Stickman Readers' Submissions January 19th, 2004

Occidental Tourist

The Occidental Tourist

A while back I had been staying in the village for a few weeks. I love being in the village! Well, mostly anyway. This time up I was given the duty of driving my daughter to the new school my now wife and I had decided to send her to in Surin. Seems look sow (daughter) wanted Papa to take her and pick her up every day, if he could, no problem if he can't/won't ya know, but she would love it so much if he did, mai pen lie (no problem), up to you. Hmmmm……I know when I'm being guilted out. Thai ladies are good at this, better than an old Jewish mother actually. So I agreed. Figured, ahhh, what the hell. I did get to see some early morning Isaan (Isaan is the rural area in Northeastern Thailand) sunrises, some early morning local color, and stuff I usually never see, as I am not an early morning kinda guy usually. I chalked it up to an adventure. Look sow was happy when I agreed, my lady was happy, so obstensibily I would therefore be happy too. Should work right? Jesus! Five a.m. comes awful early in the day don't it?!

He Clinic Bangkok

My daughter is very scared of the mini-van driver who usually takes the kids, for a fee of course, to school in the morning and back in the afternoons. She says he drives very bad. Like I've said before, "Somchai wants to die!" And doesn't really care much who he takes with him to the grave along the way. So I started doing the drive every morning, and later in the day my wife and I would go back to Surin to pick her up from school. These trips to Surin turned into a, please excuse the phrase, but it's apt, clusterfuck. Seems the word was out. Cent is going to Surin every morning to bring his look sow (daughter) to school. Hooray!! A free taxi to Surin!!! Shit.

Plus it seems my lady always needed something in one shop or another, since "we are here in Surin anyway darling." Double shit.

So these trips could turn into all day affairs. Tiresome to say the least, and the cause of the poor beleaguered farang (foreigner) losing his cool a couple of times. "Goddamnit woman!! Why the hell didn't you think of getting that yesterday while we were here?!! Fer chrissake, make a shopping list up will ya, and we can get everything in one freakin' day!!" So everyday, damned near it seemed, there would be a couple or so of village "hitch-hikers" along for the free lift into town, a stop or two here or there for something not available back in the village, and I'd get to have my falang style breakfast at the Thong Tarin Hotel as a consolation prize for cheap baht before heading back to the village, or where ever else had been planned for the day.

CBD bangkok

By the way, just so you know, the trip from the village to Surin takes about 50 minutes… way. So these trips to school end up taking at least four hours out of the day back and forth. Just goes to show what a sap….errrr…..nice guy I am.

Well, one morning there we were. No hitch-hikers for once, running a bit late for leaving, as Papa and Mama (me and Wife) had had a late night up with friends discussing the upcoming Thai elections. Beer Chang fuelled lengthy late night discussions these turned out to be, and not condusive to early morning shitbox pick-up truck runs to Surin, as the pink tinted sunrise sky washes over the water buffalo filled rice paddies, and the unearthly early morning light of the nuclear furnace we call old Sol seems to try to burn its way into the few remaining brain cells in the hungover farang's itty bitty brain. I knew I shoulda thrown those drunken bums out at least three hours earlier last night.

It's off to Surin we go, without much talk and chit chat from the wife either. Seems she's feeling the effects of the late night too. Good. Misery loves company. She has what she so cutely calls an "overhang". I know the feeling darling, intimately. Join the crowd.

We tool along the soi (street) towards Surin, dodging buffalo flops, and soi dogs intent on making me slow down to avoid hitting them, I don't. Slow down that is. I'm in a foul mood to road obstructions and the need to shift gears that grind like hell in three of the four gears. Look out doggies! Death prowls the sois of the hinterlands! In the form of a hungover falang in a red shitbox Toyota. Lie in the road at your own peril! I'm no longer responsible for my driving actions. Just call me Somchai. Chickens scurry to safety in a flurry of feathers, and even the cattle and water buffalo seem to sense not to screw around with me this morning.

wonderland clinic

I dodge the potholes that the Einsteins of Surin's department of public works seem to think is mandatory on all the streets in and out of the city. When the hell are they going to finish the construction? It's been going on for over a friggin' year now, and I can't for the life of me see any goddamned progress being made. Unless progress is beng rated by the growing size of the potholes! In that case, they are doing a bang-up job of it. We make it to school amid a cloud of red dust and mysterious hand waved communications from some decidely retarded police that direct the traffic in a way not seen in most western countries and cities. Some sort of Isan Amslan, only for the blind instead of the deaf.

