Stickman Readers' Submissions March 3rd, 2020

The Maintenance of Things

There have been many enjoyable and riveting reads on Sticks Weekly Column, predominantly in relation to ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ scenarios; which have included my ‘Out of the Blue’ story of 6th February 2020.

I thought that I’d go off on a slight tangent with this submission, but I feel that it’s relevant for serious consideration by any farang who is intent on spending anything from short time GF experience up to the rest of their life and anything in between, with a Thai.

He Clinic Bangkok

Conclusion at the beginning: Farangs beware! Thais buy brand new homes, cars and any inanimate object for two reasons – lack of maintenance, and saving face; both of which in my opinion are related.

This is from my own personal experience, and what I have witnessed in friends and relatives homes etc, and in no particular order or importance. Just look out for the signs and please don’t get sucked into needlessly spending loads of cash.

  • Cars:

I think back to my childhood in the UK the rush to be the first kid to spot a newly registered vehicle sometimes ended up with scraps breaking out in the playground. In the absence of mobile phones, we’d proclaim without any evidence:

CBD bangkok

“I’ve seen an E Reg Triumph Herald this morning”

“No you haven’t” came the denial from a bigger kid.

Cue fight!

The relevance of the flashback is jealousy, pure and simple, outright jealousy. How dare you be the first, that’s someone else’s privilege? Thankfully, those type of peety arguments and black-eyes were confined to the junior school days.

wonderland clinic

Fast forward to 21st century Thailand and we’re reliving the same jealous approach to being the first to have anything.

How proud people are as they drive their red-plated cars around the highways like they’re king of the castle. As soon as it’s parked in the drive, the neighbours take note and arguments ensue about needing their own new car.

And so it begins.

As soon as the red plate changed for a white one, the lack of maintenance becomes evident:

Screen wash? What’s that?

Oil change? Forget it!

Wiper blades? WTF?

Door seals? Pffft!

Tyres…Hmm, a slight deviation as Thais do like to inflate them.

However this is usually to the point of extremes bordering on dangerous. Maybe they think that the tyres should be pumped up to the max!

Tyre treads? Shakes head and rolls eyes! I’m sure that it’s treated as a mere decoration, hence the frequent sight of bald tyres on private and public vehicles.

Lights? “No need to have as it saves the battery”

That, ladies and gentlemen is a genuine quote from one of my neighbours!

I could go on but I’m sure that you’ve got the gist.

The reasoning is that lack of maintenance = inevitable breakdown = new car, unless the dilapidated vehicle flips and takes the owner out with it. They just get a Darwin Award.

  • Fans / Air-Con Units / Washing Machines / Shower Units:

 Electric fans a godsend in any humid environment; be it in an office block or home anywhere in the world.

Why then would the owner of such a wonderful device neglect to clean the bloody thing!

Thai friend “Mum’s Fan broke, buy new one”

Farang husband “What’s wrong with it?”

Thai friend “Blade go slow, buy new”

On brief inspection, it was quite obvious that the reason that the “blade go slow” was simply down to it being caked in dust.

Not a sprinkling like icing sugar delicately spread over a piece of delicious Stollen Cake, no, this was thick, black dust all over the blade, blade covers and mechanism.

A few minutes spent dismantling, washing, cleaning and reassembling the device soon had it working like new – good job he checked it or he’d have been needlessly out of pocket.

Air-Con units: see above.

For the sake of a few hundred baht every 6 months, someone will call at your house and service these units. However, this is ignored and the latest ‘all singing and dancing with whistles and bells’ (as advertised on Facebook or LineApp – isn’t everything!) is demanded when it just isn’t necessary.

Don’t fall for it!

Washing Machines:

Why oh why, don’t Thais see the value of time invested in cleaning the draw, drum, drain and exterior, either after each use or very regular intervals?!

My first experience of this was at the sister-in-law’s house. She who must be obeyed told me to look for a new machine as her sisters was on its last legs:

“What’s up with it?” I asked.

“She says it smells and doesn’t clean clothes anymore” Replied she who must be obeyed.

Well, she got the first part right. My goodness it did smell!

The brown deposits on the inside of the drum gave me an idea.

Me: “Have you got any baking soda & vinegar?”

Sister-in-Law: “You make cake?”

Me: “No, me fix washer”

Sister-in-Law mumbles but passes me the required items and although it took a couple of hours, and plenty of elbow grease, the machine looked as good as new and once the dead lizard was removed from the outflow pipe, all washing resumed as normal.

Shower units: see above.

In fact, the same goes for any inanimate object.

The words of my very first driving instructor spring to mind: “Mirror, Signal, Manoeuvre” In other words, check before you do anything or it could needlessly cost you.

To summarise, the lack of maintenance is a shortcut for Thais to replace older inanimate objects with brand spanking new versions that they can show off to the Jones’s.

In most cases, a little TLC with said objects will negate the need for huge cash outlays.

However, I fear that this is a cultural trait, which is far removed from the ‘make do and mend’ mentality that mother instilled into us as children.

Is it right that we farang instil some of our wisdom or virtues onto people in their own back yards?

I think as long as what we do is explained without being patronising, it’s the right thing to do. We are not ATMs at the beckon call of our new relatives and friends.

Good luck and best wishes to everyone who is in a dual nationality relationship or is considering taking the plunge! Like any relationship, it takes two to tango.

Remember: Mirror, Signal, Manouvre…and proceed with caution.

nana plaza