Hell, she didn’t see why we had to spend the money to buy one! It took a lot of arguing to make her realize that simply holding the baby on your lap is not going to do much good in an accident. Accidents are sudden, unpredictable events. That’s why you need to be prepared! From now on I will be a royal pain in the ass about making sure Sam is securely strapped in. I would rather have a crying live child, than a permanently silent one!

Stickman's thoughts:

That must have been a weird, almost macabre scene, with the shutterbugs at the accident scene. Thais are notorious for standing around, watching impassively, but I've yet to witness them taking photos like that. I guess that is what happens with the proliferation of digital cameras and camera phones.