We see daughter off to class and head for the Thong Tarin Hotel for a much needed cup of their wonderful Joe, (coffee for you non-Yanks) and a leisurely breakfast. Wifey poo seems to still be feeling the effects of her Chang intake of the night before. She stops cold at the entrance to the restaurant, turns pale white at the smell of the food, and hurries off to the hong nam (bathroom) to……errr….freshen up. Myself, being a veteran of the Beer Chang Wars, stroll in with Sis, who has accompanied us today, and grab a cup of coffee and a large glass of cold milk, and order some scrambled eggs from the dude behind the grill. Afterwards I grab some wheat bread and throw it in the toaster while piling some ham and assorted pasteries on a plate and going back to the table to inhale my coffee and milk whilst having a nibble waiting for my eggs to be done to perfection by the lad. He knows how I like them by now, especially since I used to hover over him and tell him when they were done to my satisfaction. He took a while to learn how to make them not soggy and watery, but now is an expert on scrambled eggs. I figure he'll soon be gone to Bangkok, and another cook will need to be trained all over again by me. I enjoy the perfectly done eggs while I can.

My lady returns from the hong nam, still a bit pale and shaky, but she gamely peruses the Thai buffet offered and chooses a few things to her liking. I make a mental note to myself to have her sit near the window in the truck on the return trip, just in case! She puts up a brave front and tests the waters so to speak with a nibble here and a chew there. All the while watching me eat with gusto my rancid falang fare with a look of obvious hatred in her eyes at my unimpeded appetite. Probably wondering to herself in awe how many beers her love needs to drink to throw him off his feed. Quite a few darling, really. Although the thought of rice soup and spicy noodles for breakfast right about now could do it I'd think. Ahhhhhhhh, thank God for the Thong Tarin! Where the hell else could I find a decent civilized breakfast in this city?

We talk over our plans for the day. I had bought some plants for the village house a couple of days before, and wanted a few more I had seen, for the front of the house. Hence the reason for Sis coming along today. She knows how to get to the place. I'd never be able to find it again, and neither can my lady. After breakfast we pay up and head for the truck. Before getting in I cut a few well needed pressure releasing farts, so as not to gag my lady once in the cab and send her on another expedition to a hong nam, or splatter some poor slob standing on the sidewalk near the truck when I have to pull over quickly. See, I am a nice and thoughtful 90's type of guy! Always thinking of my darling, and her needs and wants. What lass wouldn't want me?!!

We dodge the potholes along another street and wind our way through the traffic, pedestrians, and tricycle taxis (samlors) and other such detriments to driving in Thailand. I'm an expert now, and don't even swear, that much, at these maniacs and suicidal idiots along the sois. I'm very Thai now in my demeanor and attitude. I've even eaten so much rice and noodles that my eyes have begun taking on a suspicious oriental cast to themselves. With my village "water buffalo driver" looking haircut, my mutating eyes, the right shade of a good tan, a pair of rubber flip flops, and one of those little checkered skirts the village guys wear I can at least pass for being Lao!

Finally we get to the place we wanted and I purchase my potted foliage for the house.

After getting the plants all secured in the back of the pick-up we all hopped in the cab and headed back through Surin and caught the so-called "hiway" to the village. An hour back, at least, and a few hours rest before heading once again to Surin for the after school pick up of look sow. Sheesh! I must be nuts doing this!!

Going toward our village you must pass through three other villages along the way. These villages are more like small towns. They have the ubiquitous old weather battered wooden houses lining the roads, and a fuel station and shops here and there, with the portable "stalls" set up everywhere for prepared food, and all sorts of veggies, meats, eggs, and other stuff. You can buy damned near anything along these village sois. There seems to be a shop for whatever a Thai could possibly want or need, or not. Getting the wife by these places without stopping can be tricky sometimes. I try the trick of engaging my lady's attention in conversation, a distracting gambit. I figure if she's busy talking to me she won't notice some damned thing or another that she just has to stop and order to eat. I call it the hungry shopper's gauntlet. There's always something tasty to catch a Thai lady's eye along these places, and it has been at least an hour or so since she/they ate last.

