Ponderings

A Road Accident

There is a particular sound to a scooter being crushed by a pick-up truck. A scrape of heavy plastic across asphalt followed by a curtailed scream and a shuddering crunch.

We were in a taxi heading to the hospital for the three month scan. The wife was pregnant and we had stayed in town, attending the St. Andrew’s Society’s ball. It was a late night with dancing (we were terrible), whisky drinking (I was quite good) and haggis (utterly delicious).

Morning had, as morning does, cracked the sky. The thick black curtains of the hotel didn’t prevent the early alarm rousing us bleary eyed from our slumber.  The wife was, obviously, sober and I was pretending to be less hung-over than I actually was. We were both excited; a third of the way through the pregnancy and we couldn’t wait to see him again – even in his barely formed state we were proud. We were also looking forward to announcing it formally to friends and family .

The taxi was plusher than usual in that it didn’t smell of cigarette smoke and Tiger Balm. We were chatting about the future, who would he grow up to be? What would our lives be like? What if we were rubbish at being parents?

We laughed at our own lack of preparedness – I surreptitiously necked aspirin.

And then the noise.

It was so early that the roads were remarkably clear for Bangkok so it was more shocking that the two vehicles managed to somehow converge.

We heard a scream; the chubby woman riding pillion skidded along the blackened tarmac in an upright seated position, almost comically waiving her arms in annoyed disbelief. She appeared more indignant than hurt.

The man driving the scooter disappeared under the fat tyres of the truck. I saw his pelvis hold out for a second against the weight before giving way, the head followed, the scooter disintegrated. He seemed to be swallowed by the darkness under the 4×4 which continued to drive over him.

Our taxi driver sucked air between his teeth but didn’t slow at all. We sat, sickened by what we had seen. Aware of the bitter irony of our witnessing this death.

I still think of the man that was crushed under the truck. I wonder if he had a young child and how they now cope. I wonder if mine will ever have to.

The abstraction of death becoming concrete has served to propel me to a life in which I try live to the most. I fear death not for my own ending but for the things I will never see. My son’s first rugby match, his first partner, his first steps into adulthood. My wife’s success in her baking and designing brilliance, the look of excited fear of being pregnant (we hope), the way she runs massive distances and pretends it’s no big thing.

I hope that when I die it is an event tinged by sadness but not tragedy. I hope that it is the gentle end of a long life lived to the fullest rather than the abrupt snatch of a careless driver.

 

 

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13 thoughts on “A Road Accident

  1. That was intense reading. I can’t imagine watching someone die like that and I’d rather not. So ironic considering where you all were going and the blissful state you were in.

    Do you feel like that event has changed you and your wife in any way? Or is it something that you want to forget? Do you know what I mean?

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    • Well, we don’t take motorcycle taxis anymore. I think it just highlighted how brief life can be and also how dangerous Thai roads are. Which is why we have a massive 4×4. It goes against all of my left-wing socialist eco values but if someone runs into us I want my family safe.

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      • Absolutely. I know families that have purchased cars so that they can feel safe. It’s crazy how many little ones are seen on motorbikes, standing, on the back, being held, barely holding on and not wearing a helmet. I don’t think I can ever get used to seeing that.

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  2. So poignant, and so well written…life is fragile and yet we waste so much. I remember watching my boys sleep when they were tiny and breaking my heart over the things I wished for them They are now 35 and 32. I am so blessed to have seen them become the wonderful men that they are..but still break my heart over one day having to leave them…perhaps I am just a little greedy.

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  3. Wow… I have chills from that re-telling..

    Sometimes we become too self-absorbed, but moments like this, horrible tragic moments, shake us from our selfish hold on life to the reality that we are all human.

    Being human is a terrifyingly gorgeous experience.. it is utterly frightful but so joyous all at the same time…

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  4. Yikes
    Not looking forward to that part of SE Asia. Even in the USA someone would stop and try to help or at least pretend they were shocked. It’s crazy to witness this with such indifference from a population that must consider this as just another event in daily life. Sad but great post; not sure if I even want to drive in SE Asia yet but everyone tells us it’s necessary; never owned a scooter or motorcycle and I think I’m scared of them so I’m not sure what we’re gonna do yet. Hmmm.

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    • I get the feeling that it was karma.

      Driving isn’t that bad. Different, but if you’ve driven in a major city you’ll be fine. In Thailand I would avoid scooters and bikes. Cars are expensive but worth it for the amount of metal that surrounds you.

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      • Still sounds intimidating. Ive never driven on the British side of the road and even that will be hard to get used to. And a big 4×4 might not be in the budget since we need our money to last 40 years or more (hopefully). We are gonna try public transit for awhile if we get to Penang.

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