Monday, April 26, 2010

A Fair Minded Man Who Follows The Rules

I was out at the airport today buying some tickets. I would buy them on the internet but you need a credit-card, and for a Farang to get a credit-card in Thailand the applicant must show 80,000 Baht per month income, and I only make half of that, which is two times a pretty good salary over here. (Thai applicants only need to show 15,000 Baht.) I would buy them at travel agencies, but they charge about 100% commission, no shit, it's a racket, I got tired of that pretty quick, as soon as I found out, in fact. Luckily, the airport is close, two cab rides totaling twelve bucks, and airports are great places to have lunch.

I got on line behind another old Farang, and I asked him cheerfully, “do I need to get a number or something?” It was clearly a line, and he didn't think so. We were having a nice chat, but ten minutes later we discovered that yes, we did need to take numbers. I found the machine and took two numbers, giving John, his name was John, as in retired Major John W., the lower number. “Oh, you take it,” he said, “it was me gave you the wrong advice.” “No,” I replied with a disarming smile, “you were here before me, and if I am anything, I am fair.”

Maybe that Catholic education was worth something, I had twelve years all together. One thing about me, and it's true, if it is at all possible I will follow clearly set out rules, and I will try to play fairly with my fellow man. The Catholics were responsible, all right, but it was not the bell-like clarity of their moral construct, it was not the resonance of their theology. It was their purposeful, vengeful imposition of guilt and punishment. I learned to fear repercussions, so while I continued to run my life in a manner that suited me, carefully breaking rules when it suited me, I chose to follow rules judiciously if they did not interfere with my core happiness.

Which will get you only so far in this world, I can tell you. I made a great success of Navy boot-camp, ten weeks of non-stop singing and dancing, nothing but rules and boat-loads of chickenshit. I was a maestro, no problems throughout, unless you count the time I had to do major push-back on some guys from Philadelphia, the mis-named “City of Brotherly Love,” who got that idea, I'd love to know. Out in “the Fleet,” which for me was a base in Las Vegas, Nevada, go figure, it only took the Navy a month or two to realize that I had no military bearing, and they'd do better to look elsewhere for someone to trust with their expensive equipment. We parted friends.

I still follow rules that I learned long ago, because of my continuing fear of repercussions, and my decision long ago to follow rules if it were not otherwise contraindicated. When I cross over a wire, or cable, or water-hose on the ground, I place my right foot next to the object and cross my left foot from left to right over it, so that any sudden tension in the line that would cause it to spring upward would catch me below my crossed knees and not full in the genitals. The Navy thought that was very important; either way you get thrown in the air and come down hard, but the right way you can still have children. I also still remember how to swim in water that is coated with burning oil; if the opportunity ever presents itself, I will follow those rules while others suffer.

These days I find little reason to break rules, even small rules, and I break no laws at all, I'm much too afraid of prison for that. But still, every time I come up against a situation that was once covered by a rule from the Catholics, the Navy, any other authority figure, I recall the rule and it affects my actions. Wear a new shirt before washing it? “New gear is dirty gear.” Wash a pair of jeans? "Alles mussen zugeschlossen sein." (It's a long story.) I suppose that it has all gotten me a reputation as a generally cheerful, cooperative man, a very polite man, for all the good it will do me.


Anonymous said...

Let's hear it for all of us good little boys, who did what were told. They told us all we had to do was play by the rules and work hard and love God with all our heart and soul and all would be right, success and love and happiness would be ours.
So much bullshit that we swallowed it became a very part of our psyches, right Fred?

For all the good it did us...


fred c said...

That's about the size of it, E. Even for cynical little underachievers like us.