How To Show A Profit
Here’s a horror story for you:- Take an Australian, an Englishman, a Frenchman and a Scotsman, then tell them where to find as much beer as they can drink in three hours for five bucks or so.
Then sit back at a safe distance and observe the results………Not a pretty sight.
Never happen you think?
One day I’d had to leave the office and head across to Sukhumvit for some conference or another, not that it was going to be of much interest but the food and grog would be bound to be of high quality, so his SirShip and I had elected to fly the flag so as to speak and hand out a few business cards. I believe they call it, ‘networking’, these days. We called it, ’a free, severely alcoholic lunch’.
Anyway, as we drove along Nana Nua I noted that a recently opened hotel had a billboard standing outside which offered a happy hour. Whilst this was nothing unusual in itself, the cost caught my eye and after a lightning calculation or two I came to the
conclusion that this could work out to be an advantageous offer to those of a beer drinking mind.
After arriving home later that afternoon I’d found the gang ensconced on the porch and enquired if anyone else had seen the ad. This was met with blank stares so I explained the deal which was that a chap, (or chapess), could drink as much beer as they wanted between 6 and 9pm for a price of 179 baht ++. ( The + + being 10% service charge and 10% VAT. And as we know, VAT in the Land of Smiles is 7%….Certainly was back then anyway.)
“So, 216.59 baht”, said Rob then he frowned.
“The coinage doesn’t go down that far; We’ll have to give them two hundred and sixteen baht plus seventy five satang cos’ there’s no way that they’d let us off with nine satang………"
Robin bawled with laughter as he retorted, ”Ye tight arse fecker, and I thought that he was the Jock”, as he pointed an extended finger at me.
“That’s about 5 U.S., then”, he continued, then, ”You sure it’s for three hours mate?"
Sure I was sure, but suggested that we take a stroll up to check it out as it was only about ten minutes away. Duly we arrived there then stood to look at the board, noted that it was Saturdays and Sundays only, which seemed reasonable as we were now persona non grata in the Happy Home, (House), which had been an occasional Sunday afternoon watering hole.
This then would appear to fill the breach admirably and we agreed on the walk back that we would go for a record on the coming weekend.
Once ensconced on the porch again we debated the possibilities with Robin adjudicating loudly as always:- “Right- a civilised bunch of wankers might drink one glass every half an hour at about the standard price of 60-65 baht. So, that'd be about, 360 baht." He paused and drank a little before continuing, ”But we ain’t civilised wankers….well, I am but not you lot, so Meester Alain we know yer a tight French git but as it’s cheap you’ll be in turbo mode- how much do you reckon?"
Alain thought for a moment and replied, ”About 10 or 15 I think."
“O.K., then”, continued Robin,” We’ll stick down Have a Heart here and Rob for 15 each as well and myself for 20. Right guys?"
Alain’s finely tuned sense of something for nothing came to the fore as he suggested that the winner drank free the following weekend. It sounded good to us so Alain laughed then banged his palm on the decking and announced, ”For whom drinks
most the bell rings free!. Sunday it is."
Sunday arrived as Sunday always did, bodies emerged from rooms sleepy and dishelved to wander around the courtyard as they slowly came to before flopping down to indulge in that most favoured occupation of Thais. Eating. The second being, sleeping……
I sat on the stairs which led to Joy and Arun’s room which was above mine with the newspaper trapped under my toes. I held a plate containing rice with some form of meat covered in chillies and sauce in one hand and the spoon in the other with
which I shovelled the mess down my neck as I read through the funnies. We had a lady in the next compound who ran a sort of quick food stall, and whilst never having been poisoned by her I never actually did know what the stuff was that she served
up. On Saturdays she would get a monster wok going and start brewing up a few gallons of balaa. Tear gas doesn’t get a look in, believe me and whilst the Isaan contingent would be rolling around in ecstasy at the smell Rob and I would be
sprinting up the Soi to the ‘fresh’ air of Sukhumvit.
Without bothering to look I left the spoon in my mouth and started to scrabble around for the bottle of beer which I knew was around somewhere under my left knee until a voice whispered in my ear, “No beer, you’re in training for tonight remember?"
Rob stood by my side holding the offending bottle aloft whilst I tried to swallow the mouthful of rice. Eventually it went down so I mumbled in reply, ”Half’s Rob, you’ll get a glass in me room."
He grinned then produced the glass hidden behind his back then said, ”You know what? I’ve got a feeling about tonight……….."
“Yea”, I replied, ”It’s a three star joint and I hope, dearly I hope, that it doesn’t have karaoke. Alain and Robin….." My voice trailed off as I remembered the chaos of their last attempts.
