Friday, April 25, 2008

Mr. Fred Goes All Jesse James on a Bangkok Taxi Driver

I went to a funeral tonight, it was uneventful, a quiet affair, the Hot and Sour Fish Stomach Soup was very good. It was far from home; it’s Friday; it’s raining; I left about 9:00 p.m. Friends said, come on! we’ll give you a ride to the Victory Monument, you can get a cab there. I was dubious, but sure, I’ll go along, I smiled.

The Victory Monument turns out to be the single hardest place in Bangkok to get a cab, and with the rain it was murder. So I walked way up in the direction that cabs were coming from, almost all with the “sorry! working!” lights on, and stood in the rain.

One guy, then two, gave me the old, “I don’t go to Brooklyn” routine. The second guy I offered Baht 100 over the meter ($2.50), he sat there thinking, like he was working a quadratic equation in his head, I said, “too long.” and got out. I was pretty heated up by now.

The third guy that stopped, I just climbed in a shut the door. I sat down like I had roots. Bear in mind, my Thai is not that good, I can’t say what I want to say, I have to figure out something that I can say that fits. Here’s how it went:

“I’m going to Bangkapi.”

“I’m sorry, I can’t go to Bangkapi.”

“Well, I think we’re going to Bangkapi.”

“Please, I can’t go to Bangkapi.”

“I’ll give you B50 over the meter, let’s go.”

“You don’t understand, I can’t go to Bangkapi.”

Now I’m angry, I’m thinking, does he want me to check into a hotel? Or sleep in a kiosk? I’m pretty temperamental. By now I don’t care if I get stomped or go to jail. I know it’s crazy.

“We’re going to Bangkapi, or you can call the police.”

“I don’t have a phone.” The only such person in Thailand, if it was true.

“Then I guess you can’t call the police. Let’s go.”

“I can’t.”

“Stop playing, drive the car, we’re going to Bangkapi.”

“No, please.”

“If you don’t want to drive taxis, don’t drive taxis.” I stretched out on the seat and closed my eyes. “I’m going to sleep.”


I ignored him, so he started off. He bitched at me for about ten minutes and waved two hundred Baht bills in my face, I don’t know what he was talking about, I was looking out the window. It was just starting to dawn on me that he’s a local and he undoubtedly knows somewhere that he can pull over and tell his friends, “get rid of this guy for me.” Plus, I’m deciding that if Police get involved, be sure to just smile and tell them in English, “I’m sorry, I can’t speak Thai. I am a teacher at Ramkamhaeng University.” He was breathing hard the whole way and clearing his throat, I’m sure he wanted to kill me.

Usually the ride would take a half an hour and cost between 85 and 100 Baht; sure enough tonight it took forty minutes and the meter was 95 Baht. I didn’t want to push my luck so I had him drop me at a convenient (for him) corner a few blocks away from my place. Right before we got there he stopped the car in the middle of a completely quiet, empty block and got out of the car. Oh, Christ, I thought, he’s going to drag me out and kick me a few times. I prepared to give him all the money in my wallet and see if I could get out of the beating. He just took a leak and got back in.

I gave him B180 and said, excuse me, thanks for the ride. He was delighted with the result, double the fare, he smiled ear to ear, I’m sure he thought I’d hand him B95 and tell him to shove it, like a Thai man would.

This kind of courting disaster seems to happen about once a year to me in Thailand. Ask me sometime about the Godzilla movie, when I came real close to crumpling up a B100 bill, which has a picture of the King on it, which disrespecting it in any way can really get you fucked up in this country, and I had contraband in my pocket besides.

No comments: