Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Numbering Things In Thailand

One of the things that struck me about Thailand was that many things that are generally not numbered around the world were carefully numbered. It was like the Count from Sesame Street had been put in charge of interior decorating.

You'd go into a men's room at a mall and the urinals were numbered, like one to thirteen or something, however many there were. The stalls were in their own number series. Also the sinks. It seemed a bit compulsive, even before it got much stranger.

In some malls, each bathroom starts all over again with urinals numbered starting at one. Same for the stalls and sinks. But in other malls, the urinals are numbered consecutively throughout the entire mall. So the men's room designated to start the count has urinals numbered from one to thirteen. The next men's room has urinals numbered from fourteen to twenty-six. And so forth. If it's a big mall, the number of urinals could get up to 120, easy, with the stalls and sinks not far behind. I assume it's the same in the ladies' rooms.

Elevators are generally numbered, as are doorways. At the big airport, the taxis are on the first floor. I looked around once and saw the number two on a large doorway. Thinking that I was on the second floor, I went down one and was taken aback by the absence of taxis. The door labeled two was actually doorway number two on the third floor. I realized this when I noticed that the doorway directly under the first doorway number two was also labeled doorway number two.

The floors are numbered, of course, but there is no consensus concerning the designation of the floor that you walk into at street level. It may be the first floor, but the floor below ground level may be the first floor. The floor that you walk into may also be the ground floor, Floor G, in the European style. The big mall nearest to me is numbered G to four on the escalators, and one to five on the elevators. So floor number one on the escalators is floor number two on the elevators.

It can all be a bit confusing. On the Plexiglas below the escalator handrails, there is usually a large number. In some malls, or hospitals, or whatever, it is the number of the floor that you are standing on before you get on the escalator. In other buildings, it may be the floor that you will arrive at after you have ridden the escalator.

The floors of buildings will, of course, continue to be numbered. One can only hope that the numbering system will become standardized. I have noticed, however, that the numbering of the urinals, etc., is no longer to be found everywhere. Many malls, especially newer, more up-scale malls, are doing away with the practice. I was in a Big C* men's room today where only the urinals number one, two, four, and seven, had numbers on them. Only sink number one bore a number, and none of the stalls were numbered at all. It may have been of use to housekeeping to have these numbers, as in, “stall number three, in men's room number two, on the fourth floor, needs a plunging, stat.” It should be possible, though, to communicate such information without pasting numbers everywhere.

I find myself missing the numbers. It was very Thai, and it always reminded me that I am lucky to be living in a place that is at once so safe and mellow, but also very alien and interesting. I've been here for fifteen years now, and that, it turns out, is long enough to be witnessing some major changes. I just hope that it all works out to the advantage of average Thai citizens. If they're happy, I'm happy.

*The Big C is a Thai owned chain of large department stores featuring everything from dry goods to durable goods to shoes to tools to outdoor furniture, with a food market attached. The emphasis is on low prices without sacrificing too much in quality. It's a pretty good outfit. 

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