Robert winced at the recollection then poured my beer into his glass and wandered away.
The fair Nattaya, (actually that is a figure of speech – tall and Chinese Thai she was, but her hair was long, long and velvety black.), had beckoned so I finished off the plate and beer, got my jeans on then wandered off to meet her for the matinee in the Ploenchit Centre. (Those movies now closed alas).
Later, after seeing her home I wandered down Sukhumvit in no great hurry, nodding the occasional ”Harro”, here and there, just enjoying the amble back in the relaxed way of a late Sunday afternoon in the tropics.
The heat gently warmed my bones as I considered that it would probably be about –5 at home which caused me to grin idiotically at the thought as I turned the corner of the Soi towards my pad.
By ten to six we were assembled and moving, Alain doing his, ‘Rocky’, warm-up impression as he bobbed and shadow boxed his way along the Soi and as we passed the noodle lady she shouted, ”Where you go?"
“To get drunk!”, we replied in unison.
“Yea, yea, same everyday, but where you go?”, she repeated with a winning grin.
After mounting the steps to the hotel we found ourselves in a very flash lobby area so after looking around for a minute asked a porter where the bar was.
He indicated the carpeted stairs in front of us which we duly descended to find ourselves in an ornately decorated cocktail lounge, all chrome, black wood and muted lighting.
“Now, this is more feckin’ like it”, leered Robin as he led us to a table in the middle of the floor.
“Robin, do we have to sit right in the middle?”, I asked which caused Rob and Alain to laugh as Robin retorted, ” Why? If someone stabs you in the back I’ll let you know mate."
A few Japanese and Korean groups were sitting around, talking quietly. We seemed to be the only Caucasians present which was a surprise, but on thinking further there weren’t that many round eyes resident in our patch – the tourists preferring the flesh pots of Nana across the junction.
A waitress appeared beside our table holding a tray and offered the traditional greeting, ”Sawatdee Caa." She seemed a bit surprised that we all replied with our standard reply of, ”Sawatdee Khrap”, then she asked if we spoke Thai. We all did to varying degrees which cheered her up no end.
Then we produced our trump card: Each of us produced 216 baht and 75 Satang then laid it on the table in front of us then explained to her that we were here for the happy hour thus could she fetch some beer as it was already five past six.
The girl giggled then made her way to the bar to return with four glasses of draft beer.
After she’d placed them in front of us I explained that she had to write each of our nationalities in her little order book to keep track of who drank what amount in order to save any confusion later.
She agreed to this and shaking her head in amusement wrote down the details as we described Robin as ‘jing-jo’. (Kangaroo).
The first glass disappeared in the twinkling of an eye with the waitress being on top form, having the next supplies poured before the glasses had touched the table. She then returned and with
her tongue sticking out of the corner of her mouth strove to remember who was who as she made the appropriate ticks on her notebook.
After an hour we were on six each when Rob declared, ”We’re 80 baht ahead of the game already."
One of the Japanese contingent who had been observing our actions stood then came across to our table to ask, ”Excuse me, is this a competition?"
“But no my friend, it’s about making a profit you see" replied Alain deadpan.
The guy looked a bit confused so I thought to explain a bit further, ”It’s like this you see; The more beer we can drink then the more money we can save."
It appeared that Tokyo university did not offer courses on Soi Zero economic philosophy so he returned to his table and explained to his bemused companions who began to look on with renewed inscrutable interest.
The second hour passed quickly as we were by now warmed up, the obvious factor being that the conversation was liable to zip off in some weird and wonderful tangents which frequently lead to wild speculation or hilarity.
Rob and Alain were leading equally with 14 each, myself second on 13 with Robin lagging on a mere 11 which he managed to excuse by stating that he was saving himself for the home straight.
The bar never seemed to get more than a quarter full, the hotel being a new one and parking just not so convenient there. We had ample opportunity to chat away with our waitress who soon lapsed into familiarity and who informed us that we were the only people partaking of the happy hour.
This was probably a good thing as imagine if there were two or three tables full of people like us?
“Like us? Never happen" Alain laughed.
Perchance, we explained to the nice lady, that it could also be that this particular hotel was located in close proximity to the predominately Muslim / African area of Nana?
To be honest, this idea hadn’t crossed her mind but she could see the advantage of the offer in saving the hotel money if all non Muslims were thirsty as us.
Into the third hour Alain was trying to convince the bemused wench that the expression oft used by Robin, (Camel Shagger) , was in fact rooted in historical fact.
“Lap norn”, seemed to translate o.k., but turning to me he asked, ”Hey-Meester Scot. What is how you call a camel in Thai?"
