CRASH: how to handle a Shanghai fender bender

I didn’t really earn it, but somehow last night I ended up overbooked with awesome people. First was a delightful encounter with two eminent professors from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rich. Girlie joined the party toward the end and tugged me toward Jing and a pile of super awesome Girls in Tech China organizers, supporters, well wishers and chums.

That was all super fun, until I forgot my bag, which held my Chinese homework and my laptop (amongst other things) at the GIT party. I realized it not too long after we left, and after 60 seconds of panic while I dug up Jing’s new phone number, I found out they hadn’t left, they’d spotted my backpack, and they were happy to wait for me to come get it.

Did I mention they were awesome? It’s worth saying again.
I get myself in a cab and hope the traffic gods will make this quick and painless for my good samaritans, who surely have more important things to do than babysit a bag full of, frankly, the two most expensive things I own. [future Mark says: this is true. There are more ‘important’ things, and more ‘valuable’ things, but nothing more ‘expensive’.]

My Cabbie was on his phone when I hopped in, and it seemed to ring incessantly. This was especially noticeable because he’d chosen a cartoonish rooster crow as his ringtone, and it cut through the episode of Sinica I was trying to absorb. I also own amazing headphones that block out most sound, so it was beyond the typical shanghai ringtone volume.

10 minutes later, while I was trying to write a witty DM to Dan Washburn about why I’d been searching for a bow-tie all day, my head slammed into the touchmedia screen in the headrest in front of me. My cabbie, apparently also more interested in his mobile phone than his duties at the time, had slammed into the car in front of us.


I followed proper Chinese traffic accident protocol — I writhed in pain and moaned loudly while I checked for blood and tried to ascertain if I was actually, y’know, injured. [future Mark says: it’ll be a small lump in the morning] I quickly realized I wasn’t hurt. My cabbie climbed out and started examining the damage, as had the driver and the 7 other people that had been in the violated subcompact. A crowd was forming.

I did something that I probably wouldn’t have done had I not had the help of several ML of free adrenaline. As my shifu and the wronged driver peered at the damage — they hadn’t even started arguing — I got out of the cab and walked away, with what I hope resembled “casual urgency”. A spectator noticed me, opened her mouth, and just sort of deflated instead of shouting an alarm. [Future Mark says: the more I think about that, the weirder it seems.]

I was only about a 8-10 minute walk to meet my laptop protecting saviors, but (1) I didn’t want to keep them waiting 8 more minutes, and (2) I didn’t want a pissed of shifu running me down on the sidewalk, so I hopped in another cab and politely asked him to step on it. “I know it’s close”, I said “but I need to be there right now.”

I did promise to explain how to handle fender benders in Shanghai and I think this is the trick: if you weren’t driving, and no one is seriously injured, slip away as soon as you can. Run if you have to.

  • Nads

    classic, another reason I always nap in the back seat of cabs; don’t want that touch media glass in my skull.