The Cone Of Silence
Here, for the enjoyment and edification of Stickman's faithful readership, is a bunch of random thoughts and other crap, gathered together because no single one of them is worth the requisite 800 words.
1. The Cone of Silence: A Business Proposition
Anyone who wants to use this idea is welcome to it. If it ends up saving anyone's marriage and you want to show me your eternal gratitude, I sometimes take payment in beer.
In a land where people so often receive nothing in return for their hard-earned cash, I'm surprised no one has thought of actually marketing silence. Bangkok is a noisy place and a bit of quiet is a rare commodity. So, I am talking about placing little pods of silence where they are most needed. Nana Entertainment Plaza, for instance.
Imagine this: you're in a bar with both hands full of the finest silicone money can buy, when your phone rings. It's your steady girl, checking up on you. You had told her you were going to a late-night business function at the Oriental.
You ignore the ringing and it goes away, but you know she'll just keep calling, her anger and suspicion growing with each ring. Best to return the call immediately. Where to go? Quickly, you dash outside the bar, where you find the Cone of Silence (that's a reference to the old "Get Smart" TV show for you all). In a small booth sound-proofed with foam and old egg cartons like a budget recording studio, you're enveloped in near silence and you can safely make the call.
You're supposed to be at a business meeting, so you scan down a panel of buttons labelled with various ambient background noise options such as disco, jazz bar, library, taxi, airport limousine, Sukhumvit Road, shopping mall, pool bar, hi-so cocktail, gym, swimming pool….aha, here we are: business meeting – in Thai or English.
You put in 20 baht and pressing the button, a cheap MP3 player fills the booth with the sound of a dreary CEO droning on about company policy in a hotel ballroom, with an added background of murmured agreement and the occasional cough. Bingo! You've got a convincing phone call.
I don't know why some intrepid bar owner hasn't thought of this before. It would cost almost nothing. It would be hugely popular with men travelling with the wife and kids and it would certainly bring the more tied-down expats out of the woodwork. Again, anyone can feel free to use this idea. I consider it doing my small part to make this a better world.
2. A New Scam
I was sitting in a second-floor bar at Nana Plaza, looking at the chicks as one does. Everyone has their preferences and among mine is a fetish for a flat stomach (I dated an ex-cheerleader in Japan and I never quite got over it).
Unfortunately, these days it seems hard to find a dancer without a developing gut. They certainly get enough exercise so I would guess it's due to a daily diet of endless glasses of cola. However, a distance across the bar was a girl with a nice flat stomach, and a nice rack to shelter it from the rain. Her face was easy on the eyes too, and at that moment she was using it to sweetly smile at me.
After her dance she slinked across the floor and snuggled up beside me. I put my arm around her and immediately my inner alarms went off. I had a mental image of Austin Powers yanking at her hair and saying, "It's a MAN, baby!" The stomach was way too hard and, beyond that, "she" just seemed like the wrong pronoun. I can't explain how I knew, but I knew beyond any doubt. Like I could actually smell the Y chromosomes with my medulla oblongata.
Her drink was already at the table so I decided to be polite and let her stay until her next dance. She hadn't spoken yet and I was curious to hear the basso voice. So, I introduced myself and asked, "What's your name? Where are you from?"
To my amazement, she pulled out a pen and paper and wrote: "I am sorry. I cannot speak, but I can understand your words." She was telling me she was mute. Who knows? She may well have been. We spent the next ten minutes conversing this way, while I marvelled over her brilliant strategy. She had skirted around one of the ladyboy's most basic drawbacks, the telltale deep voice.
Now, this bar was not a ladyboy bar. I'd been there before and it had always been women-only. Looking around carefully, I became certain that this was the only ladyboy in the room. An awesome thought then occurred to me. Before she went back to dance, I looked her in the eye and asked, "Does the bar manager know?" She tilted her head coyly and mouthed, "What?"
I glanced meaningfully towards her crotch and raised my eyebrows. Grinning, she shook her head no. "Wow," I said. "You're good." She put her finger to her lips and winked conspiratorially. Then with a big, shit-eating grin, she whirled away and bounced up to the stage. Amazing. She had everyone fooled. I quickly paid and sprinted out of there.
3. Phuket Nightlife
I won't be making any friends on my little island for saying this, but Phuket has nothing on Bangkok or Pattaya for nightlife. I know Stick made some favourable comments a while back, but I have to say Patong is a big let-down.
There are only three gogos worth entering. In one the girls want 3000 baht short time, in the second the girls look fine in the club but you wouldn't want to touch them with too much daylight, and the third has just closed. In addition, there is absolutely zero daytime action, beyond a couple of pool bars that pale in comparison to Bangkok's Morning2Night and Hillary, and an expensive massage place where women put on makeup like they are weatherproofing a house. It's enough to give you evil clown nightmares.
While there are certainly women to be found in the bar beers, the number is a fraction of what's available in Pattaya. If you can manage to find the girl in a hundred who is not on the chubby side, she will likely sport a jaded face made ugly by avarice. Of course there is the occasional new girl from the farm, but you'll do a lot of walking and drinking to find her.
