Stickman Readers' Submissions June 18th, 2007

Groundhog Day

Movie plot: TV Meteorologist Phil Connors, his producer Rita, and cameraman Larry from the fictional Pittsburgh television station WPBH-TV travel to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania (which, in real life, as in the movie, holds a major celebration for Groundhog Day) to cover the annual Groundhog Day festivities with Punxsutawney Phil.

After the celebration concludes, a blizzard develops that Phil had predicted would miss them, closing the roads and shutting down outside phone service, forcing Phil to spend an extra day in Punxsutawney. Phil awakens the next morning, however, to find it is again February 2, and the day unfolds in exactly the same way, over and over again. For Connors, Groundhog Day begins each morning with his waking up to the same song, Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe", on his alarm clock radio, but with his (and only his) memories of the "previous" day intact, trapped in a seemingly endless "time loop" to repeat the same day in the same small town.

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My personal plot: I also wake up every day to the same song. "I can get no satisfaction" in a techno up-tempo version by the Crazy Frog, sung in Thai. Oh no no no. Last night I was sent by my girlfriend to get some rope at Central. I knew that its gonna be a fuxxing nightmare, so I asked her to come along. She said she wanted to iron my shirts, which is actually a good idea. We have a deal. She does my laundry now, I pay her to do it. She is a student. Of course the whole thing is a nightmare and I would rather give my shirts to the laundry because of the headache factor. But hell, you have to compromise sometimes.

So she sends me to get her some rope. I know, if I used the laundry service, I would not have to go to Central and ask one of these morons, where to get some rope. Ok, before I go I ask her for the Thai word. I am tone deaf, so I am not sure if I got the pronunciation. Anyway, I have some friends over there, so it might help. I know already that it's gonna be an ordeal and I feel sorry for myself all the way walking to Central. There is a pharmacy, and I always chit chat with the guys there. So I ask them where the ropes in the supermarket are. They don't get what I want. And these people speak good English. I show them my headphone cable. Rope, you know? To hang clothes. They want to send me to Powerbuy, 5th floor. I try my Thai. No chance.

I look myself on the ground floor. I don't try to ask any of the shop assistants, because I know, they would not understand and just call 10 people and I would have to explain it 10 times for nothing. I can't find it.

So I go to the seventh floor, stationary section. I see some wool. But that's about it. I ask a girl, out of desperation and before I open my mouth, she looks to her friend and makes that face, like what the fxxx does this 'farang' want from her. Is it sex, rape, oh my God? So before I even speak, I give up. She, of course did not understand it, even if I forcefully pushed the words out of my mouth. So I ask two guys who seem a bit higher in the shop hierarchy. Nothing.

So I use my secret weapon, I call my girlfriend and ask her to explain to them what I need. Or what she needs. What we both need, before we can move on with our lives. Clock check: I have wasted about 20 minutes since I entered the store. But they get the idea what she wants. Of course they want to talk endlessly to her, just to make sure, and more sure, and even more sure. They just love to hold a phone in their hands.

Now, it's the second level. The 2 shop assistants (nerve assassins) have to find a piece of rope in their shop. The only thing they come up with after a ten minute search is already cut parcel cord. Am I angry? No, because that's pretty much what I expected when I walked to Central. I ask them to check further. So eventually, after another 5 minutes, they come up with a white rope, 18 yards. They are really good. So I can go down to the first floor now. I show it to my friends at the pharmacy. Ahhh, yeah you wanted rope. Yeah I wanted rope. Chuaaaaaaaaaa. Yeah chuuuaah. Chuueaaaa. What you wanna do? Hang yourself? Close, close. They then say, they have it on the ground floor. Oh, thanks. That helps a lot. I expected something like that. It's normal. For the fun of it I ask them to show me where. They could not find it. But they have seen it somewhere.

So I went back to my girlfriend. She says: Why are you bringing me a textile rope, I asked the guys on the phone for nylon. Ok, then she finds an old and broken 10 meter LAN cable in one of the drawer and goes to the balcony with it. The LAN cable works perfectly as laundry rope and the shirts dry really quickly on the balcony.

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Well, there is no lesson from this. There is no learning effect, because it's impossible to get around it. So many things in Thailand will happen to you over and over and over again. There is no escape from them. Sure, you have managed to dodge a few bad breaks thrown your way, but it's the system you can't beat. There will always be morons in the shops, they are everywhere. There will always be landlords who want to steal from you. There will always be taxi drivers who drive at night so fast that you fear for your life. To me, after almost four years, I feel that I know nothing more than the first day I came. The only thing I know is where I get cheated a bit less and where I get treated better. Dog learning. But if I am thrown into a new situation, I am basically the same fool that just stepped off the airplane.

PS The term "Groundhog Day" is also entering the real world lexicon as witnessed by the following comments from R. Nicholas Burns, U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs, on talks on the Israel/Lebanon conflict in August 2006. "We'd go home at 10 or 11 at night and say, 'Tomorrow will be a better day.' But the next day was Groundhog Day all over again.

Stickman's thoughts:

Hehehe, the easy things can sometimes be so difficult in Thailand.

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