Conventional wisdom has it that a blink of an eye lasts 400 milliseconds. For me, it is more like three months. Thatâ€™s how I feel as I pack my two meagre suitcases to leave the bustling, crazy world of Los Angeles for the bustling, crazy world of Bangkok. There are people to farewell, tequila bars to visit, dinners to attend, and tequila bars to visit â€” did I repeat myself just then? Thereâ€™s been the quick trip up to Hollywood Boulevard to buy tacky souvenirs.
What I didn’t count on were requests, out of the blue, to buy things.
Back in the 1990s and early 2000s Thais had a sudden, inexplicable love affair with David Jones face cream from Australia. David Jones of all brands! Far be it for me to look down on it (I’m all for sudden, inexplicable love affairs), but it meant that every time I went home I received countless orders.
I don’t frequent David Jones that often, being more of a Best And Less boy, so it meant having to trek into inner-city Brisbane, never the best of places for anybody even slightly unhinged, and battle the crowds to pick up bottles of the stuff.
Nice guys finish last, that’s all I can say. The weight of the damned bottles put me overmylimit and I had to pay extra formy suitcase. Three of the bottles broke on the way back, with face cream infiltrating all my stylish new Best And Less T-shirts and boxer shorts.
Anybodywhodoes business in this part of the world knows that gettingmoneyout of people at the best of times is akin to getting platelets—nothing as easy as blood —out of a stone. I didn’t get payment for any of the bottles, intact or otherwise, leaving me and my Visa card all alone to sort out the mess.
That was a long time ago and foolishly forgotten by me. Let’s jump forward to late June 2010, when the emails start to trickle in once again. ‘‘How are you kaaaaa! This is Lek. I miss you soooo much. Can you buy me a white Adidas shirt na ka? I enclose the ad. I want the small size and the white shirt, NOT BLUE. Thank you so much Khun Andrew ka.’’
How nice to hear from Lek. She hasn’t been in contact since she unsuccessfully tried to sell me insurance back in 2008. Lek lives in Ubon Ratchathani, so I guess the cost of sending her NOT BLUE Adidas shirt there from Bangkok is on me.
As for receiving payment, well, an image of a broken David Jones bottle comes to mind, and my index finger hits the delete button.
Art’s email comes next.
‘‘How are you Khun Andrew? I don’t want to be a bother, but could you buyme a bobblehead na ka?’’
Art does not belong in the same folder as Lek. Art is a close friend of mine; she’s the PR lady for BEC-Tero, a very attractive woman probably pushing 35 years of age but still looking in her mid-twenties without a single clandestine visit to Yanhee. She has everything she could possibly want in her life—beautiful face, great figure, good job and a cute Italian husband. Everything, that is, but a bobblehead.
What the hell is a bobblehead, anyway? Art supplies me with a link. It’s a tall doll whose head ‘‘bobbles’’ back and forth with the mere touch of an index finger. They are in the shape of all sorts of famous people—BarackObama, Shaquille O’Neal, the Lord Buddha, Rush Limbaugh—and it seems Art’s life will not be complete without one.
By a freakish coincidence I am in a WashingtonDCsouvenir shop when I spy anObamabobblehead next to the Lincoln Memorial ashtrays. In their boxes, four bobbleheads — if I were crazy enough to buy them—would fill upone ofmymeagre suitcases. Beautiful Art will have to remain bobble-less.
More interesting is the email that arrives from Ethan. ‘‘Khun Andrew! My Thai brother lives in LA and he bought me an iPad. I need somebody to bring it back for me. I enclose amaptomybrother’s house.’’ Sure enough, Ethan’s Thai brother lives exactly 50km away from me in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley.
Perhaps the most outrageous thing about this request is I don’t know Ethan’s Thai brother. I don’t even know Ethan. He’s one of my 5,000 Facebook friends who read I was coming home and figured I could be his electronic mule.
Did you think I escaped with only one iPad request?
How ironic that my American trip is bookended by my dear friend Evil Neil’s purchases of iPads in the USA. I have well chronicled his exploits here, suffice to say Neil is a user. He is addicted to electronic gadgets and gets dark panda eyes and a pallid expression the moment he is away from drugs that go by the name of Blackberry and Apple.
‘‘I’d like to order a 64Gb iPad,’’ he writes. Notice there are no ‘‘I miss youuuu’’s or ‘‘na ka’’s to soften the blow. It seems three months with a normal 16Gb iPad has stretched Neil’s attention span. He needs the 64Gb version and he needs it now. ‘‘Best to order it right away,’’ he suggests in his email, but I don’t since I’m on the way to Washington DC.
When I get back to LA I go down to the Apple store at The Grove. It’s two days before I leave the States, and there are hundreds of Americans with faces like Neil’s in a long line that snakes out of the store. It reminds me of a methadone line. They are all waiting to shoot up the new iPhone 4G that came out the day before and which sold one million units in its first day. I sashay past the crowd like Lady Gaga outside a nightclub. I don’t want a brand new iPhone. I want a boring old iPad.
Bad news. ‘‘There’s a two week waiting list for those,’’ the friendly young lady tells me.
An hour later I amin that tequila bar when I call Neil to give him the news.
‘‘I TOLD YOU!’’ he screams, his words jettisoning across the Pacific into my dinky old Nokia. ‘‘DIDN’T I TELL YOU?’’
And so my name is mud. Now I’m the evil one because I dared not to pick up an iPad for Neil, or a white Adidas shirt for Lek, or an arthead for Bobble—Imean a bobblehead for Art. I didn’t tell you about the friendwhowantedseedsfromanAmerican lemon, nor the one who wanted the latest copy of Hustler.
But there is a happy ending. The morning I am leaving, I am down at The Grove for a farewell brunch. On a whim I pop across to the Apple store and get this — there is a 64Gb Apple available! Somebody ordered the wrong spec or something; it doesn’t matter. It’s 3am in Bangkok when I call Neil asking if he still wants it.
I can hear the arch-angels’ harmonies resounding across the darkened Bangkok sky directly over Neil’s riverside apartment as he hears the news. ‘‘YES! YES! GET IT! GET IT!’’ he croaks like a frog on heat. Darkness still prevails in the skies above Lek, Art, Ethan and all the others, however.
But at least I made one person happy on my return, and at least the stress of other people’s requests didn’t drive me out of my bobble head.
About the author
- Writer: Andrew Biggs