We made it through the area without stopping once. Even I ignored the Beer Chang/Beer Sing stalls with the beers sitting in barrels of ice, beckoning lovingly with their droplets of water trickling down the sides of the tub and the big Singha or Beer Chang umbrella advertising their tasty wares. Indeed, a harrowing trip this can be! Another minute and I would have had to pull over to grab a cold one for the remainder of the ride.

Heading out of that village we ran the isolated soi heading for the next village down the way. This village is rather sparse and poorly looking. Good. No temptations for any of us. I ended up behind one of those light blue lorry type trucks that seem to be everywhere in the damned country. If you've been there you'll know the ones I mean.

All of a sudden this dickhead came to a dead stop right in front of me, in the middle of the street, which isn't really meant for two way traffic, unless moto-cykes count. Shit! I hit the brakes wondering why the hell he stopped. The driver had his window down and started honking his horn. An old Thai lady came to the front porch area of a house on the street where he'd stopped, calling it a porch is being generous really, but I have no other way to describe it really. She and the driver started chatting back and forth. "What the fuck?" I grumbled and looked down at the stick shift to put the thing in reverse and go around this boob. As I glanced down a shrill shriek of fear burst from my lady and her sister, startling me, and I looked up to see what the hell was the matter. I look, and there is the truck backing up toward me, rather quickly I might add. I fumble with the shifter while leaning on the horn, but…..too late. The asshole smashes right into the front of the trusty old red shitbox!! Fuuuuuuck!! A greivous blow is dealt to the pick-up. The hood buckles up. I hear the tinkling of glass, never a good sign. Further injury is noticable as steam rises from under the hood, along with a screeching noise and the sudden stopping of the engine. Holy shit!! What the hell is with this moron?!!

I shut down the ignition key, and rest my head on the steering wheel and grit my teeth while chanting "Jai yen yen, Jai yen yen, over and over (translates to= be cool, chill out) and counting to 100 with my eyes closed. Meanwhile my ladies have turned in whirling dervishes of wronged Thai womanhood. They jumped from the truck and started yakking at the driver, who was just climbing down from his lorry to see what the hell had happened behind him. He gets cute, and asks my lady why we hit his truck. Big mistake, as she tears him a new asshole. Her sister took over and chewed his ass some more. I decided to remain in the truck while the locals argued this all through. What the hell can a falang add to it all anyway, besides baht (money), right? Or beating the guy to a pulp before the other Thais jump in and kick my white butt all over the village sois. I remain in the truck for a while until my passions cool, and observe the goings on through the windshield as the sun beats down and turns the truck into a very efficient sauna.

Ahhhhhh Christ! What the hell is this going to cost me? I'm the falang. I'm totally convinced no matter who was at fault that I would be the one forking over the dough. Bummer. From everything I'd read, and been told, if you get in an accident, and were a falang, you'd be paying the freight. Shit.

I finally stop crying and whining and decide to get out and assess the injuries to the old red beast. I climb out of the truck and walk over to my lass and her Sis where they are still continuing to harass the poor truck driver. He spots me and runs over smiling and saying "Sorry. Sorry." over and over again. Obviously looking to get me to call off my women. I give him a strained smile and a "My pen lie. (no problem)" and leave him to his fate, while I go over to the front of the truck to see what the damage is.

Damn! The chrome water buffalo bumper is squashed and pushed into the grill, the grill is broken, cheap plastic crap that these are now-a-days, a headlight is busted, the hood is bent in half at a weird angle. Shit. Dollar signs are already flitting in front of my eyes. I walk to the driver's door and reach inside to pop the hood release latch. Well, it works at least. I open the bent hood, with a screeching sound it reluctantly opens. I prop it open with the rod provided and look inside the engine compartment. Uh oh! The fiberglass fan is shattered into pieces, with just stubs left where the blades were. Looks like it tried to eat its way through the radiator. Damn. The radiator is all chewed up, and leaking coolant everywhere. Fuck. I can imagine how much this would cost to repair in the states. New radiators ain't cheap. Although I do know that here in Thailand this is cheaper. But how much cheaper when a falang is paying? My wallet already starts feeling a pain in my hip pocket.

