10 May 2013

If I can be patient in a Bahraini police station, Americans should learn to be patient at the DMV

So I had another Bahraini first last night…a car accident.  Before you all start saying things about women drivers I was rear ended.  I was stopped for a few seconds when it happened, so it wasn’t like I stopped abruptly either.  I actually didn’t know what happened because I haven’t been hit in over 11 years (and just so we put it out there, I haven’t hit anyone in over 11 years).  The title of the post is from a conversation with Camille this morning...here is the story:

I get hit with Camille, Ezza and Stu in the car at 7:45 on Thursday night.  Ezza, being awesome, was the first to ask if everyone was ok.  Being the North Americans we are, Camille grabbed the insurance and took pictures of my car and his license plate.  Stu, being the only guy in the car, got out to be the muscle (which I especially love because I've got a good 3 inches and 15 pounds on him).  I told Ez to stay in because I was scared my car would lock if we closed all the doors.  The guy was super helpful, the police were not.  I first called 999 (the 911 of Bahrain.)  They hung up on me twice and I got a busy signal once before someone who did not know English answered.  He passed me off to someone else, who told me to call the traffic cops at 199.  Whoops.  (NOTE: Bayan needs to give us a cheat sheet of this stuff, we had an emergency earlier this year with two Americans who did not know it was 999 not 911-I only knew because of my time in London, otherwise I would have no idea).  

So I call the traffic cops who ask if we can move the cars and of course we can, it was a very minor accident.  So we have to drive to the police station.  Well, thank goodness for honest people because who says this kid who hit me couldn’t have driven off in the other direction.  Instead he let me follow him.  We picked up his Dad on the way (I thought he was my age at first but the more time I spent with him and his father over the night, the guy who hit me was a kid, 18, 21 at most.)  When we get to the station the Dad asks if we could just settle it.  In the states I would have said yes (I drive a crappy car that has scratches-not from me-so I would not have fixed it on this car) but here I needed the police report so I did not have to pay the rental company.  I told him how much it was for the rental company (250BD, almost $700) and that was ridiculous for such a small dent.  I had also already called my rental car company (I love them by the way-Adliya Rental Car is a good company-owned by a parent of a student).  So he then asked if we could say he was driving because his son just got his license.  Since I did not have a Bahraini license and was about to plead ignorance if they asked for mine, I didn’t see any harm in it.  So we walked into the station….

Did I mention we were all ready to go out for the night so we were all looking really cute and fairly fancy?  Yeah, let’s just say that we stood out like a sore thumb in the traffic station.  It was a serious game of “one of these things is not like the other”.  Well, immediately three guys on a couch stand up for us ladies to sit.  I will miss that.  Being the independent women we are, we were like “oh no, we’re fine, really”…we need to stop doing that!  We should just feel honored and let it happen.  I forced the rest of my group to head out (I don’t handle support well, again, stupid independent woman) and so I stayed with the two Indian men.  It took forever, who knew a lot of accidents happen on the first night of the weekend when all the Saudi’s are out?  Huh.  

Now a side note, you may feel as if I’m being racist here mentioning all the countries of origin.  That is how it is here though.  Everyone wants to know where everyone is from, it is one of the first questions you ask people.  Very few of the people here, even the Arabs, are from Bahrain.  The Arabic people, for the most part, have a tie to another country-Lebanon, Kuwait and Saudi are the ones I hear the most.  Even my Bahraini students will specify what country they feel ties to (mostly to separate the Arabic from the Persian roots).  I also really love, by having this be the first question, that you learn a ton.  Last weekend I went to an Internations Dinner and sat across from a Syrian man.  He let me ask all of my dumb questions (Is it safe where your family is?  Have you been back recently?) and answered them.  If I had just assumed he was from a gulf region country, I would not have learned so much.  In America we all have such a similar background yet we cling to our heritage roots when we have nothing to cling to-I said I was Swedish to a group of people once and they laughed.  I’m not Swedish.  I’m American.  My ancestors are Swedish, I’ve been to Sweden, but I still know NOTHING about it.  We should instead talk about America and be advocates for America, cause Lord knows, America needs some good representation all over.  Ok, side note over.  

So anyways, we patiently wait our turn (I’m being completely serious-it took way over an hour for anyone to talk to us, but everyone was very calm and polite).  Cops look at our cars, get our information.  This was a little scary for me because I didn’t have my CPR card (like your social security/license here) and I only had my US license.  They sent my US license around the office and finally, after a lot of Arabic, I heard “America, she’s fine”.  I asked what it was all about and they said I should get a local license.  I said that I was leaving for good next month and they said “ok, you are fine.”  We then got sent to the “Cashier”.  The man pays 20BD.  I pay 6BD (for the report).  Then the guy has to pay a BD for something and he doesn’t have it, he only has a 5.  So the “cashier” pulls out a ball of cash to make change (read “Ball”, it is not like my grandfather who has his cash in a cute money clip with the hundreds on the outside so you look like a pimp…this was a ball of cash that a 6 year old would put on the counter of a store to pay for a toy).  He then asks if the guy is going to get his car fixed.  He says no.  The guy gives him 10BD back.  Puts all of the money we gave him in the wad and puts it back in his pocket.  

I now have a police report where I can read nothing but my name.  

Overall it was a smooth process-good job Bahrain.  

1 comment:

  1. Carissa,

    Congratulations!!! You've had your first (and hopefully last) abroad cop experience. :) I'm glad that everything went smoothly.