A spread of food spilled on the road.
A pair of sneakers with no legs.
A mangled motor scooter.
A puddle of blood.
A twisted body.
The body is always the last thing you see.
Once you see it, you can never unsee it.
The image is burned into your being and kicks off thoughts like:
Who was he?
Does he have kids?
Or, could that ever be me?
A few years ago, I taught English to engineers in an electric company in Bang Poo, just southeast of Bangkok.
Almost weekly while driving to or from work on the industrial roads, I’d see crowds of spectators peeking curiously over each other’s shoulders and into the street in front of them.
Just by the scene of onlookers and the pickup trucks stopped cold in the street, I could intuit what was to come.
You see it so much you sense it.
During the rainy season, I carried an umbrella in my car for obvious reasons.
But at times, the umbrella became more of a shield from the carnage than the rain.
I’d pick my umbrella off the passenger side floor, point it at the direction of the accident, and open it up.
My eyes, however, would fight to look, always fight to peak around the umbrella, and I’d see it all again:
The empty sneakers.
The scattered belongings.
The contorted arms.
But I noticed something else, too.
Everyone always seemed so calm.
No one crying.
No one trying to resuscitate the victim.
No one offering any help whatsoever.
Having been in a horrific car accident when I was 11 years old and having been helped by motorists on the Garden State Parkway, I experienced from early on that in those situations, help is what you do.
Not too long ago, I was driving through Chon Buri and saw a half-naked man staggering through fast-moving traffic toward the concrete divider.
I passed him and drove further down the road a few kilometers until I got to a U-turn, which I had to take to get to my destination, all the while sensing this wasn’t going to turn out well.
As I drove back toward the man, my suspicions came true.
I could see his motionless body, face down with his arm twisted and pinned underneath his torso, lying in the shoulder.
No one stopped.
And neither did I.
I just looked.
How seven years in Thailand can change you.