Stickman Readers' Submissions September 11th, 2008

How Loud Is A Buffalo Fart?

Well, one has to set the yardstick for noise somewhere. Not that I've heard a buffalo fart yet. The closest I've ever been to a buffalo is at the Buffalo Village near Suphanburi. It was close enough. All these buffaloes did during the show was
pee all over the place, contributing an odd turd or two in between. But not once did I hear anything loud enough to shatter my eardrums. Perhaps they were trained to fart in private.

Why pick on the buffalo anyway? Well, from the standpoint of the 'natural' noise levels occurring out on the farms, I'd think a buffalo passing gas would be pretty high up on the decibel scale. I could be wrong, perhaps not
having been in the right place at the right time to hear one. I doubt there'd be anything much louder. E-tans (aka iron buffalo) or motosais without mufflers don't count.

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One thing I have noticed is that country people tend to be louder than most urbanites, buffalo or no. To be fair, people in this environment tend to be separated by much longer distances; it's not like you're in the same room when
there are things to be done. So I guess they have to speak louder so the other party can hear them. Now if the neighbour's place is close enough, the neighbour will want to join in too. But it can be downright disconcerting when all the parties
are doing whatever it is they're doing, staring off into a blank point in space somewhere, and have a conversation going. Even through walls. It's not like they're shouting, it's just a loud conversation.

They look just like your urban counterparts, you know, the ones with the Bluetooth attachment permanently grafted on one ear..

This particular trait of talking loudly can be annoying, but it does have its uses. Whenever I try to get the attention of the waitress (who for most part seems to be in a world of her own), with my feeble attempts to get their attention
and 'check bin' at a volume where I think it'll be rude to raise my voice any further, my wife, (or my mia noy, depending on whom I'm with at the particular moment) can just croon out the 'checkbin'
and the said waitress will immediately tune in and walk over even if she's not looking your way. Uncanny.

Many, many years ago I attended the funeral of a friend's great grandmother.

She had passed away at the ripe old age of ninety, and was apparently respected not only for her age but also as a landowner. Her funeral was quite a lavish spectacle, with a classical Thai orchestra in attendance during the day, followed
by a 'likay' performance at night. All this performed without any form of amplification. You could hear the sound for miles around, so it was fairly easy to locate the temple in the midst of the rice paddies. Back then, it was about
the only means of locating a place and was for more for the benefit of the visitors than the locals. Mobile telephones have changed all that. Another thing that has changed is the source of the music. It was quite common to see a complete set
of classical Thai instruments in many of the larger temples; there were also musicians who knew how to use them. You do sometimes see them today, but they are usually relegated to some forgotten spot under a thick layer of dust, sadly forgotten.
These days, giant speakers wired to a generator-mounted amplifier have taken over. And somewhere along the line, the transition from music to noise took place.

At a recent ngaan-buat (ordination) ceremony I attended, the speaker wall on the stage was three speakers high, and the field it was hosted in had auxillary speaker towers dotting the perimeter. The likay performances, so reminiscent
of the past, have been replaced with eardrum-shattering music and hip-thrusting dancing girls with outrageous costumes on stage. One wonders if it is a change for better or worse?

The decibel wars seem to have been carried over to the discos and the open-air bars you find in the likes of Nana, Pattaya or Phuket. Here the ante has been raised through the decibel scale up to the Richter scale. One just cannot hear yourself
think in any of these venues, so is it any wonder that most of the girls who work here, and are bombarded with these levels over such a long time, seem to be rather brain-dead?

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I had a screamer once. This was in Phuket, back in the day when you could see from one end of Patong beach all the way to the other side with no obstructions. I was travelling with a small group of close friends at the time, and we had managed
to get fan-only detached bungalows just opposite the beach. It looked like they were built on the remnants of a coconut plantation, so one of the things we did have to look out for at the time were falling coconuts. Air-conditioned bungalows were
rare at the time.

The only bar complex at the time was on Soi Eric, but there were many bamboo huts along the main beach road that also sold beers. It was from one of these places that I picked her up.

We'd all finished our drinks and retired to our respective bungalows with our partners for the night. It was a nice, cool night so the windows were left partly open. The overhead fan was on a slow setting, gently wafting a cooling breeze
around the room. You could hear the waves breaking on the shore. An idyll setting for what we were about to do. Now just as the momentum is building, she starts.. 'Ah..' What the?.. Ah.. Aahh..' Oh, shit. 'Aaahh.. AAhhhh…
Aieee!' Now if you have ever seen a dog in full flight with its tail between its legs, that is exactly how I felt at the moment. Good grief.

Of course I got stick for it the next morning. 'What happened?' with cheeky grins on their faces. 'Oh, a coconut fell on the roof and bounced on the veranda next to the window. It gave her a big fright.' That's my
story and I'm sticking to it.

On another trip with the same group of friends, I encountered a young lady who produced copious amounts of fluid. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with this as long as you take it slow and book a room with twin beds. The problem is,
when things start to hot up, the very nature of the act often tends to entrap air, which eventually has to escape with often noisy consequences. The action of having a cupped palm under a sweaty armpit and squeezing it repeatedly with the other
arm creates quite similar sounds. It was fortunate that on this particular trip we had opted for the comfort of air-conditioned hotel rooms.

Those days are long gone. You tire of the scene after a while and eventually settle down to a more sedate and predictable lifestyle. It's sort of like, after the fifth adult move in a row, with all that noise and posturing, you think
that maybe there's something better showing on the Disney channel? You could compare adult movies with the local Thai television soap operas. There's a lot of noise and posturing, but when you really get down to it, there's no story
line. That's why I don't waste my time watching them.

Perhaps I've become domesticated. I can't be bothered to go downtown and have a few beers in Nana or Cowboy, where I get brain damage from both the loud music and the 'Where you come flom how long you stay hansum man'
coming at you ad nauseum. I have my comfort zones, my wife meets the need for the exchange of bodily fluids, while my mia noy will carry that two steps further. All with a quiet grunt. Or three.

I love the quiet life.

Stickman's thoughts:

When I think back to the early days in Thailand, some of my strongest memories are of the noise. The noise on the streets, even late at night. The noise in crowded areas. An who can forget the high volume of music in bars and even the soundtrack in cinemas?

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