And sometimes, Taiwan eats you [Part 3]
I’m chronicling my post-scooter-wreck saga, in which the woman who participated in the accident with me tries to take all my money, by any means possible. This is the final installment.
PART 1; PART 2
For the next two weeks, I felt pretty good about things, and I didn’t much think about Phyllis or the impending negotiation or money. All in all, I had dodged a bullet, I thought – a sour-faced, money-hungry bullet.
On Monday – the day before the second (and we hoped final) negotiation – I called James, to remind him that I needed the formal proof of me missing time at school due to the accident. He said I could pick it up that evening. He also said that Thomas was very much ready for Round 2 with Phyillis, and that Thomas would once again meet me outside the police station at 2:15 on Tuesday.
I woke up early Tuesday, and I was ready. I took my customary morning walk around the park, ate some breakfast, took care of some things, and then got all gussied up.
I met up with Thomas outside the police station, and we again strolled down the long corridor, through the imposing doorway, and into the wide negotiation room. We looked left and saw that Phyllis and her sour face had managed to get here early this time. Thomas and I didn’t even have time to sit down before they called our case. A different negotiator than last time told us to go over to the right side of the room and meet him in the area between the end of the table and the wall. We all walked over there, shook hands with him, and once again sat in a little negotiation circle.
There were two major personnel changes since our first mediation, and these would prove costly for me. First, as I mentioned, our negotiator was a different man. He was another middle-aged Taiwanese man, but his face was more serious than our last one, and his eyes more intense. In a kind but stern tone, he let us know right away that he had the power to decide this case at any time, and if either of us refused to accept his decision, we would go straight to court. And remember, court scared me, because of the whole not-having-a-license thing.
The other new person at this mediation was a woman who’d come with Phyllis. At our first hearing, Phyllis’ sister came in halfway through, but her presence was very inconsequential, and she seemed there more for moral support than anything. Thus, I made no mention of her in Part 2.
But the woman who was with Phyllis this time – I can’t tell you word-for-word anything she said (because of the Chinese), but I can tell you that, as far as I’m concerned, she’s not a nice lady, and her soul is polluted with darkness and frowns.
She was a tall, slender Taiwanese woman, in her late 30s maybe, with straight jet-black hair to the middle of her neck; her eyes danced with villainy, and the only smiles she had in supply were of the sarcastic variety. The perfect Thelma to Phyllis’ Louise.
Just like our first mediator had done at the first hearing, this one began by asking Phyllis why she had requested this meeting and what she wanted from me. Buoyed I guess by the presence of her evil companion, Phyllis embarked on quite the diatribe. I wasn’t sure what she was saying, but she didn’t seem to be talking about our agreement. Spittle was flying out of her angry mouth, and she made a motion with her hands, showing the negotiator how I’d “turned left” right into her on that fateful morning. I looked at Thomas; his mouth had fallen open from his shock.
When Phyllis was done, she sat back in her chair, he face, as always, contorted into that sour countenance of hers. Thomas finally had a chance to fill me in.
“She says that you hit her with your scooter, and that she broke her ankle and cannot work, and that she wants you to give her two-months’ salary – $2,600 US.”
“What??” I barked. “We had an agreement! Tell her that! And ask where twenty-six hundred came from! Last time she said that two months’ salary was two thousand!” Thomas relayed my message, and a few of his own, probably. And that’s when Phyllis’ friend chimed in. Thomas never told me exactly what she said during the whole hearing, but he kept telling me that she was saying it was all my fault. Everything was my fault.
Thomas and I were stunned. Was this really happening? Was Phyllis seriously completely ignoring the agreement we had made less than two weeks ago? She sure seemed to be. When we brought up the fact that we had made this agreement, or that last time she had claimed her monthly salary was $300 US less than this time, she and her friend simply ignored the claims.
This is why having a different negotiator was a costly thing. He hadn’t heard anything at the first meeting, and he apparently didn’t know what transpired at it. Obviously, Thomas and I had assumed that some sort of official notes had been kept in the record of this legal dispute, and that he’d be privy to those. But apparently, there were no notes. So when we mentioned this agreement between Phyllis and I, and Phyllis and her friend just ignored it and said that I was responsible for everything, the negotiator had no choice but to start from there. And “from there” means $2,600 US, or about $80,000 NT.
