Saturday, January 12, 2013

How Son Got Into an Accident

This is a story about the phone call you don’t want to ever get. Also a good story about learning to keep cool. Earlier this week, I strolled into the Consular section along with the Diplomat ready and eager to do some ultra boring admin stuff and dish out some visas. 15 minutes into my daily routine, which included getting nice hot green tea, chatting aimlessly with my fabulous consular buddies and pondering the joys of my job, I got a phone call from my house. I picked up and my housekeeper said, in what seemed to be a pleasant, happy manner, “Hello, madam!” Well, hello to you too, and what can I do for you, my dear?

It was that this moment that the blasted woman began wailing loudly and screaming, “Madam, really bad news, madam!!” and then mumble things incoherently in Bangla and really bad English. As she is somewhat prone to drama, I decided to panic only moderately and so I started asking what exactly had happened. The next sentence aged me 5 years, “Car bad accident, the children…oh, madam!!!” accompanied by more severe wailing. My hair raising rapidly on the back of my neck, I began shouting in my cell phone, asking her whether the kids were ok (my Son carpools to school in our car with a neighboring child and her small sister). All she kept doing was repeating something nonsensical about a bad accident, and the children, and would not for the life of me answer if everyone was OK. Since she was calling from my house, I quickly hung up on her, grabbed the stunned Diplomat who was standing next to me, semi-yelled/mumbled  in the direction of my Boss something about having to go and flew out of the office amidst the deafening silence of the room while my colleagues were listening to my conversation.

Outside the Embassy, we spotted a heavy bullet jeep (part of the Embassy carpool) and threw ourselves in it, screaming at the poor driver (turns out he was new and it was his first week) to take us home. He mumbled something about having to wait for the Ambassador, but the Diplomat was having none of it. In the longest 5 minutes of my life, we were outside our building and burst inside our apartment, only to find an exhilarated Son who kept talking about “the big bump” and my housekeeper who burst into tears the moment she saw us. Turns out (as best as we can understand from two housekeepers and one driver’s combined English and our shaky Bangla), my driver was driving towards the school when one of the awesome local driver rammed into the left passenger door of our car while making a left turn. The door was completely totaled, and the 3 kids apparently flew inside the car because, of course, none of them were strapped in. Which is my own damn fault.

The car spun out of control for a moment and then the driver regained it and managed to stop. I feel pity for him – he was faced with a car with 3 hysterically crying children, and 2 even more hysterical nannies. I swear he was ready to quit on me. As luck would have it, our car was hit by a driver and car belonging to the American International School of Dhaka, and by the time we got to the scene of the accident, the school had already dispensed its own transportation manager who in less than an hour had our car in the shop.

The whole incident taught me a few things:
1.       Strap your child in the car, whether or not there are car seats.
2.       If you know that your staff is a drama queen, take a deep breath and try to get the story out of her before you panic and decide that your child is dead.
3.       Drive slowly in a country where pretty much no one knows real traffic rules or how to drive for that matter.
4.       Send your nanny for English lessons.


  1. Glad your son is OK! Never forget that it can be hard to find English speaking nannies in NYC too.

  2. That's one of my biggest fears here in Tanzania. Glad he's alright!

  3. Good lord! Crazy! My heart was racing, just reading this.

  4. Love it when things are lost in translation.
    Please keep the posting. I have just applied to take the FSOT and reading your stories, as a parent myself, makes me more excited to do this.
    Take care

  5. Glad he's okay! This reminds me of a similar moment we had last month where we ran out of the embassy Christmas party, Med unit doctor in tow, upon receiving a phone call from the nanny that our son had a fever of 105. We got home to find out she'd misread the thermometer. It was 100.5. Thank God. But that was a scary 15 minutes!

  6. You are an amazing writer! I was freaking out with you in the beginning and laughing in the end.

    Being from Bangladesh, it amuses me at how big drama queens the house staff is at times. I am actually going back this April, is there any restaurants in particular you recommend. My parents are very paranoid about letting me out in Dhaka so I figured I would ask you :). Hope to hear from you soon!

  7. Dear Kaberi, restaurants are finally popping up more and more around here. Among the best so far - Izumi, Arirong, Le Souffle, Koreana, Bamboo Shoot, Istanbul, Spitfire, Spaghetti Jazz, Khazana of course. They are all ethnic and more for fancier dining. Then there is the Roll Express which I love, and the new Mermaid Cafe, which is OK - i like the ambiance there. Welcome back to the motherland :)

  8. That must've been really upsetting! I can imagine how you felt when you heard the phone call. Well, it’s hard not to panic when you’re already in a decisive moment like that. Good thing nothing bad happened to either of your kids and your staff. Take care!

    Faith Brady