The best possibilities are in the discos, which are full of freelancers. They're also full of fit young men on spending sprees. I certainly don't mind competition, but not if I then have to pay for the winner's trophy.
Now, Phuket is a great place to live faithfully with your wife and the beaches are lovely (with the notable exception of Patong, where beach chairs outnumber the grains of sand). In terms of a standard beach holiday, it wins hands down over Pattaya (though both destinations receive a similar number of overseas tourists – 4 million for Phuket, 3.3 million for Pattaya, in the non-tsunami, non-SARS year of 2004).
But in terms of nightlife, if you've found a girl in Bangkok that you can stand to be with for a week, bring her along. While bringing a Bangkok girl to Pattaya might be like packing a cupcake to a bake-sale, in the case of Phuket I'd say B-Y-O-Cupcake.
4. Losing Your Cool in Thailand
Travel guidebooks, expat residents and devotees of foreign cultures will happily provide you a long list of don't's to guide your behaviour in Thailand. However, if you are not Thai you are indeed a foreigner. Everyone knows it and no one will let you forget it. In fact, a lot of people will use it as a reason to charge you extra, exclude you from things like working as a tour guide or buying property, and some will even tell you (erroneously) you can't own a car or a boat.
Now I agree it's usually best to go with the flow and adopt a Thai style of politeness. However, there are situations where breaking the rules can be to advantage and, because everyone is fully expecting a foreigner to make some social faux pas, we can sometimes get away with it.
I went to a store in Central Festival Phuket shopping centre with my Thai wife and she bought a pair of jeans. She took two pairs into the dressing room and found one to be too small for her magnificent, foxy ass. She told the staff we'd take the larger pair. They folded it, put it in a bag and we left. At home we realised they'd given us the wrong pair, and the receipt said "no returns".
The next morning my wife went to work and I was back in the store, on my own. I found the same staff girl who'd made the mistake and explained the trouble, calmly, with a smile on my face. Calmly, with a smile on her face, she pointed to the message on the receipt. "I know," I said, still smiling. "But this isn't a return, because you never gave me what I paid for."
A painfully familiar look of blank confusion crawled over her face. "I call the manager, please wait," she said. From experience I knew this was trouble. Once there were two (or more) of them versus one of me, all hope would be lost. Any point I made would be lost in aimless circles of discussion and, as far as they were concerned, I was probably just a tourist and therefore not a potential return customer.
I took a quick glance around the store and noted that there was nothing on the racks I'd ever want to come back and buy. Then, before she had a chance to call the manager, I blew up. In a menacing tone, I said, "No. This was YOUR mistake. YOU are the one who gave me the wrong jeans." She was shocked. I pushed the advantage, turning up the volume just a bit, and when I put out my hand and she involuntarily moved the correct pair of jeans slightly forward. I practically snatched them out of her hand and stuffed them in the bag. Then I held out my hand again. "The receipt please."
She clutched onto it uncertainly and I realised the spell would soon be broken, so I turned on my heel and stomped out past another staff girl who was hiding behind a rack. I wasn't really that angry but, in this instance, it paid to pretend that I was.
Now, I often read submissions on this site with punters wringing their hands over bargirl etiquette. When some guy whines that he can't ever sit with the girl he likes because he doesn't want to offend the pushy broad that's already sat down uninvited, I swear it makes me want to take a run at a brick wall. If she's being so rude as to sit down without asking, why do you have to be polite, to save her "face", let alone buy her a drink? If you don't want to flat-out tell her to bugger off, at least discourage her by asking her to introduce you to the girl you like (though you'll end up buying drinks for both of them).
It's certainly best to adhere to the social mores of any country you visit when possible, but not at the cost of your own standards.
5. A Refund
My Nok Air flight from Phuket was delayed three hours. I didn't want to wait so I got on the next Bangkok Airways flight. Before I did, I asked about a refund for my Nok Air ticket. The flight attendant said I could get a refund in Bangkok. She said it with confidence so I thought I might try it.
So, when I checked in at Bangkok for my return flight a few days later, I asked the guy at the counter about my refund. "Nok Air doesn't give refunds," came the smug reply. It was obvious he either didn't really know or didn't want to deal with it.
I smiled, as you do in Thailand when things start to fall apart, and asked, "If I want to hear it from someone more important than you, where do I go?" A dirty look made a brief appearance on his face then retreated back under its rock. He reluctantly directed me to the main office, where a cheerful assistant manager arranged my refund in under five minutes.
Again, I agree that local values such as "face" are important to acknowledge. However, I'll never take "no" from an underling and never hesitate to offend their sense of face in order to bypass them to conduct my business. Honestly, if they want to maintain their face they
should learn not to get caught lying.
6. Finally, I'd like to comment on Jayson's latest submission.
I'm ashamed that a fellow American could buy into such classist crap. What an embarrassment. The guy really has a problem that Isaan people are also citizens of his family's home country. Really, not all Americans are like him.
Jayson, life is too short and good people too few to limit your selection of potential friends (and girlfriends) by class, race, religion or education. You'll learn someday (hopefully the hard way). And another thing……Aw, why do I bother?
A nice collection of thoughts.