Working in Bangkok
It started as a bad day; Traffic was really bad, the taxi driver was half asleep and let everybody cut in on us so I was late into the office. Two of the Thai staff beat me in which I try not to let happen. The orange juice woman at the footpath in front
of the office was not there. Obviously made too much money last week so decided to have long week end. The orange juice is fresh and is a great cure for a hangover or at least it feels that way. I buy some Patongo which is good grease food to
go with a black coffee. What I would give for a hamburger shop with chips or fries near here for tough mornings! I could nearly keep them in business by myself.
At nine am we start our meeting. I tell the staff congratulations on a great effort: we have the sales target for this month and the quarter in the bag and now time for them to start working on the next quarter. Really work the longer term customers now. They understand. They have all had bonus for last 8 months and for two quarters and all understand that if we beat the last quarter budget, they will get big money at year end. So will I!
I have time to check e mails and jokes and send them out. Bad news from the stock market again. The pension fund seems to diminish instead of growing. I tell myself to think long term. I keep thinking about Lek who I discovered on Saturday afternoon at pool table at the old Bamboo bar. She was a surprise packet. I had seen her there many times but had never bothered with her before. She was the only one near the pool table on Saturday afternoon and asked me if I wanted to play and then she beat me three games in a row. None of this letting you beat them on the black ball. She also then smiled at me and said I would get better as I got older. Cheeky wench! At 49 years old, and old enough to be her father and she says I will get better as I get older. I said I am good at some things and she asked me what. (Actually said “what you good for, old man should lerax”) my quick thoughts were should I kick her, yell at her or take her to ST hotel and show her? But her name is Lek and it is the proper description. However my macho thoughts took over and so I said, “good to make Thai lady happy”. She smiled and said that she hope I better at that than play pool. So that was that. I negotiate with her, pay bar fine and go to ST hotel all by 5.30 pm in the afternoon. This is too early; I am supposed to be meeting my chums at 6.00 pm.
In crappy ST room, we shower and I notice that Lek has body shape and build of bigger lady. Nice boobs. Much better than the face would imply. She is not so shy in washing me all over and especially the little man. She gives him a stiff inspection, an extra wash and then dries him well. She obviously does not want itchy scratchy private parts. We get to bed and she makes me lie back and enjoy. After one hour when they bang the door I do not want to stop this. Friends are waiting for me but I am in heaven. What do I do? Do I take her with me? No, that would not be right. We finish, (well I did) and I tell her I will be back for her tomorrow afternoon.
We had good night, great pub food, lots of drinks and laughs, some guys take girls from Cowboy home or to ST hotel. Some friends comment that I was quiet: ask me if I am going to be lonesome tonight. Little do they know what I had in my memory bank?
All this is forgotten as Somchai’s secretary comes in to my broom cupboard office and says he wants to see me. Shit! What crap am I going to hear now? Ever since my farang company wanted me to come here to “help” the locals in going to market, he has been a problem. He obviously sees me as a face problem. It is made worse when the white skins come up from Auckland and invite me to dinner when they take Khun Ratakorn the owner out to dinner. Somchai as number two is always there and it obviously irks him that I am at the table. I always ensure that I make some good jokes and get K. Ratakorn to laugh. Somchai sort of likes it that I have put together a great sales team for Bangkok and we have hit targets for past 30 months which helps him get his targets, but it also irks him, especially as ‘his team” that he put together for Chiang Mai are usually behind the target. The fact that I got rid of half his previous team in Bangers that he put together is still a problem, even though the figures are now 130% above two years ago, I know K. Rattakorn is happy as H.O. guys tell me this after he visits his eldest son at Uni in Auckland and then goes to the office for a day and takes lots of pictures in meetings so taxman can be convinced it is business trip
He does not even ask me if I want coffee, just lets me sit there with the glass of cool water. He waits until the woman leaves the room and shuts the door. Then he starts with “you earn too much money, we have to cut your salary”. I just look at him. This is fourth time he has come up with this type of crap. He seems to only have 2 motivation styles. Both involve blackmail. Threatening to cut my salary is his main one. He does not know that H.O. puts the real money into my NZ account back home. I wonder what this is all about. Then he starts. “You have not got all the sales you could have here in Bangkok this quarter. You could have a lot more. You only work to get your budget. Why you not help all company”? The penny drops. Obviously Chiang Mai office is not going to get budget. Somchai gets his bonus on total sales from both offices so if they miss by big amount and we do not make it up, he will miss his monthly and more importantly his quarterly target and bonus. I smile and tell him we have been trying hard, that times are difficult. We would have to do a lot of entertaining in next few days to get clients to place more orders in this month. I tell him that only the big bosses can make these decisions so late in the month. He looks at me. I can see the sweat starting on top of his head. His comb over is still perfectly in place at this early stage of the day, but you can still see through it. There are small beads of sweat starting. He is thinking this through. I have not said I could not get the extra but he is going to have to allow me to have some good dinners and drinks to pay for it. He rubs his fingertips together and pretends he is thinking like a big boss. Small beads of perspiration are starting to form at edge of his forehead. He is trying to make it look like a big decision, but it is easy decision for him. “Ok, but only two nights. I will check the bills when you bring them in. No expensive drinks.” The prick never gives in. He will be able to tell K. Ratakorn how good he was in keeping my expenses down and under control. He is now into sucking up big time to Ratakorn because the eldest son is finishing Uni in NZ at end of the year and coming back. This will put Somchai down the pecking order to no 3 and then when second son comes back from US Uni at end of next year he will drop to no 4. I have heard that he is so happy that first daughter has changed boyfriend; his family have more money then Ratakorn’s so he will not come to work here which would have pushed him down to no 5.
