I was backing out of the "parking lot" at my kids' school last week and brilliantly ran into someone's car. I broke the left taillight of our rental and the right headlight of her little, red Jeep. No excuse, just an explanation: I was distracted trying to listen to 4 children at once and wasn't used to anyone parking behind me there. I hung my head in shame while someone went to find the car's owner. A few minutes later, out came a smiling woman. "You hit my car?" she asked, with the same sort of tone you'd ask, "Would you like to meet for lunch sometime?" I kept apologizing and she kept saying, "No, no, no. This could have happened to me. It's okay. I'm sorry for you." (She's from the Netherlands, so you have to imagine our exchange with a Dutch accent.)
Here in Qatar, you have to call the police for any accident and file a report. Otherwise you won't be able to get your car fixed. No body shop will touch your car without that report. Even if you, say, scrape your car on the wall pulling into your garage (which I have not done), you need to go to the traffic department and file a report. So, needless to say but I'm saying it anyway (notice how people always do say what's needless to say?), the traffic office is a busy, busy place to be. Think the DMV in a foreign language and without lines.
That's where we ended up Monday morning. Thank heavens we didn't have to go it alone though. An Arabic man in Ron's department (whose sole job is to do things like this) went with us. We were in and out in half an hour. Had we gone without him, I would still be there now. The woman whose car I hit went with us so the officer could see her car, nod, and then charge me 100 QR for causing the accident and then 35 QR for stamps to go on some piece of paper that verified we had been to see him.
Today the poor woman had to go to our insurance office so someone there could assess the damage and decide which body shop she needs to go to. And in a few days, she has to take the car in for repair. We, on the other hand, don't have to fix our car. The rental company will after we leave (and bill our insurance, of course).
So I've decided on something else entirely: I'm going to learn, once and for all, where the heck the Netherlands are. I'm going to figure out the difference between the Dutch, Danish, and Finnish and what they all have to do with each other. And then, in the future, when people wonder aloud about these very things, I will be able to enlighten them.
My next step? World peace...