New and Sad

Thirzah and I with my new
"butterflies" spare tyre cover
It took a bit of time to get used to my new set of wheels but since welcoming her into my life last November, I have developed a warm rapport with her.  I gave her an identity when I dressed-up her spare tyre case with a custom-made cover and she looks so alike my previous car that many did not realise that she is a different car until they looked closer.  A new car deserves a new spare tyre cover so Mal, my dear cousin in Sydney, Australia, offered to send me another custom-made cover in a design of my choice!

After a bit of discussion, we decided on a design that features colourful butterflies and when it was ready, he brought it over on a visit early this year.  Meanwhile, my old cover was still serving me well and as I could not bear to discard it for the new, I kept it on until the colours on the flowers started to fade.  Mal kept asking me for a photo to see how the new “butterflies” cover looks on my car but since I have not used it yet, I could not send any photo to show him.

In late July, I finally decided to replace the faded cover with the “butterflies” cover and when I saw how exciting its contrasting colours looks on my car, I’m ever grateful for the trouble Mal went through to get it made and brought over for me.  Recently when I visited my friend, Thirzah and her husband at their workplace in Taman Indahpura near Kulaijaya, I took the opportunity to snap a photo of the rear of my car to show Mal.  Anything new looks good but I must be biased to think that it really looks very nice on my car!

I'm in the middle lane on Jalan Tebrau when
it happened!
Exactly a week after snapping that photo, I had a lunch appointment with Batcy, a friend whose favourite restaurant is Sushi Monzta in Taman Pelangi.  It was Batcy’s work day so I arranged to pick and drop her back at her workplace in Taman Suria after lunch.  Whenever we dined at Sushi Monzta, we always have a delightful time over delicious, freshly-made sushi and as Batcy often over-ordered the amount of food, we even had leftovers to pack as takeaways.

We still had plenty to chit-chat as we drove along Jalan Tebrau to head back to her office and when the traffic lights at the junction with Jalan Kebun Teh turned red, I slowed to join the queue in the middle lane, stopping my car but not our chatting.  Whatever our hot topic of conversation was (I can’t even recall what it was now!) it suddenly came to an abrupt halt when I heard a crash and felt a rude jolt as the car behind rammed into the rear of my car!

In that instant, I looked at my rear view mirror and saw the driver of the car behind, look up from whatever he was doing below when he lost control of his car.  My heart sank from the very thought of having to go through the hassle of dealing with a collision caused by someone else’s carelessness.  As I reached for my camera – to take photos of the collision – the driver of the car behind, moved out of his position to drive to my left because the traffic lights had turned green and the traffic around us was already moving forward.  

Batcy was just as upset because when we stopped at a nearby service station, she alighted first and started to speak to the other driver (a Chinese man) in Mandarin about his negligence on the road.  He did not appear to be contrite even though he admitted to having a great deal on his mind because he said, he’s a busy businessman.  This was certainly an unacceptable excuse and while they talked, I looked at the damage on my car.

When the front of his Toyota Estima collided into my rear spare tyre, the impact caused my entire spare tyre case to be dented out of its original position.  I took photos of the damages on my rear bumper and discovered that the lamp for my rear number plate was also damaged.  As my heart sank lower and lower, that driver declared that the damages to my relatively new car, was a small matter compared to the damages he had on his (other) new Mercedes car…

I kid you not...
I could understand most of what he was saying in Mandarin but I spoke very little because Batcy was doing the talking for me.  He passed his name card to Batcy with a suggestion to send my car for repairs at a nearby workshop that he is familiar with but I was determined to go back to Toyota for genuine parts.  As Batcy was still speaking to him, she passed his name card to me and when my eyes fell upon his name, I was both confused and amused. 

He must be familiar with the curiosity about his name because he responded coolly when I asked him “Is this your name – Sushi?”  I had to suppress a smile as this seriously cannot be a man’s name and I deliberately avoided eye contact with Batcy because I might not have maintained my control.  I could hardly believe the chances of being involved in a crash with a man named Sushi, especially when we just enjoyed such a sumptuous sushi lunch!

My car being checked by Toyota Service Advisor
Thankfully this injected a bit of humour to lighten the moment in this bad experience because the subsequent steps to start the process for my car insurance claim and repair/replacement, is going to be a long drawn nightmare.  I took my car back to Toyota for the professionals to assess the damage so that I have the details to make a clear Police report and the Service Advisors were very thorough.  When I removed my “butterflies” spare tyre cover for the Advisors to have a closer look at the spare tyre case, we discovered that the case was cracked at the most crucial point – in its centre where the lock fastens the case and tyre to the car.

Traffic Police Station at Jalan Tebrau
Armed with this info, I went to the Traffic Police station at Jalan Tebrau where I took a number and joined the queue to wait for my turn to make my report.  It was mid afternoon and the blazing sun was beating down on the glass walls of the station, turning it into a virtual “oven.”  The officers behind the counters had stand fans blowing directly at them to keep themselves cool while the public – including me – waiting for their turn to meet the officers, were baking in that muggy heat!

