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Another Agency Tale – Meeting The Family



It’s been a year and a half since I first shared about #5. I went back to LOS in May 2010 and she arrived on schedule in Massachusetts in October 2010 just as the weather took a turn for the worse. It has been like that ancient Chinese proverb: “may you live in interesting times”. A small tidbit from our relationship.

In May 2010 we get to visit Sukhothai so I can meet her mom. Lovely place if you are an agronomist specializing in rice or simply want to disappear off the grid. I make the initial mistake of having her select a hotel; after all she lived there most of her life. The best I can say about the hotel she selected is that I would not need to worry about cleaning supplies used by the hotel as happened in Chiang Mai last year. Insects could not possibly get into the room; since nothing below ankle level was apparently allowed to be cleaned, imbedded grime had long ago closed all entry. The bathroom was built as only a Thai would build it. On one end was a sink, then a large open area with the only light; on the other end the toilet and shower hose shared an intimate relationship. TIT strikes again. But the main highlight was the trip to see mom and then on to the ancient city. The ancient city itself was spectacular.

#5 was charged with obtaining transportation. Even after seeing the room, I had expectations of a decent sedan for the day. What we got was a pick-up that was a little ragged ten years ago with the intervening time not being kind. I found the army-truck type seating in the back amusing. Being the farang and it being May when you just pray for cool temperatures of 105°F or so, I got to sit in the front with the air-conditioning which, of course, didn’t work. Since it was bench seating and the Thai driver was at best five feet tall, my knees were knocking over all the Buddha statues that lined his dashboard. It was small comfort realizing both that, being so wedged in, I could not possibly go through the windshield should there be a collision and that the driver felt the need for so much good fortune while operating his vehicle.

You read the stories here, you chuckle, you wonder how the writer could not see the inevitable happening and then, with all that information and preparation, the same thing happens to you. We visit mom and #5 being the small town girl who made it big, a significant portion of the extended family is there. Nobody speaks a word of English but everyone is happy, especially the driver who is getting paid to sit in the shade. Almost two hours go by and #5 announces to me that it is finally time to get on to the ancient city. Fine and dandy and I expected #5’s son and perhaps her mother to come with us. I get up ‘sawadee krup’ the family and smile. Everyone smiles back at me, ‘sawadee ka’ me in unison and then the entire lot pile into the back of the pickup. They seem to have assigned seating. With driver it makes fourteen.

I am not amazed that apparently you simply cannot have a proper road trip without refreshments; I am amazed that this was apparently forgotten by all and sundry until just after we left. After a short fifteen minutes someone remembers the rule and it has been decided that we need to stop at the local version of a variety store. Everyone alights from the vehicle in combat precision, driver in the vanguard, and selects something to drink. A disagreement regarding beverages is settled when the participants finally agree to get all disputed beverages. Where it appears from has never been adequately explained, but one passenger thoughtfully has brought along a cooler for extra drinks and of course, that is filled with ice and drinks and returned to the pickup, again with military efficiency. Thai is exchanged among the participants (nee invitees); more nods, more smiles and without further ado the snack aisle is successfully assaulted in echelon formation. The family seems to know where everything in the store is exactly located, save of course, for the cash register. The clerk is frantically wearing out the register buttons. And I only then remember the Stickman stories about such excursions and realize I have been bushwhacked good and proper in the Thai style. I’m not the happiest of fellows at that point, but resign myself to accepting the situation and having a chat with #5 later that evening. So you can imagine my utter surprise when #5 steps up to the register to pay. In their Thai way, the entire family is watching me with baited breath; I can feel their eyes upon me. I suggest to the clerk that the clerk not take #5’s money. The clerk can’t speak English, but she understands every syllable I spoke to her and #5 thereupon disappears from her view though #5 remains in her direct line of sight.

Maybe there is something to all those dashboard Buddhas after all. The total bill – about $10 and I get the feeling that the clerk expects me to negotiate the total. “Hey folks, anybody want anything else?”


Stickman's thoughts:

The old Thai family day out…an activity you will neither see me getting excited about, nor joining!