Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Did I tell you about the time my motorbike was on fire?

As Ting is back to the writing, I figured I should make an effort too and tell you about what happened about a month ago.

For the better understanding of the story, I have to place the scene.

Ting and I live in and HDB, one the second floor (which would be the first floor for all Europeans but for some reason, Singaporeans decided that there would be no ground floor, so zero is one; one is two; and so on...). Our flat is situated across from a multi-storey car park that we can see from the corridor leading to our entrance door. This car park is where I park my motorbike next to other bikes (making it a motorbike park!), at the same level as our flat where I can see it from my entrance door.

I hope you understand what I mean. Now the story:

It was a Saturday night, and Ting and I had gone out somewhere, probably a movie, I can't even remember which one. Or was it a party? I think I was a little drunk. Anyway, we came home quite late by taxi, like around 3am, and we were both eager to get in bed and enjoy some sleep before a glorious Sunday lazing around.

As we were reaching our door my usual habit to take a glance in the car park to see if my bike is still here kicked in, but this time I had to look again cutting short what ever conversation we were having.

To my dismay, I saw flames in the area where my bike is parked and of course my blood went cold and my mind sobered up in a second, which proves that we were at a party and I was drunk, that's beside the point. My first reflex was to run to the car park while calling the firemen and when I reached it, the motorbike was on fire. Oh no, not mine, the one parked two bikes away from mine. I fished my keys in my pocket thinking of moving my precious, but I had left them at home. I looked around for an extinguisher, and there was NONE!

In the meantime the bike was getting high in flames and in the distance I could hear the siren of the fire-engine. I ran back to our house to get the keys, and as I was running back who passed me in the road, almost running me over? The fire truck! They hadn't understood properly where the car park entrance was and were happily continuing their way down the road.

Still running I fished my iPhone out and called again the fire brigade being quite aggressive with the poor dude on the line who had nothing to do with the business to tell them that they had just driven past the scene!

By the time I was back upstairs the burning bike was ablaze, and the heat of the flames prevented me from getting close to my poor baby and take her away from danger. I was also concerned of a petrol tank explosion, and my darling wife was pulling my arm so I waited patiently until the smart firemen found their way. The parking was filling up with thick black smoke, the tires of the burning bike exploded in a loud PANG,-PANG alerting the diners at the food court downstairs, who despite my running to and fro did not budge, probably thinking I'm some crazy "angmo" with some psychological problems.

The bike was now really high in flames, the ceiling and wall paint was starting to bubble, the tires melting like ice cream in Singapore. When a little fireman appeared on his motorbike, and in a second the flames were out, leaving only the acrid smell of burnt rubber, and the thick black smoke dimming all the lights of the place.

Many other firemen were running up the staircase now, carrying heavy hoses and shouting at each other. I almost wanted to tell them that it was over but didn't dare to.

The remains of the motorbike were sad to see; just the metal frame, and solidifying rubber in a puddle on the floor.

When the smoke had vented a little, and I could get close to the scene I took a look at my bike and it was, miraculously?, safe. Just covered in black soot that I could rub away easily. I went to inspect the bike parked in between my own and the burning one, and its whole side was melted, plastic seat, handle bars, signalling lights... I was so glad that it was parked there giving protection to my sweet little one.

All sobered up now, I could go down and ordered a beer from the food court and caught my breath back. When Ting came to me I told her that I had cancelled the fire insurance on my bike only two days before. She looked at me in shock but did not say anything (at that point).

I was now past 4.30am and we could finally go to bed and rest. Needless to say I had a hard time going to sleep that morning.

The story doesn't end here as you could think.

The next morning (okay, afternoon), as I went to inspect the damage in broad daylight, I was even more shocked by what I saw. All the walls and ceiling were black with soot, the paint had peeled off, or burst on the wall and ceiling, the remains of the burning bike still cracking from the heat (or was it my hangover...), the poor bike next to it looking crippled with its side falling to the floor like wax. But mine was fine. I cleaned it a little and took it for a ride.

What is most amazing after all this is... In France when a fire happens, the burnt vehicle stays there for weeks and the damage caused around it for months (even years sometimes). But not in Singapore!

The following Monday the carcass was taken away. The next day, painters appeared and started working on the walls and ceiling, and by the following Saturday the car park looked as good as new. As Ting says, Singapore is a land of high efficiency!

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