Imagine my surprise last week when a mouse stuck its head out of my car air-conditioner. It was late at night in the car park of Channel 3. It seems this little mouse had made a home in my car for more than a few days, which would explain the scuffling and shuffling heard on and off by yours truly this past week. Thank goodness it was a mouse and not the onset of schizophrenia.
As I drove from Channel 3 to my palatial home in Bang Na, the cute little thing kept running up and over the dashboard. It was quite comfortable around me when I drove, and for a few days we were inseparable (in the car, that is). What a cute situation; perhaps they could make a movie out of it starring Johnny Depp, or that toothy Jeanne Moos from CNN could wisecrack her way through a two-minute special report on the wacky Aussie in Bangkok who travels with a mouse.
I even christened the mouse Ronnachai, after the surly toll collector at the Thai Port on-ramp who complains when I give him the toll in five and 10 baht coins. "Tomorrow I'll hand over a 1,000 baht note - perhaps that'll put a smile on your face," I said, a little cruelly in retrospect, as I sped off, noticing his name was Ronnachai just as the mouse's head popped up.
A couple of days later as I glided along the freeway to work, a thought suddenly occurred to me. What is this damned mouse eating to stay alive? Crumbs from the sugar-free health food bars and organically-grown fruit I snack on whilst driving? Surely not. And then my next thought - what if Ronnachai's munching on brake wires?
A Man And His Motor Mouse might be a cute Disney film, 3D or no 3D, but having a friendly mouse in your brand new Teana, gnawing its way through the electrical wiring, may have fatal effects. It was clear Ronnachai had to go.
And so with a heavy heart I purchased one of those cardboard things with the sticky surface and placed it on the dashboard of my car last night. It didn't make it any easier to see a cartoon of a mouse on the cover of this product, with the words HELP! HELP! coming out of his mouth.
This morning Ronnachai was stretched across the goo in an almost erotic pose, legs splayed apart, blank eyes looking up into nothingness, like a rodent version of a Nana shawarma vendor. As I tossed Ronnachai into the trash, I wondered how I was going to pay for this karmically. How was my action going to come back and manifest itself? And how could I atone for my sin?
Had I not chosen to uproot myself from Sunnybank in Brisbane 21 years ago and come to Thailand, instead opting for a life of suburban bliss thanks to a daily cocktail of Prozac and Bundaberg Rum, I wouldn't have thought twice about killing a mouse. When I was growing up, Sunnybank was a bit like a country town, albeit a dysfunctional one. There were cane toads everywhere.
I come from a country where eight of the 10 deadliest spiders in the world can be found. Go for a swim and be careful not to step on a box jellyfish - you'll be dead in three minutes. Such was my upbringing - we swatted and killed and squashed and pulled apart whenever we could. And now, here I am in 2010 in Bangkok, Thailand, fretting because I escorted poor Ronnachai to his mousy maker way ahead of time.
Such is the influence of Thailand.
"Are you going to the temple?" one of my Thai friends asked me at lunchtime today - absolutely seriously. "It might be a good idea to tamboon for the mouse."
Another Thai friend explained that in the grand scheme of things, killing a mouse wasn't up there among other sins such as murder or wearing a red shirt, but still it meant that my evil action would have to come back to me. Perhaps I would stub my toe, or get diarrhea from an Isan sausage or something.
"We Thais don't like to hurt animals," my friend explained as we ate, coincidentally, Isan sausages. "I guess that's why we have a problem with soi dogs. Thais consider it a sin to de-sex an animal because then it can't continue the species."
This I know. I once had a beautiful dog that was born with only three legs. Friends suggested I name it "Tripod" or "Triangle", but in the end I chose a delicately beautiful Thai name - Kanokwan. Because I could only see beauty in the eyes of that gorgeous little animal.
Around eight months old and Kanokwan was no longer a puppy. She was on heat for the first time. For three days she ran around my moo bahn like a brazen hussy, assuming poses on the road like poor Ronnachai on the sticky cardboard. Finally I called the vet, a woman with pursed lips and a white coat, who had just opened up at the end of my soi. A dull-sounding female assistant answered the phone.
"My little dog has come of age," I said pleasantly. "She's running around the moo bahn looking for boys. It's time to de-sex her before she gets pregnant."
"Has your dog had sex with any of the male dogs?" the under-schooled thing asked me. She used the verb pasom pan in Thai - "to mix the genes" - and I answered: "I'd say she's been mixing her genes as often as she possibly could! It's a veritable canine orgy out there!"
The joke went right over her head. "Then the doctor will not perform the de-sexing operation," she said solemnly. "The doctor refuses to de-sex any dog that's already mixed her genes."
I put the phone down. Here was a vet contributing to the problem of too many soi dogs thanks to some silly belief. Did I write "silly belief" just then? I retract it immediately.
It's admirable there are people who consider life so sacred as to refuse to de-sex a dog because of it - seriously. The good doctor fears karmic retribution for putting an end to the life of an animal. And now, thanks to 21 years in Thailand, so do I.
My car is strangely quiet without Ronnachai scurrying up and around my odometer. As for Kanokwan, well, 15 minutes later I telephoned back the vet's asinine assistant.
"I just remembered," I said feebly. "My dog hasn't been outside at all. These past three days she's been inside my house the whole time."
"Oh, well then bring her down immediately," Nong Witless said, now in a much more cheery voice. "The doctor can perform the operation at 5pm."
About the author
- Writer: Andrew Biggs