I’ve described the treacherous driving here on several occasions. Our family vehicle could only avoid getting dinged up for so long. It was only a matter of time. That time passed several months ago, but wasn’t worth mentioning. What happened this week is a tale that must be told.
A building is going up across from our house. Construction has been ongoing since we arrived 16 months ago. That’s 16 months of digging, drilling, jack-hammering, cement pouring, and loud local music.
It also means that we consistently have large vehicles blocking half of the street.
A few days ago, as I approached our house, one lane of the road was blocked by a crane, and just beyond that, parked cars lined the other side of the street. As a moved over to avoid an oncoming speeding scooter, I misjudged my distance from one of the parked cars and bumped the front left side of a car’s bumper.
With a loud sigh, I stopped my car in front of my house and got out of the car to survey the damage. There was none to be seen on my car. To my surprise, a grumpy looking man emerged from the car I’d hit. I uttered “對不起” (dui bu qi), which means sorry, and the man responded with a calm, but rambling, stream of Mandarin. My Chinese language skills are practical, but limited, so I understood only part of what he said. What caught my ear was the word, “睡覺” (), which means sleep. So, I asked him if he was sleeping. He ranted on about how I woke him up by hitting his car. He was more upset that I disturbed his nap than that I had struck his car. I can’t say I was surprised because one- napping in cars is normal behavior here, and two- his bumper had several clearly preexisting scratches and marks and spots of rust on it.
I knew I had to take action in order to get out of the situation, so I asked him what he wanted, knowing it would be money, and waited patiently while he thought for a minute and then spoke. His words came quickly then, and I missed most of them. So, I asked him, in Mandarin “just tell me what you want.” He responded with another long string of words but this time I picked out the word for money. So, I asked him, “how much?” He paused the appropriate amount of time and then said, “1000 NT$” (about $33 USD). I walked back to my car, pulled a 1000 NT note from my wallet, handed it to the man, told him, again, that I was sorry, got back in my car and parked it in my garage, while he stood by. Not the most pleasant experience I’ve had…
I’ve heard stories of other people hitting cars, and paying money to make the problem go away, during our 5 years in Asia, but this is the first time it has happened to me. I can’t say I wasn’t shaken by it, but nor was I crushed by it. I’ll count that as a win. Just another day in paradise…