All this BS with Somchai has put me in bad mood. I now have headache so at lunchtime I tell little Pon my assistant that I am going out for meeting and will be back around two o’clock. She is great assistant. She now knows my moods and reacts to them. She knows when to bring coffee to me. Now when she sees me come out of shit session with Somchai in afternoon she brings in coffee, closes the door, goes to the filing cabinet and gets the bottle of black label out and gives me a good slug into the mug. I realize that farang really has no privacy in Thailand offices. It is a pity she is so young or else she could really make me feel good. As I walk to the BTS station I wonder again why I am staying here. Sure I make good money here with stipend from HO going straight into the bank but I have to put up with office politics from Somchai. He cannot see that the team is going great and we are all making sales. He wants that but at same time he is losing face. The manageress at apartment block has again tried to charge me too much for water bottles. This will mean another wasted 30 minutes while she gets out receipts and shows me the maid’s signature. I never win these arguments but I have to show them that they cannot railroad me every time. The bloody BTS train is crowded and when I change at Siam, everyone rushes for the escalator. I push to get in near front of pushing queue but as we get near the bottom we hear the train start to leave the platform. Christ, they cannot even get the trains to co-ordinate. How hard could that be? We now have to wait 10 more minutes for next train. The usual pushing in happens as the train finally arrives and I am carried into the compartment. How come I pick the only carriage to have Khun Ugly and her sisters in? What am I doing here in Bangkok? Perspiration is now pouring off me and my shirt looks like I have been in a shower. Some Indian dickhead is now conducting his business affairs over the phone and we are all treated to it in bloody Gurjarati.
I get off at Nana and walk up to Soi 8 making sure I do not look at the leper beggars. Bugger them! I have enough shit in my life. I reach Soi 8 and turn right 2 lanes in. There they are sitting, waiting for me under the Lolita’s sign. I choose Poo. She is great. Definitely a cousin of K.Ugly but at Lolita’s they do not choose them for their looks. I have had her a number of times. We go in through the curtain and I get the obligatory beer. She takes me to small room and starts to wash me. I love the way she looks up at me and asks “do you want same-same”. I smile and nod. She starts slowly and smiles up at me and makes lots of eye contact. She gradually takes away all the pressure and tension of the morning and Somchai's BS and manageress at apartment and taxi drivers and then she spits it all down the sink.
As I leave the lane and walk down Soi 8 back towards the station, I have extra spring in my step. I even smile and am nice at Indian tailor boy who wants me to come in and see suit, “velly good and cheap”. Yes I admit to myself, there are some reasons why I stay working in Bangkok. Getting stress relief here is much better than in Auckland. I will go back to office and tell Somchai that I think we can get the extra numbers. Then again he will know that I really have his two balls in my hands. I then start to think about K. Gal in the sales team. It is obvious that she wants to try farang, but so far I have resisted the urge. As I go up the escalator to the station I start to think again that life here in Bangkok is maybe not so bad after all.
You captured the feeling of life in Bangkok beautifully and I for one thoroughly enjoyed this story! It's the little things like the patango vendor and the fresh orange juice vendor and the students abroad returning who will go straight to the top of the company ladder that make it so authentic.