I closed the hood, after bending the radiator back as far as I can from the torn up fan. I figure I might as well see if the damned thing will start, just in case I have to move it off the road. Beats pushing the bitch right? At least it did start right up. My lass comes over and asks what I'm doing and I explain it to her. I asked her why the hell the guy backed into us. She started ranting and raving in her broken English, and told me he admitted that he never even looked in the mirrors or behind himself before backing up. He didn't even know we were behind him. "Typical Somchai driver!" I think to myself. Oblivious to everything. Her sister was on her mobile phone I noticed and I asked who she was calling. "She phone police." my lady says. Oh, great. This should soon be much fun for the falang. She also tells me that her sister had already called our friends who owned the truck, and they were on their way. More fun it seems.

I go to the back of the truck and lean my arms on the truck bed edge and wait, broiling in the sun I work on my tan for a while and light a smoke. Two smokes later the friends show up in their other pick-up. After checking to see if my lass and her sister and myself are okay they start in to yakking at the truck driver. He doesn't seem happy. Out numbered he is. Fuck him, the idiot. Who the hell backs up a big ass truck that fast without checking behind?

Fifteen minutes later a police pick-up truck pulls up, and two Thai cops get out. The driver is the tallest goddamned Thai guy I've ever seen!

The tall cop comes over to my ladies and greets them. Wow! Seems he is a friend of my family's! My lady and her Sis are friends of his wife. Ahhhhh…..Buddha smiles on the falang! Hahaha! He lives just down the road from us with his wife and son. The police station is his home. This is a stucco type house where he and the other guy have their "office". The tall cop gets to live there, as he is the senior officer. I am introduced to him and he seems a decent sort. He gives my lady and me a smile and tells her to tell me not to worry.

The idiot truck river spills his guts to the cops during the accident investigation conducted on the soi. Seems he admits the accident was his fault, admits he never checked his mirrors or looked behind before backing up. Verdict–HE PAYS ALL DAMAGES!!!!!

BUT, you knew there would be a but didn't you? But now we have to go through the process of getting an estimate and figuring out exactly how much he would have to pay. A meeting between him, myself, and the owner of my truck is set up for financial reparations for 4p.m. at the tall guys police station house. The driver leaves after promising to be there at 4. The cops have all his vital information. They leave too. after chatting a while with my lady and me. Nice guys actually.

We get some water to fill some jugs and the owner of my truck gives me the keys to his truck and tells me to use it until the red shitbox is repaired in a few days. Cool! This is a much better truck than the red one! They put some water in the red truck's radiator and ask us to meet them at the cops house. They want to park the red truck in the driveway there so it will be available for the estimates from the mechanics and this is where the negotiations for reparations will be conducted. This way there will be no tampering with the truck, and it will be under the watchful eye of the cops, well, his wife anyway, until everything is settled to everyone's satisfaction.

We drive to the cop's house and wait for our friend to show up so we can then drive him and his wife back to their house until the late afternoon meet.

Once they arrive we leave the damaged truck there and take them home, promising to pick them up in a few hours to return for "the negotiations". Little did I know what this was to entail! SALT talk treaties don't get this frigging involved!!!

So my lady and Sis and I drop off our friends at their house, which is right around the corner from our place, and go home to wait for the meeting. My lady arranges for the scary mini-van driver to pick up our daughter from school in the afternoon and drop her off at home, where my lady's Mum will be to watch her until we return from the SALT Treaty talks.

We grab a bite to eat, chat some about the day's excitement, and I grab a beer or two and we take a nap. It had been a strenuous and nerve wracking day, to say the least. Plus we were still a bit whacked from the long night before. Some bed time adventure ensues, always has a calming effect on people under stress ya know, and we drift off to sleep for a bit. Post traumatic sex! Quite relaxing.

