by Kung Fu Zu
Some years ago, while residing in Singapore, my wife and I lived in a renovated townhouse which had been built in colonial times. The homes had no private parking so I parked my car in a public parking lot about a 30 second walk from my front door.
One morning I went out to my car and, to my shock, the front left quarter panel had been gashed from headlight to passenger door and the rear-view mirror was cracked and hanging by a wire. Various profanities were racing through my head when I noticed a folded piece of paper under the windshield wiper.
I raised the wiper, picked up the paper and noted a short message. It read;
“I live at no 16 Towner Road and my back door faces the parking lot. Last night, while I was smoking a cigarette on my porch, I saw a delivery truck back into your car and when the driver saw what he had done, he changed direction and drove away. The truck’s license number was SBA 274. My telephone number is 464 8976 if you would like to call me.
I could hardly believe my luck. Not only had someone seen what had happened, but had also been kind enough to go indoors to fetch pen and paper and write me a note of what had happened. This is not something one encounters everyday.
I ran back to my house to give Miss Lin a call. She picked up the phone and I introduced myself as the wronged car owner. After I thanked her for her actions, she reconfirmed what she had written and gave a little more detail on the truck and driver. In closing, she mentioned she would be happy to let the police have the facts should it be necessary. I thanked her again and said goodbye.
That same morning, my wife went to the nearest police station, reported the facts and filled out the necessary forms. The police confirmed they would handle the case and if things were as my wife said, the truck driver would be contacted and told to make restitution or face the legal consequences. As everyone knows, Singapore is very big on “Law and Order”.
Several days later at around 8:00pm our phone rang. I picked it up and a man on the other end of the line started rattling away in what sounded to me a very coarse Chinese dialect. I asked him if he spoke English and he said “little bit”. I told him to hold on and passed the phone to my wife who started to carry on a conversation in mixed Hokkien, Mandarin and English.
In a gruff manner, the man explained he was calling regarding the damage to our car and wanted to settle things. The rest of the conversation went something like this:
My wife: “The easiest way to settle this is to take the car to a repair shop and have them give you and your insurance company an estimate for the cost of repairs.”
Truck driver: “Cannot la. Not so big problem, I give you two hundred dollar and everything ok la.
My wife: “Are you joking? The cost will be more like two thousand than two hundred.”
Truck driver: “Chin chai la!!! (translation: whatever) All you have to do is bang out a little metal and glue the mirror back on.”
My wife: “Look, there is no way we are going to accept a few hundred dollars. The best way is just to give a claim to your insurance company and let them pay for it.”
Truck driver: “But I’ve already had several accidents and if I make another claim they will raise my insurance rates.”
My wife: “I’m sorry to hear that, but what does that have to do with me? If you don’t want to put this claim through your insurance company, you can simply pay the repair shop cash for all repairs.”
Truck driver: “Aye yah, why you being so difficult ‘bout this, haw? Don’t you know I didn’t have to call you, where would you be then?”
(This without a tinge of irony in his voice.)
My wife: “Don’t talk nonsense, you only called because the police caught you and told you to settle this immediately. Let me tell you now, you will pay for the damages one way or the other, I really don’t care. If I don’t hear from you or your insurance company by tomorrow afternoon, I will go back to the police and let them handle it accordingly.”
Truck driver: “Arrrrg, Ok la, I call you back, haw.”
And he hung up.
The next afternoon, the man’s insurance company contacted us, confirmed they would pay for all repairs and explained the procedure which we needed to follow.
That same evening, Miss Lin thanked me for the carton of Benson and Hedges. • (901 views)