Dented pride


Malaysian drivers are like timebombs waiting to detonate at the slightest fender bender.

EVERY so often, I witness a minor road accident in Penang, usually the result of a lapse in concentration.

Someone is momentarily distracted, possibly by a phone call, or children acting up in the back of the car, or a spouse complaining about a partner’s driving skills, and before you know what’s happened, the car in front has been rear-ended.

Now, in a civilised world, the offending driver would get out of his car, quickly apologise and discuss with the other driver how best to proceed. The victim would accept the apology calmly, no matter how new or expensive his car, and a satisfactory resolution would be achieved as quickly as possibly.

Unfortunately, the world we live in is becoming less and less civilised. Many people driving along Malaysia’s highways and byways have vitriol coursing through their veins, stress oozing out of their pores and frustration gnawing at their nerve-endings.

Sometimes, all it takes for such drivers to release their pent-up rage is a little tap on their rear end.

The first time I drove into the back of someone, I was preoccupied with a mosquito that had made its way into my car. I was cruising to a stop at a busy junction when I grabbed at the insect, took my eyes off the road for a split second and accidentally nudged the large Mercedes in front of me.

I was mortified by what I’d done and immediately got out of my car to apologise. Although the Mercedes wasn’t even scratched, the driver didn’t accept my apology. Instead, he berated me in a loud, coarse manner. A small crowd began to gather, and he continued to vent his spleen. So I vaporised him with my gamma ray gun and sped off in his car.

Actually, that’s not quite what happened. I just stood there quietly until he ran out of steam, much to the dismay of the spectators, who would probably have enjoyed the event more if I’d defended myself in a lively manner.

A similar non-accident happened to my son shortly after he had passed his driving test last year. After tapping the car in front of him during a lapse in concentration, he immediately pulled over to the side of the road, apologised to the woman and tried to assess the damage to her bumper.

All he could see was a small abrasion about the size of a one sen coin.

Later that day, the woman’s husband called me to discuss the matter.

“Did you know your son was in a car accident earlier today?” he said.

“Well, there was a slight bump, for which he’s really sorry,” I said.

“Well, what do you want to do about it?”

“I’m sorry. I don’t understand.”

“Well, you can either pay for the damage or lodge a police report.”

“How much will the repair cost?”

“Several hundred ringgit.”

“For a little scratch?”

“Yes, my wife would like to re-spray her entire car, buy a new stereo unit and have enough left over to get a manicure.”

Actually, that’s not what he said.

“I don’t think your son wants to go to the police station,” he cautioned. “He’ll probably have problems there.”


“Well, maybe he doesn’t have a valid driving licence. Don’t you think it’s better just to pay for the repair?”

Luckily the man was on the telephone and not speaking to me face-to-face or I would have vaporised him too.

In the end, my son paid what I considered was a fair amount for a small scratch.

After that incident, there were no more car accidents to report – until May 13 last week. I’m not superstitious, and it wasn’t even a Friday, but I’ve been told by someone who believes in such things that my planets were not properly aligned and I should have stayed home that day.

The accident happened just as I’d reversed out of my porch and was manoeuvring my car across the road towards a little side lane.

Suddenly, I heard a loud crunching sound as I reversed into a car emerging from the lane. I immediately drove back into my porch and ran across the road to see if the people in the car were okay.

My heart was beating quite erratically as the driver and her husband emerged from their beaten-up Kancil. After making sure they were unhurt, they assessed their mangled front bumper.

Throughout the ensuing inspection and discussions about what needed to be done, they remained calm. They didn’t berate me or make me feel any worse than I already felt. They didn’t demand exorbitant amounts of money. They didn’t even ask me why I was reversing in such an idiotic manner. Instead, they accepted my multiple apologies graciously.

It’s enough to make a woman want to hang up her gamma ray gun for good.