Anecdotes Of A Roving Eye
Like most men I don't like shopping. If needing something I do my research if it's a big ticket item or if it's an everyday necessity I just go out and buy it. No muckin' around wandering through malls wasting time. However womenfolk are different species. Have you ever noticed when they get hold of a shopping trolley they go into slow motion mode and walk in a daze? Like, “what wonderful choices, what colourful wrappings, decisions…decisions..decisions!”
If and when I do go shopping with the wife to a supermarket my limit is about 10-15 minutes and definitely no lining up at the cashier. In any case we're more than likely to lose each other in the aisles so after searching for her playing peek a boo and finally ringing her on the mobile to find out that she's in detergents I draw the line.
“I'll wait for you outside and do some people watching.”
You see that's something which interests me more than the weekly specials.
Phuket Island, Songkran 2009
I decided on the spur of the moment that we'd go for to a relaxing holiday to a Marriot resort on Surin Beach. I wanted to be away from the hustle bustle of Patong, the resort has a Kids Club and that way my wife and I could enjoy each other's company without interruptions. Call it a second honeymoon if you will.
Everything went according to plan for three days but then my wife got withdrawal symptoms from lack of shopping in an isolated resort and to cut a long story short I rented a car for three days to satisfy her urges. She had me check out the different shopping venues and found a Central Plaza between Patong and Phuket town, a Lotus nearby and a Carrefour at the Jungceylon complex in Patong which also houses her favourite, Robinsons. Our program was sealed and so was my fate. Driver and Financier.
We march in threesome with the 8 year old son who was promised all kinds of goodies to drag him away from Kid's club and his new friends. As usual he's driving the trolley which he imagines to be an F1 racing rig and tries to beat the lap record of the Lotus track. The locals scatter everywhichway from a rampaging luk kreung. Wife is oblivious of the consequences and I'm left to direct traffic around the chicanes. After the wife trying on umpteen garments in the ladies section I get the heebie jeebies.. I slip her a couple of thousand baht and tell the kid to take care of her Mum. I'll be waiting outside on a bench which I already noticed on the way in. Just in case…as always.
I'm sittin' there minding my own business, enjoying my solitude within the din of a Thai shopping centre when a shadow falls over me and lo and behold it's a farang who plops himself down alongside. I glance at him and we nod to each other.. then say a hesitant hello. Once we establish we're both English speakers we get a bit more comfortable and settle in for a chit chat.
I have a better look at him… around my height, indeterminate age but weather worn..most teeth missing, badly dyed greasy hair balding around the top. Actually his hair is kinda orange which happens when you dye grey hair then spend a lot of time in the sun.
We exchange pleasantries and he informs me that he lives nearby in a semi rural area with his girlfriend and her 2 kids…seven and eleven…I immediately think of the 7 Eleven franchise and have to force myself to stop a quip rolling off my lips..
He speaks in a peculiar American accent which turns out to be New Jersey tempered by a number of years of Thailand living trying to modify your English for Thai listeners. A kind of Thailish or pidgin English which he probably uses day after day with his “family” and now he finds himself talking to me like I was from outer space. He tells me he was in the army in Germany in the '60s and now that he is in his late 60s he lives off his army pension. He says it's OK to put food on the table, pay for his tobacco, ganja and buy some Thai whisky and occasionally some beer. He's got an old pick up which he bought with his savings and he reckons his girlfriend looks after him well when he “damages “himself” like the other day when he fell down, hit the back of his head and ended up in hospital for stitches. He said he had concussion too but he didn't feel any different.
I'm not surprised at all. He looks like a hillbilly and acts like one too. He says he's crazy about his beautiful Thai girlfriend and the two kids..and I say “you're a lucky bugger mate, no way you could've got this back in the States”… he grins like a Cheshire Cat and I force myself to keep looking at that gaping toothless smile.
Suddenly he chirps up and waves to someone in the line at the cash register…”that's mah baby over there” and he points to a 5 foot nothing plump dark skinned homely creature talking to somebody behind her in the line.. It just so happens that it's my wife and son who are engaged in conversation with his darlin'.
Transaction completed at the register my newly found GI Joe buddy takes his leave after shaking hands and wishing each other good luck in our respective worlds and I await my family's arrival from shopping haven.
The trolley is chock a block with newly acquired goodies badly needed to fill up suitcases we haven't yet bought. Never mind, tomorrow is another day…
“Is there any change left out of the 2K I just gave you?”
“You got to be kiddin' darling, didn't you see me using my credit card at the register?”
“No I didn't. I was too busy chatting to the boyfriend of the woman you were talking to at the register.”
“Ah yes, she told me what a handsome young American husband she has with such a good heart!”
“Hmmm… beauty is truly in the eyes of the beholder!”
“You can say that again”, she says with a wink and a nudge and now I know that women with a sense of humour are a rare gem in Thailand.
I always feel awkward in moments like that when a Westerner approaches you and you can see that he is longing for conversation but for whatever reason, you're not interested. I enjoy meeting new people and probably talk a bit too much myself but there are times when it would be nice to be left alone. That said, I am pretty good at silently giving off the message that I'm just not in the mood!