Thai Thoughts And Anecdotes Part 47
DON'T PAY TOO MUCH
Don't pay bargirls too much money! This subject has been covered before but it bears repeating. Usually, the argument is an economic one. If you overpay, you inflate the market for the guy following you. I have on occasion in the past been so upset by reading on Stick's site how some visitors to the Kingdom have overpaid bargirls that I have fired off email tutorials on how the market is constructed and what are reasonable values and expectations. For some reason, the worst market abusers are invariably visiting businessmen who are frequenting the Patpong section of Bangkok. Sometimes I have gotten so worked up that I have had to follow the first email with a second email that apologized for my immoderate language. But there is another reason besides the economic reason to not pay bargirls too much money. Let me give you an example:
I picked up Wan at the All Girls Beautiful bar in South Pattaya and took her to the White Inn hotel on soi 14. She was physically so unappealing in the bar, so old, so lacklustre as a dancer, so borderline clinically depressed as a personality, and so unsuited to her work; that she was probably one step from getting fired and having to cruise the streets. When I offered to barfine her she looked shocked. I liked her. I don't know why. I found her attractive. I found her appealing. I don't know why. I just did. Outside the bar she perked up. She was away from a place she was clearly unsuited for and in the company of a handsome, well-dressed, kind, polite, middle-aged man. No mention was made of money. At the White Inn hotel she was mostly inept, clumsy, horrible. But I liked her. I was happy to be with her. The next morning I got up early (7 AM) to go out and get a paper. I like to duck out early in the morning, get a paper; and then come back. Sitting in bed with my honey next to me while I am reading the Bangkok Post or the Pattaya Mail makes me happy. As I was about to leave she said plaintively, "You pay me?" Well, of course I intended to pay her. I never cheat anybody. But she didn't know that. I was going to pay her later. But she didn't know that. I felt badly. And I was green and inexperienced to the Thai scene. So I took out my wallet and leaned over and laid three 500 baht notes on her stomach. 1500 baht! What a mistake!! I overpaid. Of course it was a mistake for market economic reasons. 1000 baht was the right amount. I had overpaid by 50%. This is like paying $75,000 for a $50,000 car. You wouldn't do it and you wouldn't encourage anyone else to do it and you wouldn't respect anyone who did it. But overpaying Wan on that morning in Pattaya in the White Inn was also a horrible mistake for another reason that I hadn't foreseen. I liked her! I have now been revisiting Wan twice a year for years. And of course, just like before; she'll be expecting 1500 baht per night. I did it to myself. No wonder she yells my name and runs towards me when she sees me! I'm probably the only fool in all of Thailand to pay this dim-witted, overweight, low-spark drifter 1500 baht per night and I did it to myself. No wonder the bar girls don't respect us. They know their own value.
In March I was returning to Thailand and we agreed to meet in front of Swensen's Ice Cream on Beach Road at 10:30 PM. I got there at 10:30 PM. She had been waiting since 9 PM! And I found out she had motorbiked all the way down from Chiang Mai to meet me. It took her 24 hours. For a moment I was flattered. Gee, I thought; she really likes me. We have something going here. Then I remembered the 1500 baht per night. So guys, one reason not to overpay bargirls is an economic one. You do not want to inflate the market for the poor sod who is following you. But the other very important reason to not overpay bargirls is that you might end up liking the girl and not have the gumption to get involved in the stress of re-negotiating her fee downward. A Thai male could handle this situation easily but farangs are less inclined to objectify the girls and more inclined to get emotionally involved. So our big hearts and our fantasy lives end up costing us money. Don't overpay!
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking, "Come on Dana–Just tell her you are paying her less. Or don't even tell her. Just give her a less but appropriate amount like 1000 baht in the morning. She'll take it. She knows the going rate. There won't be any problem. She may even respect you for it. She's a broken down prostitute. Act like a man, you idiot!"
Well, easy to say but sometimes hard to do when your heart is involved. When your heart is involved little gears and cogs slip forward and back in your heart and in your mind and everything changes just a little bit. The curve of her hip under the covers, the halo of hair on the pillow, her soft voice in my ear, the hand on my arm, her smile in the elevator as we get ready to go out– stick a fork in me, I'm done! And it is not all soft centered emotionalism on my part. Some of it is calculation. In our lives we are attracted by pleasure and repelled by pain. Most of our decision making is based on perceptions of future pleasure or pain. Fear of loss is part of the equation. Balanced against the certain knowledge that renegotiating the fee downward is the right and proper thing to do is fear of loss. What if she balks? What if she is unhappy? What if she grows cold to my touch? What if she loses the sparkle in her eyes? What if she stops laughing when I tickle her? What if I lose her? So criticize me and ridicule me if you must; but I've got more to lose than you have. I have a woman in my heart. So I keep overpaying. But don't let it happen to you. Be smarter than me. Know the local economy and the local market and don't shoot yourself in the wallet with a first time overpayment to a woman you might end up seeing for the next ten years.
