PHUKET: My car has been filthy for weeks, covered in the dust that is everywhere now, due to the lack of rain. When the light hits it just right in the morning, I have trouble seeing out the back window.
I don’t want to wash it at home because I have no outside source of water, and I haven’t taken it anywhere to be cleaned. Why not? Because the Thai car care places do their jobs too well. That’s right, too well.
In the United States we drive our cars through a long hall where automated flappy things slap it moderately clean – in about 10 minutes. Here, the car wash staff clean every nook and cranny, even prying off the hubcaps to get at the dirt that lurks beneath – all by hand. It takes an hour. I often don’t want to spend the time.
But I’m not really complaining. It’s a positive aspect of road-related life here, which is more often dominated by tales of accidents and unusual driving behaviors.
And it’s not the only positive. Another is full-service gas stations. Those have been gone for generations where I come from. Service is fast and friendly too, and once in a while the staff will see my filthy windows, take pity on me, and clean them.
Yet another traffic issue the Thais have figured out better than my compatriots is how to handle accidents. Agents here actually come to the crash scene to get things sorted out, on the spot.
A friend who was broadsided not long ago said the woman who hit her refused to accept responsibility. When insurance agents for both parties arrived half an hour later, even the guilty woman’s agent told her she was wrong, and urged her to accept his judgment.
This is a far cry from the US, where we’re advised not to admit responsibility at the scene, and where receiving an insurance payout means filling out a copious paperwork ourselves, and then waiting.
I even heard a positive police story recently – a friend got a ticket when she parked her car in a motorcycle zone. That’s good news. It’s the first time in all the years I’ve been here that someone I know has gotten a parking ticket.
She argued with the officer, saying motorcycles often parked in spots reserved for cars without getting tickets. He told her she couldn’t argue with a cop, and for doing so, fined her 100 baht more.
Yes, life on the streets of Phuket definitely has a bright side.
— Leslie Porterfield
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