After a couple of hours Sis wakes us and feeds us, and we leave to pick up our friends for the negotiations. We go to their house, where the ladies seem in no rush to leave and start chatting a bit. I get the tour from hubbie of his Cock fighting stable. Some mean assed looking roosters he has here! From what I'm told he does pretty well betting on his roosters and I am invited to attend a cockfight some day with him. I accept the invitation and make a note to myself to bet on the big black cock with the irridescent head feathers. This is one mean looking bird! It's his favorite, and the stud of his cock stable. I hadn't known that when making my choice of a bird I'd like to bet on. Seems I have a good eye for fighting bird flesh, so I am told. Shit. I just figured if the bird looked like something I wouldn't want to fight after razors have been strapped to its feet then I guess it would put up a good fight with another bird. I mean, I outweigh the fuckin' feathered Mike Tyson by a good 200 pounds, and I wouldn't want to be anywhere near the damned thing if it was pissed off and armed with cutting utensils!!

Finally we all climb into the truck and head for the police station. Following us is another truck filled with our co-negotiators. His brother, his father, his mechanic, the mechanic's brother, his wife's brother, two of his friends, and a neighbor who just wanted to come along for the fun I guess. We arrive at the police station enmass and descend on the negotiating tables…an open air slab of concrete covered with a thatched roof held up by four poles and surrounded by the most uncomfortable benches I've ever had the pleasure to park my ass on. The truck driver had yet to show up, but the cops were there. It was about 4:20. I guess we were early.

We chatted with the cops, sent the ladies across the street for some colas and snacks, and partied and waited for the offending party to arrive. I figured he'd arrive on time, an hour late, at 5 p.m. (Thais are notorious for always being late.) Seemed logical to me, right? No one seemed upset now. A downright party atmosphere vibe filled the area. Smiles and joking abound. Laughter filled the air around the negotiating tables, the uncomfortable benches. Colas were drank, food was shared, the late afternoon air sweltered, the falang sweated a bit and drank his own cola while being hand fed by his lovely lady. No lawyers were seen or heard from. A mechanic from down the street was called over to inspect our damaged truck by the tall cop, to get an "independent" appraisal from a dis-interested party I presumed. Although he was a friend of the tall cop, our family's friend.

Finally the "guilty" party arrived, in the blue Isuzu lorry and two pick-up trucks. The truck driver, his father, his brother, his wife, and four of his friends. The laughter and joking ceased from my party. Sawasdee's (hellos) were exchanged, faces turned grim, I feared a gang war was ready to break out, flik knives would appear from the back pockets of blue jeans and Muay Thai (Thai kick boxing) stances would be enacted before my very eyes. These guys all looked serious. Must have been the thought of the extracted baht to come. Nothing gets a Thai guy more serious than the thought of having to spend his hard earned baht on other than Sanuk (fun). Especially because a stupid falang had the nerve to get behind a poor working Thai guy when he backs up his truck when not looking. Luckily the cops were there I thought at the time. Electricity crackled in the air. It was time to do the dirty deed.

All the women sat around on the rock hard benches and started chatting merrily away. All the guys surrounded the damaged red shitbox and poked and prodded the damaged areas muttering what I assume were intelligent, informed comments on the cheapest way to fix what the stupid falang did to the truck. Yeah, right. Negative sounds were made in clucking tones and grimaces made over the extensive damage. Excited chatterings were exchanged between the opposing parties. The American was blamed for having too goddamned many nukes….oops….wrong negotiation! But evil glances and dark looks were thrown from the opposing party's members and quite a few "falang"'s were overheard by the falang.

The hood was opened, to more exclamations and clucking. The mechanics circled the truck and uttered prices, all conflicting, and pooh-pooh-ed by the opposite parties. The tall cop called the "unbiased" mechanic over to give his verdict on the cost of repairs. When he uttered the total of what he thought the cost would be BOTH parties eyes opened wide and he was pummelled with derisive laughter, and not so politely told to "fuck off you thieving bastard", we'll do this with our mechanics, your help is no longer needed. Beat it. He smiled and left. I still think to this day that his over-inflated estimate was a ploy from my family's cop friend and my truck's owner to get the price up there, for a sensible negotiation downwards toward something more agreeable to both parties. We all know how good these Thais are at haggling! For them it's a game, it's exciting, it's fun, it's a test of each party's negotiating skills. And they truly love this stuff!

Now the hood was opened again to more chattering and haggling. Then it was closed and everyone chatted some more. One guy started picking some small fruits off a tree that the broken truck was parked under. Others saw this treat and climbed in the back of the truck for easier reaching, and proceeded to strip the lower branches bare, sharing with each other this delicacy. Friend and foe alike chomped down on the fruits, and opened the hood again with a screeching noise. More jabbering ensues. The sun turns a ruddy red and races towards the horizon. Mosquitoes start their early evening explorations of the available food supply in the yard.