When my turn came, I presented my Identity Card and driver’s license to the officer and watched as he nimbly typed in the info on his keyboard, using just two fingers.  I know it was mere routine for him to ask those questions so I provided as many details as I could to complete the report.  When he finished typing, the officer turned the screen around with a request for me to read and confirm its accuracy before he printed it.

I spoke to him comfortably in Bahasa Melayu and when he was about to return my Identity Card, he looked at it again with a puzzled frown and confessed, “Saya ingat awak ini Punjabi!”  I can’t blame him for being curious and because I often get mistaken for any race except what I am, I was not offended by his comment.  We shared a laugh about his confusion but I was laughing louder inside because it was uncanny that, that very same morning, I attended an event organized by the Johor Baru Punjabi Education Centre with members of the Punjabi community!  

Toyota Service Advisor checking out the costs involved
for repair and replacement parts
Then the officer handed me a document and instructed me to go upstairs to meet the investigating officer in a particular room.  As I climbed the two flights of steep steps, I wondered if they had an elevator for the convenience of the disabled and elderly who came to make their reports. 
I glanced at the document to confirm that I was supposed to meet a Sergeant Wong and gently knocked on the door before opening it.  The officer behind the desk was just finishing a phone call as I entered and sat in front of his desk.

Fresh from my ambiguous identity incident with the officer downstairs, I did not rule out more confusion with this officer who was looking at the document I handed him.  He seemed to hesitate a moment and I realised he was wondering what language we should use between us because (on paper!) we are both Chinese.  We settled for Bahasa Melayu and in the course of our conversation, he shared his life story to explain why he does not speak Chinese even though he is ethnic Chinese.  Later as we went to look at my car with the Police photographer, Sgt Wong and I chatted about the challenges in learning the English language and when he asked me what I worked as, I simply said, wartawan, and he nodded knowingly. 

Then I had to go back to the counter to take a number and join another queue to buy a copy of the Police report.  When I paid RM4 for my report, the officer circled a phone number on a document he gave me and said I should call in a week’s time to see if the investigation results report was ready for collection.  He said that it normally took a week but since Sgt Wong usually “worked fast” he suggested that I call on Friday to check if it was ready. 

Toyota Service Advisor taking photos of damage
I could not wait for Friday to come and when it finally did, I did not hesitate to make that phone call to the station to find out if the results report was ready.  I braced myself for the experience and was not surprised when the officer who answered sounded totally bored, complacent and unhelpful.  I gave him my reference numbers and his blunt reply was a question, “Sudah lima-belas hari, belum?  I said the officer from whom I collected my report on Monday, suggested that I called on Friday to find out and he cut me off with another suggestion, “Panggil sergeant lah.”  Sgt Wong’s mobile number was also on the document and when I spoke to him, he confirmed that the report was ready and I could go to collect it from the station.

I was back at the station again to take a number to join the queue for my report and when I reached the counter, the officer took my reference number to search for the required report in his computer.  After a futile search, he said it was not there!  I insisted that the investigating officer said that it was ready and after a further search, he finally found it.  As the documents were being printed, he checked off the list of documents I would require for my insurance claim and told me that I should come back (again!) next week for the sketch plan!  

When I quizzed him about this sketch plan, the officer replied that they would draw it based on the details in my report.  I guess this collision was so straight-forward that they can reconstruct the scene from the reports submitted but since it was so clear-cut, why should the process take so long?  I learnt that the sketch would be computer-drawn and with modern technology and the manpower in the station, I wonder why the entire Police report process needs at least 15 days! 

Toyota Paint and Body Work Centre
Like all other motor accident victims, I’m totally at the mercy of the system and have no choice but to wait.  But instead of wasting precious time, I started the process to get my car repaired by going to the Toyota Pusat Cat dan Badan Kereta in Taman Desa Cemerlang to let the Service Advisors inspect my car and order the replacement parts.  The Advisors were very helpful and at the end of their inspection, I was reminded that the insurance adjusters will have to inspect my car too and an appointment would be set up next week. 
I’m aware that my collision may be minor but the inconvenience and upset to my personal life and work schedule is most annoying.  I’m grateful that no one was hurt and my car can still be used but it’s such a hassle to deal with blasé Police personnel and a nuisance to leave my car in the workshop for repairs.  While I’m still feeling sad about all this, I suddenly remembered that the spare tyre case was protected by the new “butterflies” cover and if the case was damaged, the cover would also be…

I rushed to spread open the tyre cover and held it up for a closer look.  To my horror, I spotted two holes torn into the lower part of the cover!  It must be our ESP bond because Mal called that very day and when I told him, he instantly responded by asking me to send him another image to custom-make a new spare tyre cover for me!  After going through the ugly experience, this is a refreshing consolation but I politely declined his kind and generous offer.  I’m impatiently waiting for time to tick slowly by until this is all over but the ugly scars on my “butterflies” spare tyre cover will remain a stark reminder of my unhappy encounter with a man named Sushi.


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