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A Malaysian story

How potholes, flat tyres and help go hand-in-hand.

Michelle Chen
3 minute read
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Michelle Chen

Michelle is a Malaysian, a Chinese and a banana. She thinks this is a mad country, but there's no place like home.

Last night, as my family and I were heading home for the day, we drove through a pothole on the road – a simple enough matter and one that happens to nearly every Malaysian on a regular basis. 

My husband and I did what we normally do in such situations: we said a few unsavoury words, quietly so that our two-year-old wouldn't hear us, and continued on our way. 

Eventually, though, we realised that our dip into the pothole had done more damage than we initially thought. By the time we pulled over on the left-most lane of the highway, one of our rear tyres was shredded and completely flat. 

We put on our hazard lights and tried to assess our situation. Obviously, we would have to call for help, so we did. 

While we waited for help to arrive, my husband switched on his torchlight app and apologetically waved oncoming traffic away from our car. In the meantime, I took our daughter and went to find as safe a place as I could to stand. 

We waited for what felt like a long time in the dark as cars whizzed by on the fast lane and circumvented us slowly on the left. After a while, though, we realised that two, and then three, other cars had pulled up further ahead of us and put on their hazard lights as well. 

As we watched, the drivers emerged and made their way towards us – three Malay men, all beaming as they approached. From a distance, I could hear them calling, "Apa jadi?" 

We explained our predicament and without any hesitation at all, they set to work. One of them hauled our spare tyre into place while another went back to his car and returned with what looked like a power drill tool. 

The third one, meanwhile, ushered my daughter and I to his car where he deposited us safely with his wife and daughter. "Tak selamat tunggu kat luar," he insisted, waving away my apologies. 

I was shy as I slid into the back seat, but his wife and daughter, a lovely smiling lady and a sweet, round-faced six-year-old, greeted us enthusiastically.

"Aunty tinggal mana?" the girl asked. "Aunty tinggal kat Subang," I replied. 

"Mama," she said excitedly, "kita ambil saja aunty dan adik, kita tolong hantar mereka balik rumah kat Subang dulu!" 

As it turned out, though, there was no need for that: outside, more help had arrived, the flat tyre had been replaced and our car was ready to go. 

We thanked everyone and apologised once more for troubling them, but they just smiled, told us to take care, and went on their way. 

Did we do everything by the book of Best Practices For When Your Car Breaks Down On The Highway? Probably not. Do I wish that our roads were kept in better condition given the hard-earned tax money that we cough up every year? Absolutely. 

But I can honestly say that I am glad to have had such an experience. 

No matter how careful we are in life, at one point or another we are going to find ourselves in need of help from someone else. And last night, when we needed help, help was there. 

There will always be potholes in life, metaphorical and otherwise since fixing the roads appears to be an insurmountable task regardless of who is in government. After all, this is Malaysia. 

But for every pothole and every breakdown at the side of the road, I hope that there will always be someone there to help.

After all, this is Malaysia.