Some Observations and Stories on Middle Class Thai Men
It was a pleasant late afternoon that day I jumped in the truck with Buddy. The sun was setting and the sky was a brilliant mixture of reds, and oranges, and gold. It was warm, hot like I like it, and I was happy to once again be in Thailand when the weather in Boston was taking a turn toward the coming winter cold and snow. God was I happy. I'd be missing half the damned winter while away in the Land of Smiles. Snow might look nice and pretty on a postcard, but it sucks to live in it and try to keep warm. I am in no way a cold weather enthusiast. Seeing a ‘Think Snow’ bumper sticker on a car passing me on the highway is a sure way to induce a fit of road rage within me. Only an idiot or an avid skier prays for frigging snow in my mind, and to me they are one and the same. (As a side note my brother-in-law just had a horrible skiing accident Feb. 2006 where he broke his shoulder in a zillion pieces on a patch of ice.) I sat in the truck with Buddy and off we went. I waved goodbye to my wife and her sister and took a swig off my beer Chang. Off into the strange world of Isaan with a guy who I barely know who speaks very little English, and I very little Thai. I must be mad, or mao (drunk).
I noticed right off that Buddy was a fairly typical Asian driver, meaning, he drove like shit. He seemed to wait to the last second to apply the brakes, and didn't seem to pay much attention to the road as we drove along and tried to communicate. I've noticed the Thai guys truly love their 4x4 pick-up trucks and SUV's. It seems the whole neighborhood has one or the other in every house's driveway, and all fairly new too. The only ones that don't have one look to be the single Thai ladies. They all seem to have a newer Toyota, or Nissan Sunny, or Mitsubishi, or some other Japanese four door sedan. Once in a while you'll come across a BMW or Mercedes, but the Japanese have the market pretty well sewn up, and they definitely rule the motocyke market here. They must make a fortune on the cheap (about 40,000 baht, new-$1,000 USD) Honda, Suzuki, and Yamaha 125cc motocykes. They're like locusts. They cover the streets of the country in their millions, and are a pain in the ass because of their multitudes, and the way everyone drives around as though they haven't a care in the world, and as though they have some inside information from Buddha that when they are reincarnated they will be reborn as a rich movie star, or Prime Minister Taksin's next child. Death and mutilation seems the furthest thing from their minds, when, from what I see in the newspapers in vivid living color, or make that vivid dying gory Technicolor, road safety and dying from motocyke accident should be lurking very foremost on their minds as soon as they put the key in the ignition and fire that mini rice-rocket up. I've lost count of the Thais, usually teens, I've seen splattered across the sois (streets) of Surin on a Friday or Saturday night. Driving in Thailand can be a hair-raising experience, one I've grown accustomed to, but it still can get my heart going pitter patter on a fairly regular basis on any given day of driving.
As we left our neighborhood I noticed the traffic on the main sois (streets) was very heavy, nearly standstill for the most part. At one point while we were stuck at a stop sign at a side soi leading into the main street Buddy excused himself, hopped out his door, leaving the truck running, and ran to a bush by the corner sidewalk and took a piss. There were people everywhere. I've noticed that Thai men aren't very shy about doing this (this urinating outdoors is called in Thai ‘yeng kah dthai’ - or, ‘shooting rabbits’). Where our shop is we have a nice clean toilet for customers to use, conveniently located. The Thai gents eating and drinking in our shop still will most of the time walk outside and piss in the lot next door. I've asked the wife and Sis why the hell they do this, and they just say it's because men are crazy and stupid, and lazy. I try to point out that the hong nam (bathroom) is actually closer than where these dudes are pissing outside in the weeds, so it can't be just plain ass laziness. Go figure. I notice the more beer they drink the less likely they'll use the toilet inside. Strange behavior for city dwellers at least, but it is quite a common sight, even in the city. Buddy jumped back in the truck when he was done urinating in public and eased the 4x4 into the heavy traffic.
At one point I was sitting in the truck as we came up to a traffic stop being regulated by a couple of traffic cops. The cop was waving Buddy to turn right. Buddy wanted to go straight. Buddy was basically ignoring the cop's hand signals, ticking him off and getting his attention. The cop stomped over to our truck and Buddy rolled down his window and started whining at the copper, and arguing with him somewhat it seemed to me, but always smiling, as all Thais do for the most part even when they are pissed off a bit. Meanwhile I'm sitting there with an open beer Chang in between my legs, strictly a no-no in the states, and a fine and even an arrest in the states for doing so. Not here it seems, but, although the cop took no notice of the beers we had he also set Buddy straight and told him to follow his instructions and get a move on. Buddy left the cop behind, going in the direction the cop directed, but was obviously a bit miffed. It seemed, as he explained it, that this way was in the opposite direction he wanted to go. The traffic was backed up everywhere.
After sitting in traffic, and moving along like cooling lava flowing toward the ocean on a volcano slope, Buddy spotted an opening in the traffic and turned off the soi onto another road, a ‘highway’, and said something about ‘too much traffic’, and something about ‘not go see fliend, go see family’ in such-and-such city, a ways out of Surin, along this highway so he explained to me. "We go see my brother at shop. See how (house) Mama, Papa." was what he cheerfully stated. I protested a bit mildly, but without fluency, and not having control of the vehicle, I was basically along for the ride, and what a ride it turned out to be.
(To be continued)
(The Central Scrutinizer)
© Written in the year 2003. All rights reserved by the author.