The Nature Of Success
Somebody once said "If you can look back on the past year and can find some things to laugh at or to shed a few tears over – then you have had a successful year". I think that is a positive statement because at least you know that you are still alive – let's face it, if you cannot express either of those two emotions, then you are probably dead. A fellow living next door to us would sit on the back steps of his house every morning, reading the funeral notices and it would go something like this: "Geez – I'll be buggered – bloody old so-and-so is finally gone!". If you asked him how he was, he would say "I'm dead – but I'm too bloody stupid to lie down". If you asked him how his wife was, he would say "Oh, she's probably up in the crapper, choking a darky". This guy worked all his life as a tramway motorman and ended his last years as an Inspector. When he retired, guess what he was given as a going away present? It was a wooden tramway-stop post that he could mount underneath his house. One would think that 40 years of reliable service would dictate at least a gold watch presentation – but a wooden tramway-stop post? Hmmmnnn!
I wonder what 40 years of service on the Bangkok Bus Service as a driver would produce as a going-away/retirement present. Probably a lifetime pass for free travel on all bus lines within Bangkok. That sounds fair enough to me – but, after 40 years of service, there would not be too many years left to take advantage of that pass, considering the life expectancy of older Thai men – particularly if they are married to older Thai women.
So, how do we begin to gauge success? For some of us it is whether or not we survive the night and wake up in the morning – but, quite often, with the attendant pains and cramps, one could argue that waking up would be a failure.
Let's be serious and come up with successful situations in Thailand. You've arrived as a "newbie" – fresh off the aircraft at Suvarnabhumi, grabbed a Taxi-Meter and paid him 2000 Baht for the privilege of a fast trip into town (well, he looked like an honest taxi driver), stowed your belongings in the hotel of choice and are now walking down Soi Cowboy and every girl is calling you a Hansum Man. One of them grabs hold of your hand and drags you inside (we won't name the bar) – and very soon you are buying drinks for her and three of her friends. They are over you like a rash and one of them wants you to bar-fine her short-time in the back room for 5000 Baht – and you jump at the chance. All your dreams have come true. This is NOT a success story.
Let's look for something better.
You're another "newbie", innocently walking west on Silom Road at around 10 am, just minding your own business – and passing the entrance to Soi Patpong I when, out of nowhere, this old Harpie latches onto you and pushes this colorful brochure in front of your face. "You want beautiful lady? Very special price – happy hour now – you come see, yes"? We've all met her before – but you try to ignore her offer and keep walking – dragging her along with you. "What wrong? You not like lady? Have ladyboy, if you want – you come see – very special price just for you".
You're a tourist on one of those combo-deals, never been to Bangkok before and this is a free day, so you make the fatal mistake of looking at her. She assumes you are interested and, before you can resist, you are being pushed up this narrow stairway to find yourself in this dimly-lit room and being offered a drink. You choose beer – another fatal mistake. The drink arrives and the Harpie disappears and is replaced by another lady (the Mamasan) who encourages you to choose one of the delightful "flowers" seated at the other side of the room. "You like lady to come sit with you and have drink with her – yes"? How can you refuse? The one you are looking at has a nice rack and a pretty face (from what you are able to see in the semi-darkness). So far, this is NOT a success story. You ask her to come sit beside you and she is given a drink of choice – and she seems like a nice person – quite sexy. A price is agreed on for "services" and then the Mamasan advises that two other ladies would also like to join in the "fun". Well, why not – isn't this every "newbie's" dream? A new price is negotiated. So the four of you adjourn to the place of pleasure – a little cubbyhole that has a double bed, small en-suite with shower and a large TV on the wall at the foot of the bed. There is barely enough room in this cubbyhole for two people to stand comfortably – but what the hell, most of the activity will be on the bed. So, it's off to the ablutions, one by one (it is not big enough for two people). Of course, you made sure you took your valuables with you into the en-suite! What? You forgot? What a dummy!
You're really only interested in screwing the first lady of choice – but, after the first "pop", the other two yell out "all change" – and you feel like you are at one of those old country railway stations in Britain of the past – you know, it's a junction, where you have to change trains (bit deflating, actually). Of course, ladies 2 and 3 are more interested in the TV program (some soapie about ghosts) – and ladies 2 and 3 are a bit of a disappointment, so you opt to have another "pop" with lady number one, with the nice rack. Some advice here – NEVER accept the offer of three ladies in this situation. Yes, the price negotiated for all three may have been reasonable – but, when it came to tipping, they all wanted the same tip, didn't they? But the other two didn't provide good service. Still, it is a case of pay up or have to fight your way out. And we all know who will win in that situation – and it isn't likely to be you. This is NOT a success story.
OK, outside of most (all) decent hotels in Bangkok, there are always a few tuk-tuks or taxis casting their nets to trap the unwary who step out onto the sidewalk from the hotel. You know the banter: "Where you want to go? I take you for 40 Baht". You see it every day – these gullibles (usually young, well-heeled Europeans) stand there actually trying to negotiate with these opportunists. It goes something like this: "You take us to Wat Phra Kaew for 40 Baht?" Tuk tuk or taxi man: "Sure – along the way you like to see very good bargains in gold or gems – perhaps you like new suit, Sir, or new gown for lady, yes?" Does it look like either one of them would ever wear suits or gowns – both of them are young and in short shorts, T-shirts and sandals? Look, the odds are there will be some sucked in – but the wise ones will just keep walking on.
I often stand and listen to the banter and chuckle quietly to myself. On Petchburi, usually outside Amari Watergate, I normally stop to talk with the touts and find it quite enjoyable. They can tell after the first few seconds or so that you are not a scam prospect – so it almost always becomes quite a pleasant conversation. You learn a lot from these guys.
Success stories in Thailand: You went bareback and didn't catch the clap (or worse). You were lucky enough to hook that dream girl to stay long-time in your "cheap digs" and she didn't drug and rob you. Your "girlfriend" didn't drag you along to Yaowarat. The razor gangs at Hualamphong Station didn't slit the correct pocket with your cash inside. That stunning freelancer on Sukhumvit turned out to be a ladyboy – but it was something you had always been curious about anyhow. You didn't lose your passport on the day (Sunday) you were leaving Bangkok. Look, the permutations are endless – use your imagination. Any situation that doesn't involve you getting taken down, run down, arrested, sick in hospital or inconvenienced in a major way – is a successful outcome in Thailand. Even in the worst situation, as someone once said "You can only die once!"
If that quote in the first line of paragraph 1 is correct (and I know it is) – I have at least 14 years of success to look back on, just in Thailand experiences alone. Millions of laughs and probably an equal number of tears – but I wouldn't have it any other way. What is life if you don't experience and value the emotions that come along with it? To me, they are a true gauge of success – they are the legacy of who we are.