If I could do it all over again, there’s several things I’d do differently. We should have gotten our agreement in writing after the first hearing. And since we didn’t, I wish we’d tried to find our first negotiator while we were at our second hearing, so he could tell this new guy about the agreement. But alas, we didn’t, and so we fought an uphill battle.
Despite being stern and a bit pushy, the negotiator was actually a decent man. He seemed to believe Thomas and I about the agreement (at least to a degree), and he immediately told Phyllis that $80,000NT was ridiculous. He talked her down to $50,000NT (about $1,500 US). She and the witch lady begrudgingly acquiesced.
He then turned to me and asked if I accepted, and I told him absolutely not. He reminded me that he could make his decision at any time, and if he thought I was being too difficult, he could just send us to court. I swallowed hard but held firm. Phyllis and the She-Wolf both started yelling at me cattily. I then pulled out the police report and turned to the page with the diagram of the accident. I showed it to the negotiator and then to the two women. I pointed to the part showing that I definitely did not turn left and that she definitely was going faster than me (see below) and said “See this?”
And that’s when Phyllis’ friend, the Wicked Witch of the Far East, sent my brain into a rage. As I pointed earnestly at the diagram, she looked me in the eyes, laughing sarcastically, and mocked me. “See this? See this?” she howled over and over in a thick Asian accent.
Amazingly – and stunningly to me, really – I kept my temper relatively in check after that. I just sat back in my chair and smiled my blood back down to a normal level. The negotiator was past ready for this dispute to be over, but to his credit, he let it continue. I looked at him with a sigh and said (through Thomas, of course), “Ok, $15,000, just to be done with all this.” The negotiator passed this on to the ladies, and they laughed again, saying I must be out of my mind. The Queen of Black Hearts again chimed in with her assessment that I was absolutely and positively 100% to blame for everything regarding this accident, and possibly the typhoon in August, global warming, and the suffering of any and all puppies.
The negotiator then asked me if I’d settle for $30,000. I said no; then I leaned in and told him two things: 1) I’m truly sorry that Phyllis’ ankle was “broken,” and I hope that it heals nicely and she can get back to stomping on the dreams of terminally sick children work soon; but the accident clearly wasn’t my fault. It wasn’t her fault either. It just happened. And I just did not see how I could be held financially responsible for her bad luck. 2) Just because I’m white doesn’t mean I have a lot of money (or any, at the moment); I saved to afford the plane ticket here, and I’ve only been in Taiwan for three months and haven’t really built up a bank account yet. And so if she wanted to take all my money, fine. But she was gonna have to wait for it.
The negotiator gave me a warm half-smile, then looked skyward exhaustedly as he pondered this mess before him. We were the only dispute left in the giant room, and had been for quite some time. He asked if I could do $25,000. I said $20,000. The ladies were having none of it. They were still belly-aching about having to come down from $80,000. They looked at me and said it was only a $5,000 difference. I responded with, “Yeah, exactly! So you should be fine with $20,000!”
But in the end, $25,000 was as far down as the negotiator would come. That’s just under $800 US. Thomas fought hard for me, too; but the $25,000 wall was the one we couldn’t break through. I did, however, convince the negotiator let me pay it in two installments in November and December.
Upset but still a little relieved to be done with this, I sat back in my chair and stared straight ahead. After a minute or so, we got up, signed the official papers and shook hands with the negotiator. Meanwhile, Phyllis and her black-hearted friend had the nerve to bitch and complain to our negotiator about the settlement even after we were done. I found it both amusing and infuriating that they were upset because they weren’t able to rip me off any more than they did. We could still hear them griping as we walked out the giant doors.
Thomas was seething over the whole thing, and he kept apologizing. But he had absolutely nothing to apologize for. He did everything he could have done, and I’m in his eternal debt for helping me – a stranger before this ordeal – out so much. Having to pay the money is just a temporary obstacle; I’m just glad the whole thing’s finally over.
Sometimes you eat Taiwan, and sometimes Taiwan eats you.