Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Locked Out!

HAVE you ever experienced being locked out of your car, where no matter how much you tried fitting in the key won’t work? We did, a week ago and it was not pleasant. It was getting late and both fellow reporter Junhan and I wanted nothing more than to be home from a day’s brain-draining work. We stopped by H-Mart along Middle Road to pick up a few groceries for a late dinner. I insisted on locking the car because I left my laptop on the seat (don’t want to tempt others) but when we were ready to go, the car doors won’t simply open.

Short of smashing the windows and after an hour of poking, praying, twisting, and finally swearing in vain, I decided to dial 911 for help. I know that rescuers have special instruments to poke locked car doors. A male voice answered my call.

911: Hello may I help you?

Me: uhmmm (trying to make my voice sound as “un-emergency”-like as I could) do you offer assistance for locked cars?

911: locked car? Is anybody inside the car?

Me: no, no one’s inside but we can’t open it from outside.

911: where are you?

Me: in front of H-Mart in Middle Road

911: don’t you have a key?

Me: yes we have, but it won’t---- ( LOUD CRASH on the road interrupts my conversation with 911, then my jaws dropped as I saw a scooter fly and two individuals flying in different directions…

Me: oh mG! COME there’s an accident come quick! (gone was the un-emergency sound in my voice, replaced by a screech. I took the cellphone away from my ear)

911: hello, hello (from a distance) an accident? just now?

Me: yes just now come quick!

911: what’s your name?

I think I never answered that question, or if I did, I can’t remember what name I said because I was already rushing toward the middle of the road where a Ford pick-up with shattered headlight stood. A few meters away were the red remains of what was once a scooter. A woman lay flat on the road, blood oozing from her head. She was struggling to keep her fingers moving. A few feet away lay a man who had a concussion but was forcing his way to limp to check on the woman.

The next thing I know, a crowd had gathered at the sides, everybody seems to be whipping out his or her cellphone to call 911 while an onlooker who said he was a medical practitioner struggled with the man to keep still until help arrives. “Can anybody speak Korean here? Tell the man to stay put! He is injured,” the medical practitioner bellowed. A Korean-speaking onlooker talked to the injured driver, but shook his head and said the driver won’t listen. Several police cars with blue lights flashing arrived on the scene to manage the flow of traffic. It took about 10 minutes before the ambulance arrived to take the woman away, and more minutes before the second ambulance arrived to take the man to the hospital.

Finally only the pick-up that hit the scooter remained with the police cleaning the road of broken glass and shards. Then I remembered we were locked out, and we just left our purchases on the hood of the car. Thankfully, no one bothered to take them home for us, and thankfully, as though it has tested our patience far enough, the passenger side gave in to Junhan’s non-gentle poking. Thankfully, too, I always have delayed reaction in emergencies. My knees and limbs started trembling only after I had dinner. What a night!

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