Reflecting On My First 10 Years In Bangkok Part 3: The Rudest Canadian I Ever Met
I left Bangkok in mid-August, 1995 to go back to the U.S. for work and school. I left the day my visa expired, or so I thought. I was informed at Passport Control that because my plane departed after midnight, I would have an overstay of about an hour.
How ridiculous. So anyway, before I can go, I get an ugly stamp in my passport, in summary, it says in Thai “Overstay: 0 Penalty 0 Fine”. To this day, it’s the only ugly stamp I got, for Thailand anyway.
I saved enough money to come back to BKK for about 5 weeks around New Year’s. Before I arrived, I sent out about 20 resumes to see if I could land a job for the next summer. After I resettled into my pal’s home, the next day I dutifully followed up with phone calls, but no luck. Then, a few days later, pay dirt; an interview with a big office. I got a 4 month contract for the next summer, more pay than last summer and, a corporate apartment downtown included. I was in 7th Heaven. I go back to my pal’s house, get out of my business suit and back into Thai sailor pants and a tee-shirt and start celebrating all by myself; swigging on a big bottle of ice cold Singha and listening to Jintara Poonlap full tilt on the cassette player. It was back when Jintara was making that transition from country
mo-lam to city girl and I was crazy about her.
When my pal and his wife came home that evening, there were congrats all around and I treated them to dinner at this kind of sad looking restaurant way out by Ram Indra. It was a big outdoor place with an artificial lagoon that had seen better days, with blue PVC pipes sticking up in odd places and stagnant water. What the place lacked in atmosphere, it more than made up for with the food. All the Thai and Isaan favorites. Delicious. The waitresses were way cute too, and my pal forced me to do the ordering, making me practice Thai. Giggles all around.
There was this really pretty, petite, well-dressed woman two tables down, just out of earshot, sitting alone. She orders a big noodle soup dish and three entrees. My pal says “Damn! She’s cute. Why don’t you go over and introduce yourself?” “No way, man. Look at how much food she ordered! Surely, she’s waiting for her husband or boyfriend and, with my luck he’s probably a policeman who will turn up at just the wrong moment!”
So while my pal, his wife and I enjoy our dinner, once in awhile we glance over at Miss Cute and still no dinner companion. In the meantime, she is on her third big bottle of Singha and has ordered another big bowl of soup and two more entrees. She’s not wasting any food either. She’s eating everything but the garnishes. I mean, where is this little person putting all of this food? And, she never went to the toilet to barf either.
She paid her tab and left and my friends and I just sat there, amused. Finally, I said “I’m glad I didn’t introduce myself. I’m not sure I could afford to feed her!”
I spent every weekend with my girlfriend. We went to Chaing Mai by train with another couple. I love the trains. I hate the buses. Buses are too cold and they force stupid TV and stupid music on you. On the trains, you can eat, drink and smoke between the cars. At every stop, vendors with local delicacies getting on the sell their wares.
We did all the mountaintop and temple stuff in Chiang Mai. It was great but the single digit weather plus the wind chill was tough on my unprepared and underdressed Thai friends. We had to stop at a shoe store so Mr. A could get a proper pair of shoes. The rubber sandals just weren’t going to cut it.
By now my girl, although fluent in English, was speaking to me more and more in Thai, just to be playful and teach me a word or two each day. That night between the sheets at the guesthouse we’re getting in the mood and she just stops and says “Nao?” and I say “Yeah! Now, baby now!” So she gets up and brings back an extra blanket from the closet and we get under it and again she says “Nao?” and I am getting more excited by the minute and think this may be some kind of Siamese arousal technique so I say “Yeah! Now, baby now!” So she gets up again and puts our jackets on top of the blanket. By this time I was sweating and started tearing the jackets and blankets off me and my girl says “mai nao luh?” And that is how I learned that the Thai word for “cold” is “nao”.
The next morning I was smoking a cigarette on the balcony and this guy in a pick up truck is about to reverse into this big Christmas tree and in another dazzling display of my Thai vocabulary I screamed “Piiiiiiiiiiii! Look out for the treeee!!!” Anyhow it worked and he braked just in time and the tree was spared.
