My Hat, This One’s a Crazy Customer

Novar Caine’s At Large column last week on prejudice and rage on Bali’s roads brought back a most terrifying and bone-chilling experience inflicted on us as The Playmate drove cheerfully and attentively towards Ubud.

Traffic was moderate as we trundled along the bypass towards the McDonald’s intersection lights at Sanur, which turned red. The vehicle ahead was behaving erratically so, having recently been relieved of two hefty wads of currency after young motorbike riders, both on the wrong side of different roads, misjudged their ability to horseshoe around the front of our moving vehicle and smashed into us, we held back.

A van zoomed up on our left and cut in front of our stationary car, clipping our side. He hit us, I stated as we looked ahead, expecting the perpetrator to walk back to apologise.

Of course, the space in front of us was too short for the length of his van, and it rested at an angle that gave us a perfect view in his side mirror of the kufi–headed driver who glowered unblinkingly and menacingly at us through his mirror. His elderly, kufi-wearing passengers looked straight ahead.

Please don’t get out, I begged, he looks dangerous. The lights turned green and there he sat, motionless, his killer looks punching out at us from his mirror.

The lights turned red. We’ll have to go around him on the next green, I suggested. The Playmate wanted to get out, but I was too spooked to agree.

We went around and as we reached the centre of the busy intersection, the Scary One gunned his decrepit old van alongside us and came at us relentlessly, trying to run us into the oncoming stream of bikes, cars, trucks and buses. It was a miracle no one was hurt. On this day, the traffic police were not at their post.

We made it across, by a very haphazard route that endangered many tens of motorists, only to find that this incensed madman – who had clipped us, I remind you – would not give up. He came at us again and again, until we were forced to climb a rather high median strip and shudder to a halt.

You hurt my car, my car, he screeched, gesticulating wildly at an age-old rust-covered crater in the van’s bodywork, the largest of many, by the way, and not in a position where it could possibly have made contact with our own car.

You hit my car, The Playmate began calmly. Why did you swing sharply in front of me?

If it weren’t for the aggressor’s frothing mouth and lunatic eyes, his answer would have been hysterical. I was reading the newspaper and I forgot to get in the correct lane, he shouted.

Giving us no time to digest this astounding admission, he launched into a tirade of finger-wagging, spit-spraying abuse whose summary is this: This is not your country. We do things differently than in your country. You must be polite.

Right. He demanded we go to the nearby police station. Oh no. No way. The only future in that, we had learned, was a costly one – in time and money.

He demanded The Playmate’s licence. Show him but don’t give it to him, I urged. He was getting so increasingly agitated at our refusals to obey his ridiculous orders that I could see his evil mind planning his next move. I reached across to remove the keys from the ignition just as he lunged through the window at them. I got the keys and a nicely bruised and twisted arm in the process. He had assaulted me.

The Playmate agreed to go to the police. We can’t go, I pleaded as we set off in convoy. It’s a no-win situation for us and we did nothing wrong. So we zipped into a vehicle-service yard, where the staff knew us quite well, hoping for help.

The Playmate was in the office learning about its policy of zero involvement in matters of threat, on or off its premises, to the wellbeing of its customers, and I was in the car when Hothead arrived, followed by the two by now profoundly embarrassed elders.

The Aggrieved One’s wrath erupted and he kicked out at our car, pummelled its windows (I’m so glad he didn’t realise the car was unlocked) and shrieked insanely.

He had backed off and was ranting at the sky as the elders shuffled their feet when The Playmate emerged from the office and joined the discussion that was going nowhere.

Probably only because it was nearing time to close the premises, which held five unwanted people and a vehicle, which also were going nowhere, one of the office staff decided to break with policy and “get involved.”

We think the elders were largely responsible, though, for the compromise that was proposed. To end the matter, The Playmate was to apologise, politely, and offer his hand to the Crazy One. He did it beautifully, in perfect Bahasa, and not even I could have guessed at the truly cutting, belittling and totally appropriate words in his head as he said “maaf” to “Bapak.”

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One Response to “My Hat, This One’s a Crazy Customer”

  1. dave Says:

    Wow, glad you survived intact…sometimes people from other islands are lacking the manners balinese have..(wearing kufi not a local)
    Im lucky that im married to a bali girl with a bit of a temper, pretty sure no-one would be game to treat her like that….
    Good solution, Polisi enforce the law that all who operate vehicles have a SIM, that would help….

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