The hood is opened and closed again. The falang, me, decides he doesn't care much for the fruit, too bitter. How the hell can they eat these damned things? They taste like shit! He washes his mouth of the fruity taste with the dregs of a warm cola and lights another cigarette. He offers his Winstons around as a gesture of friendship and camaraderie. No takers. They prefer the Thai menthols, Spring Rain, but smile at the farang in appreciation of his friendly gesture. The hood is opened and closed again. The farang wonders why the hell they keep opening and closing the hood. What? Do they expect the radiator to miraculously be repaired by Buddha while they wait around and chat?!!! Let's get the fucking show on the road here boys! The mosquitoes zero in on the falang's ankles, prime feeding. He resists scratching the bites until some of the Thai guys start to scratch themselves. No showing of falang weakness from this white boy!

A consensus is reached. Another mechanic needs to be consulted by the guilty party. They seem to think he can give an even cheaper price for the repairs needed, since Buddha doesn't seemed too inclined to do any repairs as we all stand around and get eaten by the mossies. This is conveyed to the tall cop, with promises to return in an hour. He approves and the guilty party all climb back in their vehicles and leave.

The puzzled farang, me, asks what the heck is going on, and it is all explained patiently to his dumb ass. "We wait, they come back." is the hue and cry. The tall cop comes over to me and puts his hand on my shoulder and smiling says something in Thai, the only part of which I understand is "Chang". What the hell's this about elephants?

So I ask my lass to interpret what the tall cop is saying. "What about elephant?" She laughs and tells me, "Police friend thinks good idea for you to buy some Beer Chang for us to drink while we wait!" Huh. Figures. But I don't mind really. Firstly because I could use a brewskie myself, and also the cop is on my side and it seemed reasonable, to this falang anyway, that I'm saving much baht in this deal and the price of a few, or more, Changs is a cheap alternative to what I could have been paying really. I give my lass a 500 baht note (about 12 bucks) and tell her to get some beers, and also some more colas and munchies with it. No problem. Sis leaves with the baht to run the errand, and also to go get our daughter from home, as it looks like we'll be here a while.

By the way, for those who want to know, the cost of repairs quoted by the impartial mechanic brought in by the cop was this, 15,000 baht, for everything, including painting the hood and fenders. Pretty goddamned cheap I thought!! That was for a new (or possibly used I think) grill, hood, bumper, fan, fan belt, and more than likely reconditioned radiator. 15,000 baht was hardly a reason to gasp in shock and deride the original mechanic I thought. But our friend said his mechanic could get this done for much cheaper, and the other guy thought HIS mechanic could do it even cheaper than what we could get it done for. Christ! I mean, at the time this was around 350 US$. So we waited.

Sis brought back food, and beers, and drinks, and our daughter, who ran up and gave Papa a hug and a sniff kiss on the cheek, and started playing with the tall cop's younger son. We all sat around drinking beers and chatting. The cop asked me through my lady's interpreting about how much cops in the USA get paid. My answer brought howls of laughter and disbelief. I chatted with him quite while as we waited, and he turned out to be a really nice guy. Even let me check out his weapon. Freaking huge long barrelled .357 Mag. Damned thing could stop an enraged bull elephant I'd think. He was just a village cop really, but still wore the brown uniform and drove what looked to be a legit Thai police pick-up truck cruiser. I have no idea what the set-up for police is over in Thailand really. I believe they are a national police force. But the gun, he told me, was his personal weapon of choice. He was big enough to handle it. Like I said, he's the tallest Thai I've ever come across. Well over six foot. Maybe 6' 3", maybe a half inch or more than that even. And he's thin, but not skinny by any means, with a set of paws that would do an old Irish boxer proud. He was a hot shit, and I ended up liking him a lot.

The guilty party had left to go see this other mechanic around 7 p.m. While we waited a party broke out really. We ordered more Chang beer after the original batch was emptied, and continued hanging out in the cop's yard. His son came to me for a light, he noticed I had a cigarette lighter. He had a shitload of sparklers and I lit them for him and my daughter, and they ran around the yard in the twilight evening swinging these around and chasing the family puppy around laughing and giggling. I would take the sparklers when they were almost burnt out and heave them as far into the air as I could, leaving a trail of sparks like fireworks in the darkening sky.