Two days later, back on the train to Bangkok, everything went just fine. My girl and I had a chance for romance in an upper bunk. It was the first time in years that I had made love on a train. Hard to do that on a bus. I just love trains! We pulled into Ayudthaya about 6AM (Actually, I prefer the 17th Century French spelling, “IUDEA”.) We said our goodbyes to the young Thai couple who went with us, Mr. A and Miss P. None of us could have predicted that just a few months after that, Miss P would die from a sudden brain aneurism. That was the last time I saw her. As a result, Mr. A was understandably around the bend for awhile. If we had only hugged them just a little longer and tighter that last moment on the train.
Their upper bunk was vacated and a squatter took their place. This rough looking Isaan fellow, swigging a can of Singha, swings up into the bunk, immediately takes off his shoes and starts picking the dead skin off the soles of his feet and cleaning his toenails and flinging the shit below in the aisle or wherever it lands, much to the dismay of all passengers. It was quite disgusting. Pretty soon the conductor comes along, asks to see his ticket and, politely explains that the guy can’t stay in the bunk for the rest of the trip. The guy pleads, whines, swears but finally, due to the firmness of the conductor, gets down. The conductor folded up the bunks and the guy took a seat.
There was another guy sitting in the seat across from him and Mr. Toe Jam Picker tries to engage this other guy in conversation. The guy seems a bit reluctant but chats a little. The whole time the guy keeps picking his mangy looking feet. The guy orders a coffee and offers to buy the other guy one too and the other guy reluctantly accepts. So, now that the other guy accepted the coffee, he has to listen to this guy’s bullshit, right?
Now my Thai wasn’t so good back then but I could see from the Thai faces around me that this guy was not making any friends. Then, after a few minutes, the guy stares me right in the eye and says specifically to me, in English, “fxxx this! They never did any mother fxxxing thing for me and my family. I’m a Canadian now goddammit!” He pulls out a Canadian passport and waves it around for all to see. He launches into this tirade, half Thai and half English, all about how the poor boy from Isaan escaped poverty by pretending to be a Khmer refugee in Thailand during the Pol Pot days in the late 70s, lived in a refugee camp and eventually got resettled in Canada. The tirade was continuously punctuated with him slapping his Canadian passport on his knee and saying “God save the Queen. I’m a Canadian now goddammit.”
So now the Thai passengers are looking at me and I can just see what they are thinking. They are totally ashamed that this is the kind of ambassador that they have sent abroad, wondering if I am Canadian and, wondering when it will get to the boiling point when I start throwing punches.
My girl and I get dressed and get up as it’s time to let the conductor fold up the bunks. She goes off to the vestibule or whatever you call that spot between cars to wash her face and brush her teeth. Mr. Canadian Toe Jam Picker follows her. Now I am not about to have any of that so I follow too but as I get to the door, I can see the guy going around my girl to the bathroom. I stand there and have a smoke until my girl is safely back in her seat.
The entire carriage is silent, wondering if this international, toe jam picking freak is going to explode or something. Nervous looks all around. Some of the Thais keep looking at me like I am their only hope to restrain this guy if something worse happens.
Luckily, nothing worse happened. The guy hopped off the train at the Samsen Nai Station. However, he never did pay for his coffee and when the young conductor came back to collect the cups, the poor other guy that had been roped into conversation was stuck with the bill. The poor guy looked like he couldn’t afford it either but just shook his head and paid.
Before we pulled into Hualongpong Station, my girl looks at me and says “Honey, you want to know what that guy said to me when I was brushing my teeth?” Now I am started to get pissed off, knit my eyebrows together and simply say “What?”
“He said to me in English “Girl! You got your damn, big, fat, yellow, Chinese ass hanging out here in the hall where nobody can get around it to get to the toilet!”
Then I recalled seeing through the window in the door, her tucking her butt in a little and turning to stare at this guy while she still had the toothbrush in her mouth.
“Why didn’t you tell me?!? Nobody talks to my girl like that!”
“That’s exactly why I didn’t tell you. You wouldn’t have let him get away with it and I don’t want you having any problems in my country.” I just nodded, understanding and, respecting her discretion and good judgment.
My girl always took good care or me.
“Honey, one more thing, ok?”
“Sure. What is it?”
“Is my damn, yellow, Chinese ass really getting too big and fat?”
“No sweetheart. I think you got the cutest damn, yellow, Chinese ass in the whole world.”
Unfortunately travelling outside of their own country can bring the worst out of some people. That punk is a classic example.