Wan and I clatter down the front marble steps of the AA Hotel in South Pattaya and start the walk up soi 13 to 2nd road. We are going out. She is dressed in a knee length tight skirt with pocket in the front. Her wallet is in her pocket. No cell phone. She is wearing a non-descript blouse that no man would notice because of her abundant voluptuous curves. On her feet are her black platform sandals. We have clattered down the steps of the AA Hotel on the way out so many times over the years that it has become a part of my life. I wonder if it is a part of her life. That would require caring and introspection and reflection. Maybe the language barrier is a good thing. Maybe it is a good thing I don't know the limits of her thought. She is probably the single worst prostitute in all of Thailand. Fired or quit from all of her jobs. Totally unsuited to pleasing men or selling sex or even acting. She is unresponsive, selfish, inept, shy to no purpose, and it would take a block and tackle hanging from the ceiling to get her legs off the bed. She has retired to Chiang Mai where she is not working and living with her mother. Abandoning youth and dreams and drive and wrapping failure of character and failure of life in love for family–taking care of mother. Cashing in early on a low spark drifter life of failure wearing the costume of love of family. Love of family–the great excuse for giving up, not even summoning the energy to make excuses anymore–just moving back in with the parents. Stealing from mom's purse and swiping dad's pipe. I could give a University lecture on why I should not be spending time with this woman. But if I did give a University lecture on this woman's shortcomings of character and performance I would walk into the lecture hall with a sign hanging around my neck that said, "Luckiest Man in the World". Turning and looking at her as we are walking up the soi, I am so happy and I am so excited I feel as if I am going to explode. This is the part of my life that is just beyond me. Her small smile, her happy eyes, her voluptuous figure, the stupid wallet in the skirt front pocket–I am just stricken. She is not a fancy dresser. In fact she has been wearing this identical ‘going out with Dana' outfit for years. She is not a clothes hound, she is a poor earner, she is not vanity driven, she is stone cold broke, and she has no interest in make-up or jewelry. So what is it? Why am I beside myself with joy just to be with her? Don't ask me! But I do know one thing. The chances that I can stop her in the middle of the road, and take her in my arms, and look into her eyes, and announce that we are going to rewrite the whore contract are zero! It ain't going to happen. It just can't happen. It is a complete non-compute. I am by nature a driven, pro-active, risk-attracted, aggressive personality–but this thing I can not do. So before you criticize me too much look within your own heart and ask yourself what you could do. It is always easier to control your money than to control your heart. So beware in Thailand. There is something in the food or the water or the women that just changes everything. In your world you may be the successful, envied, hard driving CEO of the big multinational company. But in Thailand, if you are not careful; you will be just another chump who paid too much. And then paid and paid and paid and paid too much because women aren't like business. There is no system or formula or rational or scientific method. Things don't make sense and there is no contract. There is just her and you. Who do you think has the power now?
So year after year, twice a year, Wan and I are in lock step together in a dance with no future and limited pleasure. My Thai marriage fantasy now nothing but a broken dream–my emotional safe harbor that isn't going to happen. I am never going to be loved and I am never going to be happy and I am never going to be safe. Every one of my Thai-Farang dreams has run through my fingers like water and all I am left with is overpaying. And I did it to myself. Don't do it to yourself. Be tougher and more businesslike and more knowledgeable up front. Know the market and know yourself and don't treat Thailand and its citizens like some inconsequential vacation amusement park. And . . . . Oh, I see Wan coming. I gotta go. Wish me luck!
I'M SORRY AND I DIDN'T EVEN DO ANYTHING. . . . .
We all pay for overt or imagined farang behavior. Like most prejudices, some of it is based on fact and some of it is not based on fact. But the fallout from social prejudice lands on each one of us without regard to our quilt or to our innocence. One day I decided to spend my time traveling up and down the Chao Phraya river getting off at each stop on both sides and walking around. It is an easy, cheap, fun way to do some exploring. At one stop, because it was early morning, a lot of school kids and commuters got on. By another three stops all of them had gotten off the boat except for a young, attractive professional woman seated right in front of me. I made it a personal goal to not look at her or make her feel uncomfortable in any way. I could see by her facial features and her body language that she was aware of me and was not comfortable with my presence. After a short while, she got up and moved forward and over to the other side of the aisle. She placed distance between us. She had felt uncomfortable. It made me feel sad.
Her overt behavior made me wonder about all the not-so-overt behavior that I must trigger by just being me. Because of prejudice. I'm sorry and I didn't even do anything.
The overpaying thing is interesting right through Thai society because once you pay one price (or tip) it very much becomes expected after that, and not seen as a special reward for particularly good service.