Finally, after an hour and a half or so the conversation among the Thai fellas starts to become very animated. The cop included seems to be getting a bit ticked off waiting for the truck driver and his posse to come back. Beer Chang bravado seems to be the cry of the evening. "Let's go get the fucks!" says one brother. "Let's go smash up their truck!! Make look same as mine!" says our friend. "Fuck that! Let's go arrest the bastards! AND kick their asses!!" says the tall cop. Seems that by making the fellas wait around without a phone call back is causing some loss of face here. The guys are getting antsy with waiting around, a bit drunk too I think.

I'm dragged into the bullshit session too. I'm asked if I'd like to go kick the truck driver's ass for making us wait around so long. The cop asks me if I'd like him to arrest the guy, and maybe practice some Muay Thai on him, give him a bit of a working over. "Yeah! Muddafugga wrecked our truck and now he's dissin' us!! Let's kick his ass!!" seems to be the consensus of the guys present. This ain't verbatim, but it was the jist of what I was getting from my lass' interpretations and the mood and body language I saw. I said, "Well, I don't think it would be cool for me, a falang, to join in this fun, as much as it would be fun I think I'd better sit this one out." Or something to that effect. I suggested a more Jai yen yen attitude, and some more beers, on me. The jai yen yen crack seemed to calm them down somewhat, coming from an uncivilized falang, and the offer of more free beers did the rest. We partied until 10 that night in the cop's yard. The truck driver's father called back the cop around 9 or so and explained why they hadn't come back by then to the cop. A new meeting, the SALT Treaty Talks number 2 was set up for the next morning at 10 a.m.

We all bid the cop and his wife and kid a goodnight around ten and repair back to my house to continue the party, which lasted until midnight. Dammit! I have to get up at 5 a.m. again and take look sow to school fer chrissakes! The talk turns once again to Chart Thai and Thai Rak Thai (Thai political parties) and the elections. Shit, I hate politics! I seem to have a bunch of dissidents for family and friends here. Momma comes in and yells at us to shaddup all ready on the Thai Rak Thai stuff. Seems she is a Chart Thai voter. We eat black sticky rice and fried chicken, and polish off another box of Beer Chang before everyone leaves at midnight.

5 a.m. once again comes too freakin' early.

So another early morning sunrise was greeted a little less than enthusiastically. We brought look sow to school, did the Thong Tarin breakfast, did some much needed, NOT, shopping, and headed for the tall cop's house around 9, arriving just before 10. The guilty party's gang was already there waiting. Wow! What, did the cop threaten to shoot them or something? I wonder.

Extra!! Extra!! Read all about it! Falang not pay!! Yep, you heard right. I didn't have to pay a dime! Or baht, or satang either! The guy took all the blame, even apologized to me! Another talk ensued as to exactly how much the guy would pay once our friends showed up a few minutes later. The truck driver had another mechanic with him. But less guys attended this meeting than the night before. I have a damn hangover that doesn't want to leave me alone. We all decide to go to our friend's house to finish haggling over the exact baht to be turned over. Everyone jumps into their prospective trucks and heads back into our village. Another pow-wow comes about.

