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small car prang.....turns to fisticuffs..

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My morning just went pear shaped.

Driving around Nairobi, I am always aware that a traffic accident/prang is never more than a hairs breadth away. You sort of drive about in 'wince' mode and hope it will never happen to you.
Buses pull out in front of you without warning.

Brake lights don't work.

Cars stop senselessly on roundabouts so that passengers can 'alight'.

Bicycles swerve and weave in amongst speeding traffic.

Brakes are slammed on as a Mkokoteni/handcart appears from nowhere.

Drivers turn off and onto busy roads without indicating.

Scary looking stone lorries lose brakes on hills, either going up or coming down.

Bikes 'tailgate'/hang on the back of lorries to pull them up hills.

When it rains everybody slides and smashes into everybody else.

I was once side swiped by a lorry moving into my lane on a dual carriageway. He simply didn't see me.

Having said this, I am not claiming to be always the innocent party. I once ploughed into the back of a hapless driver in heavy/congested traffic. I have various excuses for this, 1) a car 3 ahead made a sudden turn so everyone had to jam on brakes, 2) my brakes were mushy and 3) I was looking out of the window at the time wondering why the men were digging a ditch on the side of the road. Another time I slid my car off the raw edge of a narrow tarmac road in wet weather, over corrected then ended up in a hedge..... No other cars were involved.

Anyway...

This morning I was pottering up a residential road near my house, on my way back from the shops. I was slowly going around a 90 degree bend, when a saloon car coming from the opposite direction decided to take the corner very wide, veering right onto my side of the road. In fact he simply wasn't turning the wheel at all. I thought, 'Oh Sh...' and drove onto the verge as far as possible, but the saloon car clipped by back wheel arch.

Luckily the saloon car driver stopped. In retrospect, in his position I would have driven on.

No 1. I have learned that if you have an accident in this country, first ask if the driver of the other vehicle is actually the owner of the car. Nine times out of ten it is not.

Two men got out of the saloon. The driver looked scruffy, jeans sagging, orange t-shirt dirty, eyes glazed. It was obvious that the fault of the accident was on the saloon car driver. Little bits of glass were scattered the outside edge of my side of the road. The passenger was a little more presentable and easy to talk to.

The saloon car had ripped off the bottom end of my fibre glass wheel arch and taken out his wing light. It wasn't massively serious.

I was a bit cross, launching into the driver in pigeon Swahili on 'why didn't you turn?', 'is there something wrong with your eyes?' 'What were you doing?'

The passenger guy who was a bit more switched on than the driver kept agreeing with me (which was odd), 'yeah, you're right, he really can't drive, I don't know what he was doing. he's crazy..' sort of thing. So much for comradeship in the face of adversity!

The damage wasn't that bad, though I knew it would cost us a bit to fix. I weighed up the situation said I would just go home, but the car passenger said he had already called the owner of the car. It turned out that the vehicle owner lived on that very road, so was walking up as we spoke. I called the owner of the car too, just to clarify that he was actually coming and I wasn't going to be there all day waiting for a no show.

'We're outside no 93' I said. 'I'm coming' he said.

As we waited the orange shirted driver who looked like he was on drugs re positioned his car to the other side of the road. I could see that this was a cunning move to make out my car was in the wrong. To do this he was reversing ineptly at a snails pace on the blind corner. A water truck nearly careered into him and had a few cross words. At this point I could see that the 'driver' couldn't drive to save his life.

'This guy is going to be in a real accident next time' The passenger agreed with me effusively. 'yes, he's absolutely hopeless.'

Plus, I was cross again,
'Put that car back!' I said to the orange shirt driver guy. 'Don't try to make out the accident was my fault!'

The advantage of the driver being a bit useless generally, was that it was easy to boss him around. He dutifully moved the car back into its original position. The driver then got out and started trying to bend the cracked saloon car bumper back in place, then pop the indicator light back, balancing it. I said with sarcasm,
'So you're a car fundi are you?' to which the passenger replied,
'Yes he is actually. He's a mechanic.'
I was a bit mystified.

'Look,' I said, 'Your boss isn't going to be worried about his car. He's going to be worried about the damage to my car.' This wheel arch, the paint job.' I pointed, 'It's going to be expensive.'
The orange t-shirt looked at me like 'Ohhh'. This had not occurred to him at all. I was beginning to feel sorry for him. He really hadn't a clue.

By this time various gardeners and askaris in the area had come out onto the road to have a look. A nice Kenyan guy I know drove by, offered to stop and help, but I told him it was not necessary. I still wanted out of the situation. I knew it wasn't serious enough to have the agony of calling out the police, waiting for hours, going back to the station, getting a police abstract etc. for an insurance claim. That might have taken at least a whole day.

Eventually the car owner comes walking up the road. He was talking on his phone, fag in hand. About my age. Kenyan, shorter than me. He shakes my hand, looks at the broken wing light on his car, then looks at my broken wheel arch. All this time he's still talking in polite English on the phone. I'm thinking 'this is a bit bizarre'. Eventually he says to the person on the other end of the phone,
'I had better go now, I have to deal with a small car accident.'

Once he hung up he asked me, 'what direction was my car coming from?' I told him. He then turns on the hapless orange shirt guy and starts beating him. Cuffing him over the head, kicking him right in the middle of the road, shouting in a tribal language that he shared with the driver. The driver was crouching down, arms trying to protect his ears. Another loud slap landed across his face. This was getting ugly. The situation had stepped up a gear. While I was cross about the accident I wasn't hoping for corporal punishment! The owner turned to me, asked me another polite question, then turned back to the driver for another smack. It was medieval. It made me realise what an entirely different planet I lived on in my cosy little expat world and here we all were, the passenger, the askari, the gardener; just standing around watching.

'That's enough!' I said.

The car owner was shouting at the 'driver' - 'This is going to be expensive. It's fibre glass!' he said waving the broken bit of my wheel arch around. 'Why were you coming from that direction anyway?!' cuff, kick.

'Enough.' I repeated trying to take control of the situation.

By this point I wanted to just go. I found a pen and paper. The car owner and I swapped phone numbers awkwardly. I took the bit of my broken wheel arch out of his hand.
'I'm going to go now.' I said, adding bizarrely, 'thanks.'

Well, it's lunch time now and it's all going to be alright. The car owner guy phoned me when I got home - still worried that the situation was not resolved - which was pretty good of him but made me feel weird since he slaps and kicks people. He sounded obsequious, nice, still polite. I got him to speak to my husband who was finally out of his big meeting.

Lucky my husband is a car nut and will get our car fixed up cheaply. Lucky the car owner didn't make up his name and phone number plus he accepted liability and seemed to be genuinely concerned . I hope that we can just fix the car ourselves and don't have to pursue the cost of the fix with my new 'friend' who happens to be a very polite but has violent tendencies. He then might not be so cross with his drugged out 'mechanic' employee who can't drive for tuppence.

The question is, what is best to do in these situations? There's a lot of reliance on trust, involving the police is a time wasting nightmare and realistically, how much can you really expect somebody to cough up, even when they are in the wrong? You can forget insurance in most cases.

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