“Oot”, I replied.
Alain nodded at the table then turned to the girl in all seriousness and continued, ”Khun Arab duu Oot, chop lap norn doei…….jing, jing."
(An Arab sees a camel and likes to sleep with it………really).
The rest of us cast aspersions on him, feeling that perhaps his experiences in the L’Armee de France had perchance clouded his judgement; Robin just reckoned that he was jealous.
The girl excused herself for a minute then darted off to the bar to fill in the barman with this particular succulent piece of gossip and it appeared by his surprised expression that he wasn’t aware of this fact either.
“Creating peace and harmony between nations………It’s great isn’t it?”, mumbled Rob with a happy smile on his face.
“Yup, I feel just like Billy Graham" I replied, ”But a sight more penniless."
“Don’t mix yer what-yama-callits" roared Robin banging his hand on the table, ”It’s a feckin’ sight more skint ye mongrel. Can’t you Jocks even speak the Queen’s English?"
Deferring to his knowledge I sat back and waved vaguely for more beer then smiled benignly at some Korean woman on her way to the toilet. Her look, pissed though I was, said it all. Ho-hum.
As nine o’clock rolled around we all noted with great solemnity that we weren’t drunk. Very much.
But had managed to get sufficient value for our money.
Frequent visits to the toilet had become the order of the day and as I returned from an extended session I noted carefully that Robin had engaged a bunch of Japanese in earnest conversation and on listening in, noticed that the cowering group were getting a lecture on the origins of the bayonet and, “Bloody good on you for inventing it."
Somehow they seemed unimpressed with this nugget of information as relayed by a six foot three broken nosed, obviously insane Australian. Why; did they think that Bangkok was boring or something?
Our waitress began to add the totals and as expected, Alain had won with 19 glasses. Rob and I levelled at 18 with Robin a close third on 17.
Alain sat straight in his seat, or made a good appearance of trying to, then said, ”Ah-ze old kangaroo should stick with whiskey." Then dismally tried to mimic Robin’s famous hoot.
“French bastard”, muttered Robin as he slowly swayed to his feet and pointed in a stairs direction.
We all wished the bar staff a very, very, very good evening and may they win the lottery soon, then we wished the Japanese and Koreans a very good night as well which provoked no reaction whatsoever. Alas, I spotted a bottle of ketchup lurking on a table and on picking it up Robert quickly twigged so we went into my favourite, ‘annoy Koreans,’, routine.
“You spoil that dog!”, he shouted pointing to a plate….”But there ain’t no fucking mayonnaise is there”, I yelled back.
As the Japanese passed polite hands across their mouths a goodly half dozen annoyed Korean chaps stood and as they stood we mounted the stairs with all speed in the knowledge that we were safe outside at least.
Outside was warm after the air con of the lounge while we stood for a moment spluttering at the expected reaction of the Koreans then turned as one and began to weave our way home via the hospital and into Soi Zero.
The girls were all ensconced on the porch when we arrived, eating as always when not working, and after offering us munchies asked where we’d been to get so zapped so early.
Rob answered unsteadily, ”Saving money. Making money even."
After a bit of high speed Thai which involved various, ”Baa’s”, ”Ting Tong’s”, ”Toolay’s”, Gohok’s”, “Ba-baa-ba-baw’s”, (all Thai-isms for ‘That’ll be bloody right’), Da asked, ”How do you make money by get drunk?"
We launched in, full steam ahead explaining the old business philosophy that you have to spend money to make money and in our case we had all made at least seven hundred and forty baht.
Alain explained that he had made eight hundred and sixty baht and could now drink the same amount the next Sunday for free- therefore having made one thousand seven hundred and twenty baht. Minimum.
The thing about Thailand that the telly never seems to get across is the absolute hilarity that can be obtained by a fairly deadpan conversation, part of the Thai sense of humour being to try and keep a straight face when taking the piss.
The girls howled then roundly insulted us for being complete clowns as we roundly insulted them for not having the sense to manage to get drunk for free and even make money doing it.
Tik as always sat looking like she knew the lottery numbers but wasn’t telling, then said, ”Show me the money you make……..you never have money."
Robin grinned that awful smile that a Hollywood agent has yet to sign up, and replied, ”Darlin’, I’m just off fer a pee – pee. Want to come and watch? I’ll show yer some free money then."
Tik’s English wasn’t just that much up to speed so she looked around for advice and as Daeng and Ae explained she convulsed with laughter before replying, ”Why we want you? A buffalo more cheap and we understan’ buffalo anyway
not understan’ drunk farang!"