The two opposing mechanics chat across the dirt road from our friend's house where the damaged red shitbox sits as they try to come to terms on the cost of repairs. The owners of our rental truck have a typical village wooden house on stilts. Under the house seems to be the favorite family area for hanging about and negotiating. String hammocks are strung between the support posts, an ugly round cement table with those homely uncomfortable cement benches has the center stage. Chickens, cats, and dogs run about the dirt floor underfoot. Fighting roosters under their split conical woven bamboo cages cackle and crow and scratch about in their little area of dirt under their cages, which seem to be everywhere. Whiskey bottles are broken out and passed around. I grab a glass of some hair of the dog, helps with the hangover, it does. A passing lady food vendor is called over and food is bought. She unloads her bamboo carrying stick off her shoulder, squats in the dirt, whips out a mortar and pestle and a few bags of ingredients, and starts to prepare some noodle dish over a small hibachi charcoal burner she carries about on the other end of her stick. Some colas are bought from somewhere else, and a few bottles of Beer Chang are passed around to chase down the whiskey. Smoky fires cast a pall of haze over the grounds and young children walk about half naked and barefoot in the dirt. Old toothless ladies walk slowly by in their wrap around skirts and baggy blouses, their bra-less tits sag under the thin cloth of their blouses, and they chew their cud of betel nut with the graceless lackadaisical chewing motion of a water buffalo with the few remaining teeth they have. They look so content and at peace. Must be the betel chew. A troop of ducks walk by, led by another old lady toward the river. A brother of our friend stops by and grabs a glass of whiskey and shoots the shit with his brother for a while. An older guy walks by chanting a sing song mantra urging us to buy some of the bananas hanging from the pole across his shoulder. The occasional motocyke roars past, stirring the dirt street into a noxious cloud of rusty dust which settles over everything, and everyone. Crickets chirp in the surrounding foliage, and a few fuck you lizards let out a chorus telling all to get bent. (It really does sound like they are saying this!) I wish I was back at the house getting some. Someone gets a portable electric fan on a stand and plugs it in to a socket on one of the poles, and sets it on high to oscillate the fetid air. The scents of the village are caught on the minute breezes that sometimes stir the leaves of the palm trees around the house. I think someone near me just farted. I look over at my lady as she talks animatedly with her sister and another lady. She's smiling brightly. I think it was her. I start to get a headache, so I take another healthy swig off my beer.

The truck driver's father acts the go-between in the end-game negotiations. He comes across the street to my friend, who is lounging in a hammock with one foot dragging in the dirt, feet bare, swinging himself slowly back and forth, whiskey in hand. He's lord of his castle, and he acts it. His wife takes the prepared noodles and hands him a small dish. The father of the truck driver talks some with him, obviously offering a settlement. Our friend laughs, and waves him away dismissively with a chuckle and a grunt of disapproval at the offer. The amount is deemed inappropriate. Father mutters something that sure sounded like a vile name or swear to me, and goes back to his son and their mechanic. More haggling proceeds.

An hour passes, then another. My ass is getting sore on the cement bench, I'm bored. I take a walk around the property. I check out the fighting cocks in their cages. I have another beer. I piss behind a big tree in the back yard where all the other guys are pissing. I stare down a lizard or two, just for something to do. I asked my lady earlier if I needed to be here during all this. "Yes." I was told. Shit. I have another beer and eat some food while waving away the zillion flies that keep trying to land in my dish. The truck driver's father returns once again and places some baht on a small bamboo table near our friend's hammock where he still swings and drinks beer. When asked how much is there the father replies, "10,000 baht." Our friend waves him away, "Not enough." The father then slowly unfolds another five hundred baht note that he takes from the depths of his pants pocket and ceremoniously places it on the pile of notes previously offered. Our friend smiles at him, and nods and says something in Thai. The father beams and they exchange pleasantries. The mechanics are called over and the job is offered to them for the amount of 10,500 baht. Our friend's mechanic gets the job, for some reason I can't seem to figure out really, but I shut my mouth and ask no questions. I figure the friend's mechanic will provide some sort of kick back for getting the job though. I'm ready for these SALT Treaty talks to be over.

The mechanic says it'll take him a few days to make the necessary repairs. I'm offered the use of the better truck for the duration of my stay, which I accept. Same price too. Sawasdee Krups (Goodbyes) are passed around, everyone seems happy, the truck driver and his smaller entourage flee while the fleeing is good. I find out later that the offer of 10,000 baht was refused an hour earlier because our friend wanted the extra five hundred baht to bet on his damned chickens fighting that night. Aaaaarrrrrggghhhhh!!!

I doubt there is any moral to this tale. Just thought I'd tell the story and what happened to one farang who got in an accident in Thailand. I hear so many supposed "experts" say that the farang always pays in an accident in Thailand with a Thai driver. Well, that's not true. I didn't pay. For whatever reason. My personal opinion is that yes, in the cities where there are lots of farang about, this is probably true, especially in Bangkok. In the rural areas though I think you may catch a break, even if a falang.

Just another Village Life Tale for you all. Hope you enjoyed it.

Stickman says:

Long submission – comments to follow.

nana plaza