The Map Of Face
It was late afternoon of a typically steamy Saturday August day in Bangkok and I was relaxing in the semi-arctic chill of the reception area of a boutique hotel off Soi 11 on Sukhumvit. I was chilling in other ways just minding my own business while waiting
for a friend when a tall foreign guest strode out of the elevator and up to the reception counter. This was the exchange I overheard between the increasingly exasperated guest and the inscrutably literal receptionists. Only in Thailand.
Please can you help me?
Yes, sir, will try.
I need to do some shopping and I’ve heard that I can get good deals at Chatuchak. Do you know where it is?
Yes, sir. Can find good price at Chatuchak.
Cool. Do you know where it is?
Great. Can you tell me where it is?
OK, please tell me where it is.
It is not far, sir.
OK, I need to know how to get there.
You go now?
No, later. I want to know how long it will take and how I can get there. So, where is it?
You go by taxi? Can take, but espensive.
Maybe…how long will it take for me to get there?
Sir, not know. Sometimes traffic.
Ok, but if I go there tomorrow morning how long do you think it will take me?
Sir, I think taxi is espensive. Better you go MRT.
What’s the MRT?
You know BTS?
Yes, I know the BTS….the skytrain, right? But I’m confused. I thought you said the MRT, so what does the BTS have to do with the MRT?
Not same, sir.
Wait a minute: why are you telling me about the BTS?
Can take, sir. Not espensive like taxi.
So, I can take the skytrain not the MRT?
No, sir. Cannot.
Umm. Now I’m really confused. Why can’t you just give me a simple answer to a simple question? I just want to know how long it takes to get to Chatuchak.
Yes, sir. Understand, but cannot say.
Me mutters under his breath: Jeez, give me a break. I can’t believe this crap. Then says out loud: OK, so can you show me where it is on a map?
Do you have a map?
Umm…so please show me on the map.
Not have map here, sir.
Oh my god, but I thought you said you have a map!
Yes, sir. Have map but not here.
Christ, so if I get a freaking map can you show me?
He storms off to the elevator and comes back about a few minutes later with a map. He’s even slightly more flushed and agitated than when he left. I wonder when he’s going to explode.
Meantime there’s a different girl at the reception desk. He notices the change and hesitates for a moment as he approaches the counter as though he realizes he’s in store for another round of circular discussion. So he tries to compose himself, takes a deep breath and inquires of this new girl:
Hello. There was another girl here a few minutes ago. Do you know her?
Yes, sir. I know her.
Can I talk with her? She was helping me? [Helping? I wonder if he realizes the irony of this claim. Evidently not, as he continues.]
Good…when will she be back?
Sorry, sir. Do not know.
But I thought you said I can speak with her!
Yes, sir. You can, no problem.
OK, so when will she be back.
Next time she working, sir.
You don’t say! And when might that be?
He can’t help an outburst: Well, for god’s sake that’s not going to help me is it? I told her I was going to get a map and she just ups and disappears on me. What kind of service is that?
Very sorry, sir.
Ok, it’s not your fault. But I really hope you can help me as this is getting me pretty frustrated and pissed off. I just want to know where Chatuchak market is. Do you know where it is?
Oh, good. I want to go there to do some shopping. Can you show me where Chatuchak is on this map?
Yes, sir. Can.
Great… go ahead.
But sir, I think good shopping for you at Siam Paragon.
Well, maybe I’ll go there another time. But I heard that Chatuchak is only open at the weekend so I want to go there tomorrow.
Sir, tomorrow very hot. Chatuchak not have air-con. Maybe too hot for you. I think Siam Paragon better.
Oh god, here we go again. Look, I just want to get to Chatuchak. Can you show me where it is on this map?
Oh, thank god. I thought I was going to go crazy with the other girl!
He opens the map and spreads it on the reception counter.
Please show me.
The girl spends some moments poring over the map. The man watches her intently as she moves the map around on the counter, looks at the backside and then he starts to get agitated as her look changes from studious to confused and then to totally mystified. He notices that she’s focused on the area near the Grand Palace and the Chao Praya river. Even he knows Chatuchak is nowhere close to that area. But he’s read somewhere that this is Thailand and he needs to try to remain calm, to keep his cool, or he’ll get nowhere. So he perseveres…
Ummm…so, do you know where Chatuchak is?
Yes, sir. Know.
Great. Then please show me on the map.
Sir, cannot show you.
Why not…it’s an official TAT map.
Sir, map not good. Cannot show you.
Sorry, but I don’t understand. This is a map of Bangkok and you said you can show me where Chatuchak is.
Sir, map not show. Need Thai map.
That was just too much for him. He grabbed the map and stormed off cursing and yelling: “Are all these girls sub-moronic? I can’t fucking believe this”.
Later I saw him talking with a taxi driver and based on his flushed face and agitated body language I assume he was encountering more of the inimitable Thai “help”.
Hilarious, and I don't doubt oh so true!