Busted in Thailand
Uninspiring as it can be, some people choose traveling the safe way: booking an all included tour package. You are comfortably transported to and from. You are provided with tour guides that speak your language. All has been taken care of; nothing to worry about. You get down the bus; get your puss stamped with the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty in the background, and back to the bus again. It’s like sitting on your couch eating popcorn while watching a National Geographic video. Point-and-shot tourists perceive the country the color of the bus window they look through. They come back telling such distorted accounts of the places they visit that you wonder if they have really been there. Then they show the photos as proof. Others prefer a more adventurous way, mixing with the locals, merging themselves with a different culture and diverse customs. If you choose this way, you are the provider of your own safety. Thailand, despite recent warnings of many western governments, remains one of the safest countries. But as in everywhere else, if you don’t want to get in trouble, there are some basic rules to be observed. George didn’t.
I met Amanda in the NWA flight from Narita to Don Muang; she was seated next to me. That was well before the turn of the millennium, when Amazing Thailand was still amazing, or some traits of it still remained. Amanda was an enchanting, desirable young Mexican-Californian. Her boyfriend, George, had flown the day before and would be waiting for her at the airport. It was their first trip abroad. With exhilaration she perorated the plans. Their friends had told them enthralling stories about the Asian tropical paradise, the land of a million wonders. They couldn’t wait. The first stop was Phuket. I gave her the address of a guesthouse where I used to stay, well located, decently serviced and reasonably priced. Through Immigration and baggage claim Amanda stuck to me; she was feeling uneasy that if George missed the rendezvous she didn’t know how or where to go. I was also somewhat apprehensive, as I didn’t feel like spending the night as an unpaid (and worse, most likely unrewarded) escort. Luckily, George was there. He was a humongous chunk of mankind; a 6’5” 240-pounder cumbersome human mass. We shared a taxi to Bangkok. Next day I continued to the north, and some days later, south to Phuket.
Arriving at the guesthouse I saw George and Amanda at the lobby. A situation was going on; George was fiercely discussing something with the guesthouse owner, a middle-aged woman. Extremely exasperated, vociferous, he was pointing his finger, pricking onto the woman’s nose; his face as red as a tomato. The woman backed up, more in order to avoid the drenching drizzle coming out of his mouth along with the ear-splitting cursing than in fear of Big George. Weeping, Amanda explained that he had crashed the rented motorbike. He offered the woman the bountiful amount of 2,000 baht while the woman demanded 20,000 baht; quit a gap. The woman surely had the bike insured. On the other hand it had suffered substantial damages and seemed hardly reparable. “George, if I were you, I would try to negotiate …” But George didn’t hear me; he didn’t even notice my presence. I kept a safe distance from the unleashed beast.
When the police arrived, George had exhausted the whole dictionary of profanities, from A to Z, plus some of his own that he coined on the spot. The cop was a small man, half the weight, a good foot shorter than George. George softened somewhat the tone and in semi-polite way explained the crash, not his fault, of course. He claimed that the woman had no right to hold his passport; that the money he was offering was certainly in excess of the damages to this rattletrap; that the woman was trying to rip him off. George looked surprised and progressively infuriated that, inexplicably, the chap was seemingly taking the side of the Thai woman. He raised again the volume; his face was turning purple now.
“Come-on George, take it easy …”
He was unstoppable. He repeated the full spectrum of vulgarities, making all sort of verbal redundancies all along. Bitterly bitching, wobbling, flapping, menacing, he was boiling once again. The scene of the arrest was as unreal and hilarious as a film of Steve Martin; this midget in uniform wrestling with Gargantua; David scuffling with Goliath.
“George, don’t do th…”
By the time I finished the sentence the policemen was lying under a heap of junk. As George twirled and leaped, the officer was propelled in fast motion in rear gear toward a pile of boxes; he stumbled and crumpled ludicrously, causing the mound of scrap
to fall over him, partially covering his teeny humanity. Only when three more men in brown arrived at the scene did George figure out that he had perhaps crossed the line. Outnumbered and outgunned, he docilely allowed himself to be handcuffed.
When the police van disappeared around the corner of the street taking her sweetheart away, Amanda was in tears. She leaned her lovely head on my shoulder. I hugged her offering consolation. Soon after, she backed off, dubious that I might be
mulling over some alternative plan. It was Friday evening.
Amanda spent the weekend back and forward, from one to another police station, but got no clue about George’s whereabouts.
On Sunday evening George was allowed to make a short call to the guesthouse. Amanda was out looking for him, so I picked up the phone. He asked that Amanda call first time in the morning the American Embassy to secure his release. He wanted also that
the embassy file a formal complaint with the Thai government due to the appalling conditions he was put to endure in jail. The bleak account of his unwanted atrocious sojourn recounted in broken voice from this previously defiant savage would
make the hell look like a paradise. From the embassy Amanda got a list of reliable lawyers plus the wishes of a speedy solution. After two meetings with the lawyer the case smelled gloomy. George had crashed a motorbike while driving on the wrong
side of the road under the influence of alcohol and amphetamine; he had verbally and physically abused an old lady; he had violently resisted police arrest; he had sworn at the King. At best, if the lawyer were very good, he would get to spend
the rest of his life behind bars. And the rest of his life should be very short there unless George made some adjustments to his behavior. There was a way out, however; for the modest sum of 250,000 baht he was assured immediate release and no
charges will be pressed against him. Of these, 30,000 baht would go to pay repairs to the woman. The rest would be shared between the lawyer fees and a generous charitable contribution to the fund for raising the children of the staunch guardians
of the law.
I saw them last time as they were leaving for the airport. They had cut short the trip and were going back home. “I would never come back to this fxxxxxg country,” he said, and these were the only wise words I heard from him.
George ignored the Decalogue of the happy traveler. He got busted in Thailand.
Driving while drunk is bad enough in my book but all the other shit he got up to make him sound like a real nasty piece of work. What a shame he had a chance to get out of jail. A Thai jail might have given him something he much needed, some humility.