Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes 22
Preamble: I have often wondered if people get quieter as they age because they have been disappointed by the human race so many times. And for most of us, not too many people show up at our death bed. All those years, all that emotion, all the hopes and dreams, the reaching out; and no one shows! It makes reaching out to others look like a pretty poor investment. You are not likely to get much back. Maybe that is why it is so rare to find people who can be kind to strangers. It represents risk-taking without obvious payback. Most people talk a good game, but most people are no-shows when it comes to giving someone else the benefit of the doubt and extending a human touch. Maybe that is why the whole subject of gift giving is such a minefield of emotions. You should give a gift from the heart to make someone else happy; without regard to your own happiness. That is why it is called 'gift-giving' and not 'gift-receiving'. But that is awfully adult behavior. Most of us are slaves to the self-serving idea of social reciprocity. We'd at least like a smile and a thank-you. We feel in our nitwit selfish brains that we deserve it. Still, there are times that test the mental stability of even the most altruistic giver.
Story: My guide translator Nok from the home office in BKK and I have been on the road for a day and a half. We are going to visit one of my foster daughters up near the Laotian border. I have two foster daughters: one through the Christian Children's Fund and one through Childreach International. Every couple of years I try to go to their villages for a visit. I have made two visits, this will be my third. And I have another visit scheduled six months from now. When you notify the home office in BKK that you are coming to Thailand and that you would like to meet one of your foster children, they send you a list of suggested gifts that you could purchase and give to your child. But the standard gift ideas are boring. I mean how many ball point pens does an illiterate village need? I wanted to do something that would be a little different, a little unusual and fun; so I bought in the States and brought to the village two toilet seats!!
My child's village is on the trail of an elephant trekking tour so the villagers have learned to build treetop platforms for the wives. As you are going by the wife in the tree you can purchase something from your elephant basket. A little later on the elephants stop and you transfer to an ox-cart ride. When you stop for the transfer you can wander around the village and of course they have set up more opportunities for you to buy things from attractive, charming women in native clothing.
To make the farangs feel a little more comfortable the village has built a western style two hole latrine. So the natives are not squatting anymore, they are now sitting. Baby steps. But there are no toilet seats. You are just sitting on wood over a hole. Who wants to get a splinter in their rear while contemplating the universe!? So I decide to buy two toilet seats and toilet seat covers for the latrine holes. Only I don't buy standard toilet seats. I buy the novelty toilet seats and covers that are made of the squishy transparent plastic gel and have US coins embedded inside in the gel. So you are sitting on money and the squishy seats are incredibly comfortable and the gift item is unique and thoughtful. No other village is going to have this level of outrageous luxury in their shit house.
When Nok and I arrive at the village and pull the toilet seats out of our backpacks we get zero reaction. One of the village elders puts a seat over his head. They don't get it. So I take them by the hand to the outhouse and put the contraptions
over the two holes. Screaming. Just Screaming. It was one of the funniest fucking days of my life. My translator Nok was so busy translating and laughing so hard, I thought she was going to pop a vein. I am a hit. An old guy shows up with a rock
and some rusty nails and drives the nails right thru the seats. So much for subtlety. The whole village is in and around the latrine and people are now drinking. Then more drinking. Then you guessed it; everyone starts dropping their pants to
try out the new squishy American money seats. Toothless old ladies look happier than they have looked in years. I am taking pictures of them on the shitter and putting the photos on the walls. What a party that was!
Denouement: Now we flash forward three years. My little foster daughter is now three years older and starting to write me real letters rather than the fake letters that the agency sends. I visit the village again. After an hour or so, I have to go to the bathroom. I go in the latrine and I am stunned. The two toilet seats and toilet seat covers are shredded, ripped, gouged, torn, and destroyed. There is no form or function or comfort or fun left. Then I see what has happened. All the embedded money is gone. They have destroyed my gift to them with knives and screwdrivers and rocks and sharp sticks–hacking and slicing and gouging for some US change. The change had no value to them where they live and now they have no toilet seats. And evidently, no village elder had the wit to tell them to stop. And my relationship with one of their daughters had no social currency in their decision making. So now they have nothing, and if I was a small-minded person; they would have also poisoned the well of our relationship. So giving gifts is hard. Remember, you are giving–you can not expect to receive anything back. Still. . . STUPID.
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Recently, there has been some consternation and some talk about the volunteer police on Walking Street in Pattaya. These are individuals charged by the government with making social decisions and then taking action. Government apologists will notate that this was really only intended as an APEC summit specific happening. However, social historians will point out that once the Pandora's box of social fascism is opened, it is hard to get the door closed again. The programs are just too darned popular. The general consensus is that this Walking Street volunteer police situation is not a good thing. The feeling is that highlighting or pinpointing undesirable farangs based solely on their appearance (a little balding, a little overweight, a little over 30) seems a bit unfair.
I have another take on the subject. Rather than eliminating these volunteer police, these valuable social filters; I believe that many more volunteer police should be on the streets. Something on the order of 500,000 volunteer police. And they should be distributed all over Thailand. One of the wonderful things about a site like Stick's is the free exchange of ideas and information between thoughtful adults. One of the things that I have learned is that due to my age and my probable appearance; that I do not have the same rights to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness as other farangs. In fact, I have learned, and I am grateful for the information; that due to my age and my imagined appearance that I am a social undesirable. Apparently, only certain people are invited to this party. Well, there is nothing more rewarding than putting knowledge to action. So I propose that this new, more numerous volunteer police force be targeted towards farang like me. Round us up. And the beauty of this is that not much training would be required of the volunteer police. Thai children as young as ten could be deputised and given powers of arrest and incarceration. Since no judgments are being made about what is in a person's heart or mind; all the kids have to do is point and yell: OLD FARANG. The future looks bright for this program. Friday afternoon stonings, and beheadings down by the boardwalk promise a bright future. I witnessed these social parties in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in the 70's and believe me when I tell you; they were very popular.
Last time I checked; if my plane manages to fly over the Bering Strait without crashing, and I manage to get through Thai customs–then I've got a ticket to ride. And my ticket is just as good as anyone else's ticket. But apparently, I've been wrong. Apparently, if you have successfully crossed streets for fifty years; you are not a village elder in farang society, you are a village idiot. And all the flat-stomach, wasp-waist, 4% body-fat guys have the right to chase you down like a leper in an African village and beat the life out of you with sticks and stones. Well, call me a social weeny; but I find this a little unappealing. Apparently, the demeaning, divisive and disrespectful things that women do to men are not enough; now we are going to sponsor knife fights amongst ourselves about who the really cool guys are. Frankly, all the emphasis and worry about a man's personal appearance sounds a little gay to me. But what could I possibly know–I am now the village idiot. That sound you hear is me retching in disgust. Let me tell you something. If you have enough time to think about chasing me or judging me based on my personal appearance; that is because you do not have your arm around a woman. Go into ANY bar and ninety-five percent of the men do NOT have their arms around a woman. But boy can they talk. Happy, satisfied men living the natural lives that men should be living do not cause trouble. They are listening to what the woman in their life is saying and thinking of ways to make her happy. They are thinking of her and they are thinking of the two of them. If you are thinking of me–you are a loser. You just labeled yourself. But I am nothing if not a go-along, get-along guy. So I'll sign up for this new volunteer police social filter program that smacks of man-to-man fascism. Come and get me. Round us up.
Sounds like there are a few issues in Danaland…