Back to Bangkok

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
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Saturday, May 19, 2007

After Samui, Derek and I headed back to Bangkok for my parents' arrival.  We had a day to kill and wandered around town a little and actually ended up strolling the street on which I now work.  It was uneventful, but I'll take this opportunity to tell the story about Derek yelling at the girl at the massage place.

Let me preface this by saying that Thais don't show emotion in public.  It's called The Land of Smiles, so you'll see plenty of that (although Bangkok isn't as friendly as the rest of the country).  However, people don't raise their voices or argue in public, kids don't throw tantrums, couples don't have tearful discussions about how they never go dancing anymore, and even positive public displays (i.e. kissing or light petting) are not sociably acceptable.  So if you place yourself in such a location, this will mean a little more.

Derek, if you don't know him, is a pretty laid back guy when he's out of a suit.  He leaves work at the office pretty well, his years of bartending and waiting tables means he's nice to the help, and he generally treats everyone with respect and good humor.  That being said, he's not afraid to bring someone to tears should they cross some magical line, and in this case, that was being charged for blood letting.

Massages here are about $10 an hour, which is a hell of a deal, and Thailand is famous for (well for lots of things), but particularly for massages.  I'll take this time to point out that these are almost always on the up and up, and we can dispense with any of the seedy stigmas that may surround the industry.  So after getting massages, Derek thought we could get a shave.  I had a barber shave in Chang Rai that was very cool.  He suggested we let the girls here have a shot at it. 

So we laid down, got the hot towels and lathering, and it was all going well until they started the actual shaving by chipping at our flesh with dull blades.  Instead of the smooth strokes that should be utilized, it was more like they were making an ice sculpture.  I just cringed and hoped they'd stop soon.  I could hear Derek asking the girl who spoke no English what the hell she was trying to do to him.  He finally said, loudly so that it echoed through the entire shop, "Ow!  Jesus, no, just, no, just STOP!"  I looked over to see him sitting up with half of his face still covered with white shaving cream, the other half with bright red blood, and a lovely pink goo where the two met. 

The relaxation from the massage had clearly dissipated, and he looked like he was going to throw the 80-pound woman through one of the paper dividers that did nothing to hide his hostility from the waiting customers and other employees.  At this point a new girl came over, with a slightly sharper blade, and made him bleed slightly less.  This was followed by rubbing-alcohol being administered to our fresh wounds, to which we both gasped audibly and with enough laughter to hide the tears.  As the whole world knows, Americans are quite loud.  Add anger and an unpleasant buying experience, and our voices boom through corridors in a very "Old Testament, wrathful God, you've been coveting" sort of way.  So Derek's displeasure was a secret to no one, which I found very amusing, which is also not quiet, so we made a bit of a scene. 

Derek proceeded to walk out the door after dropping a damp and bloody towel on the table, at which point the 80-pound girl got less smiley and demanded she be paid for removing the 5 or 6 layers of his unneeded skin.  I figured the show alone was worth the $1.50 we were being charged, so I paid it while Derek explained thoroughly that such a horrible service should not result in any charge and that their training was obviously insufficient and their technique atrocious.  Her wide eyes informed me that she had understood zero words and didn't care.  I deeply respected their placid, indifferent reaction to obvious anger.  It's a hell of a trick, which is why the whole incident amused me.  I don't like to see anyone upset, even incompetent, razor-blade-wielding sadists.  So the fact that no one was bothered but us made it easy to laugh it off.

As we left, Derek did what we all do to overcome a language barrier - he spoke slowly and loudly: "Do not.....ever...do that...to anyone....ever....again."
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