What Price Glory?
Tim stepped out of his hotel and flagged down the taxi that seemed to instantly appear. One thing about Bangkok, he thought, there is always a taxi around when you need one. They may not know where you want to go, and they may not get there in the best
way, but at least they are there. And cheap.
“Nana”, he told the driver; the meter went on and so did they.
The driver turned down the volume on the Isaan music that was playing, tilted his rear view mirror so he could see the back seat, and spoke “You English?”
“Ah. Work America base in Udon. Fifteen year” said the driver. “I speak America little bit.”
“OK” said Tim, not wanting to get into conversation. He had arrived a few hours ago and had one night in Bangkok. It was pushing 10 o’clock and he wanted to have a woman in his room by 11, 1130 at the latest.
“You go get girl?” asked the driver.
“Maybe” replied Tim.
“I see many falang take girl from Nana. Very beautiful. So expensive. One time falang say pay 2000 baht.”
“Yes. It costs 2000 baht to take a girl short time. You also have to pay the bar 600 hundred baht. And buy the girl drinks.”
“So much! I cannot. I make two, three hundred baht every day. Buy girl drink, pay bar, pay hotel, maybe 3, 4000 baht. I work 2 weeks maybe make 3000 baht. Cannot pay for girl in Nana. You falang lucky. Have money can pay. Good for you.”
The taxi arrived on Soi 4 outside Nana Plaza and Tim paid the meter with a few baht extra. “Tell you what” he said on a whim. “I will be finished by 11. One hour. If you are here you can take me back to hotel.”
“Take you? Or take you and girl?”
Tim just smiled.
He walked briskly through the ground floor of the Plaza, ignoring the girls and boys who shouted at him to visit their bar. He made for the bar in the right hand corner, Hollywood 2. He had had luck there in the past, the girls were generally pretty, and he didn’t want to waste time searching. After he parted the curtain acting as a doorway, his eyes adjusting to the low light and his ears to the high volume, he found a seat which afforded maximum visibility. He wanted to see all the girls at once as there would be plenty of time later to see one close up.
Within ten minutes he had found his dream girl, the right face, body, eyes and especially her smile. He motioned her over, bought her a drink and went through the usual “What is your name?” and “Where are you from?” Tim often felt the reason the bars played their music so loud was to drown out conversation, so that people would not realize until they were in the hotel room that they had nothing to speak about. And by that time conversation did not matter.
The girl, whose name was Pen, rested her hand lightly on Tim’s upper thigh and chatted away gaily about nothing. By now it was pushing 1045 and Tim was getting ready to go, but Pen asked for another drink. He noticed that she had started looking at her watch. At 1055 she excused herself to go to the bathroom, and when she came out she had put on make-up to make her face whiter, and had doused herself with perfume.
“Are you ready to go?” asked Tim.
“Go where?” she replied.
“My hotel” said Tim, and he smiled.
“Oh. Cannot. I am waiting for someone.”
“I thought you would go with me.”
“Next time” she said. “Tonight I have to meet Japanese man. He come every Thursday 11 at night. He take me every week. Pay me…” she thought for a second…”7000 baht.”
“7000 baht” exclaimed Tim. “That’s ridiculous.”
“I don’t know” and Pen made an attempt to say “ridiculous”. “But he pay me same same every time. I have to know.”
“Why does he pay so much?” asked Tim. “Girls only cost 2000 baht.”
“Thai girls don’t like Japanese men so much. So we make them pay more. Japanese men happy to pay a lot. Give them face. Here he come.”
And with that, Pen slid off the bar stool and went to greet the man who had just entered. She gave him a peck on the cheek and without ordering, 2 cold Asahi beers arrived. The man put his arm around Pen and began to watch the dancers.
Not wishing to start again, Tim paid the bill and, with an inward sigh, left. It was a few minutes after 11.
The taxi was there, waiting for him.
“What, no girl?” asked the driver with surprise.
“Japanese man took my girl. Paid more.”
“Mai bpen rai” said the driver and drove for a bit.
“I know. I take you to place I go to. Thai place. Only Thai men go. You get girl. Not so beautiful Nana girl. Cannot speak English. But can make love. They have room, you do there. Not take to hotel. OK?”
“Sure” said Tim, not wishing to think more. “How much?”
“700 baht” said the driver. The girls were really 500 baht, but he figured Tim wouldn’t know that, and he could pocket the extra 200 himself.
“And you have to buy a girl for me.”
“Done” said Tim.
“Good job” thought the driver. He would get two 200 baht extras, and a girl in addition. Which one would he take? The last time he had a girl named Phet. He would ask for her.
Phet sat at her table in the bar, waiting for her next customer. Maybe that old taxi driver will come tonight. I always charge him 500 because he is old, and he is happy to pay. Everyone else pays only 300.