I finally got my benefactor into the swimming pool at the local “luxury” hotel. The pool is really nice and before about four in the afternoon you have it to yourself because Thai people think the sun will make their skin way to dark so that they look like Cambodians or something. She’d never been swimming before, never even in the water, not in a lake, not in the river, nothing. She was scared sh*tless at the prospect, although she mysteriously owned several bathing suits.
I had to trick her. I had tried to get her into the pool several times before but she always found excuses. This day, a Saturday, I asked her, “what must you do today?” The answer was: no housework; no laundry; nowhere to go; no shopping; no nothing. So I said, “let’s go swimming!” In the face of my enthusiasm, plus the fact that I had head her excuses off at the pass, she could only say, timidly, “OK.”
At the pool she took forever to get into a swimsuit, and then fussed around with everything, draping this and that over the chairs and milling around. Her suit had a very modest neck, and I couldn't tell you what the bottom looked like because she wore short pants over the suit.
Finally in the pool, she was completely delighted. “Look at my feet!” she said, marveling at the distortion. Once in the pool, it was hard to get her out.
We had lunch, very nice, but they never expect too much business at this hotel so many menu items are “already done” pretty early. So, no Fried Morning-glory Salad, and no Spicy Duck Curry. The ordering got a little confused; I wanted to order two things but we ended up with four if you count a accidental side order of two fried eggs. A very nice Chicken Curry; Pineapple Fried Rice; and Chicken Fried Rice, plus the eggs. It was too much food but I almost never consider that a problem. It all seemed expensive at the time but it only came to seven dollars or so, so what the hell. It was all delicious. I tipped the server forty Baht and he went away dancing at the generosity of Farang.
But here’s the best part, the part that money can’t buy: I walked the short way to the liquor store next to the hotel to buy some cigarettes and I passed a long row of sam-laws in the parking lot. Those are the local cyclos, rickshaws, you know, the typical Asian bicycle taxis. They are still an integral part of the transportation network in my city. I remembered a couple of the guys from rides home from the bus station; they remembered me too. I drove a taxi for two years in New York and I can tell you, you remember a good tipper forever, like it was yesterday.
So I asked them in Thai if the hotel was receiving Farang today, and where they were from. It was a batch of Frenchmen, and I asked them if Frenchmen gave them any extra money, like a tip. Oh, no, was the response.
On the way back they all wanted to see my purchases, which were cigarettes, vodka, and a can of beer, so they were delighted to find that I was a kindred spirit. I suggested that they tell the Frenchmen, you know, Germans always give us an extra fifty Baht. Oh, no, was the response.
I think it’s all part of the tour package, price included and the company pays the sam-law drivers. And the cheap f*ck tourists don’t know any better than to give a poor working man fifty Baht, like a dollar, to say thanks for peddling my fat ass around you beautiful city. Then they go to the Pizza Company for overpriced bad pizza, that they’ve got money for.
So then one of the guys cranked up the old pedals and pulled out of line and said, get in! I told him, like he’d forgotten or something, I’m going to the pool, like thirty yards away, but he insisted. “I’ll take you!” All of this is in Thai, my snake-snake-fish-fish Thai. I climbed in and he took me around the back of the hotel, I gave him ten Baht and we had a good laugh.
It’s no wonder that I love this country. Here, I’m rich, tall and sexually desirable, even if it’s for dubious reasons, which who cares, basically. I’m a little bit mysterious, because no one can have a serious conversation with me, and I’m actually kind of useful, since competitiveness in the world market demands proficiency in English. Plus, although I have only learned enough Thai to barely get by in a simple conversation, everybody thinks it’s great, and I can validate lots of so-called low status individuals just by paying attention to them and being sympathetic to their rather desperate lives.
Did I mention that the food is great and the women are beautiful?