Stupid Farang Behaviour
I've been reading Stickman's site for a few years, and I notice that he often talks about “losing face”, and how it can be dangerous to back a Thai into a corner. I can relate to what he is telling us, since I have pushed my luck a bit too far on at least two occasions. I blame my bad behaviour on the fact that I am extremely impatient and have a short temper.
The first time was when my girlfriend and I were visiting Ko Samet. It was time to head back to the mainland, so we packed our things and went out to catch the truck to take us back to the pier. We waited for a minute, and then a truck pulled up and we piled in. The driver spoke to my girlfriend for a minute, and then she explained that it would cost 150 Baht to get to the pier. Well, that seemed pretty outrageous, since we had only paid 20 Baht per head to get away from the pier. I figured we would pay the same to go back. The driver further explained that it only cost 20 Baht before because the truck was full. Since there were only two passengers, he would have to charge us more.
Well, it all makes sense now, but at the time I argued that he would be able to pick up passengers on the way and fill the truck up with other paying passengers. He was not interested in my theory, and said that if I didn’t want to pay 150 Baht, we could wait until other people showed up to return to the pier. At this point, I really lost my cool. I told him he was a thief / liar / cheat / pirate, and then got out of the truck with my girlfriend and told him that I would rather walk than give in to his extortion.
He said “up to you”, and sat down at a nearby restaurant and ordered a coffee. My girlfriend was really pissed at me at this point, since she would rather have paid the 150 Baht and been done with it. Just seeing the driver sitting there all smug, sipping his coffee, made me pretty hot. I approached him, and asked him to take me to the pier for 100 Baht, but he said no. I called him a thief / liar / cheat / pirate again, and by now, he was starting to look annoyed. He said something to the waitress, and she disappeared for a minute. The driver told me to leave, because he wasn’t going to take me to the pier anyway. The waitress came back, and behind her were three of her young and healthy “brothers”. One of them had a club that you would use to kill fish after you caught them.
In a brief moment of clarity, I realized that this man would never give me what I want, and that if I persisted, I would probably get the crap beat out of me. I left the restaurant, and headed up the road. My girlfriend had walked about 100 meters done, and she was really pissed at me now. She told me I had embarrassed her and that the man wanted to “box” me. She flagged down another truck, and he took us to the pier for 100 Baht.
The second time I was stupid, was in Bangkok. I like to play pool at the upstairs pool hall on Th. Suriwong between the two Patpongs. I knew that taking a taxi to my hotel would cost 50-55 Baht, since I had taken this trip many times before. Of course, when you are on Patpong at night, the rules change a bit. The first thing you will find is that all the taxi meters are “broken”. I think this is a result of the plethora of tourists in this area. So, one night, I’m heading back to the hotel after playing some pool. We walk out to Th. Silom, and get in one of the taxis that are just sitting there.
The driver gets up from the bench where he has been sitting with some other taxi drivers and a security guard. He gets in, and asks where we want to go, and then tells us it will cost 200 Baht. I do the usual motioning towards the meter, and he gives me the usual “broken” explanation. I argue a little, saying he can’t drive without a working meter, and then I try to get the price down. I was completely willing to pay 100 Baht, which I might have done anyway if there was enough traffic, and if I felt like giving him a bit of a tip.
But he is not interested, so he gets out of the car, and leaves us alone in it, and he sits back down with his colleagues, and grins at us in the car. I lose my cool (again). This time, my anger is restrained a little. I calmly get out of the back seat, and I climb into the front seat. My girlfriend starts yelling at me to get out of the car. Of course, the driver has left the keys in the car, and I figure that if he doesn’t want to drive me, I’ll just drive myself. Well, I don’t really want to drive in Bangkok, so instead I intend to start the car, and lock the doors with the car still running and the keys inside.
For some reason, the car doesn’t start. In hindsight, this was probably a good thing.
The driver is rushing back to the car now, and the security guard is laughing so hard, I am sure he is going to soil himself. The driver opens the door, screaming at me, and he is pulling on my arm trying to get me out. But I weigh 200 pounds, so I’m not budging. Instead, I am rifling through his cassette tapes and dropping them onto the street. My girlfriend is pissed at me again. I take the keys out of the ignition and I wonder what would happen if I were to throw them across Th. Silom, but I decide that I might hit someone, so I reluctantly throw them in the back seat, and I get out of the car.
The driver is shouting “fuck him” at me now. Many other farangs are looking trying to figure out what is going on. My girlfriend looks very distressed. The security guard is holding the driver back. I hesitate, but then I realize that this scenario doesn’t have a happy ending for me. I grab my girlfriends hand, and we walk the 50 meters to the BTS, which takes us to within 50 meters of our hotel.
I expect a lot of criticism from Mr. Stickman for all this, and I deserve it. In both of these situations, I was deliberately antagonizing a Thai person, and the Thai person was determined to not lose face at any cost. I risked getting beaten up, and maybe even some legal trouble for my action. I put myself in a lot of danger for a matter of three or four dollars. All I can say is that I knew what I was doing was wrong, but there seemed to be lots of little things leading up to it that were bothering me, and these events just made me boil over.
So, although my “in-your-face” actions would be encouraged at home, it really didn’t work at all here. I've mellowed a bit since these events occurred, but I want remind everyone to learn from my mistakes, and “take it easy” in Thailand.
Yeah, you made some silly mistakes, but then you learnt from them. We all mistakes and if we learn from them, then perhaps they are not such a bad thing.