MORE LIKE A DEVIL DOLL (Part 2)
By Andrew Biggs
“Ladies and Gentlemen, the cabin light will be dim. If you wish to keep on reading, please switch on the cabin light above you.”
It is early evening on an Air Asia flight back to Bangkok after an exhausting day in Surat Thani.
I’m so fatigued, even the absence of a plural “light” in the recorded announcement fails to move me.
Had I been feeling a little livelier, I would have called the nearest flight attendant over and asked which of the myriad lights in the cabin was going to be “dim” and what were the criteria for it alone to be chosen, and pray, can’t Air Asia find anyone who can pronounce her “-ed” in the future passive?
Thank god for fatigue, otherwise I would have won Mr Pedantic Passenger 2016 at the annual Air Asia office party. Besides, my mind has been consumed with things more pressing than failed conjugations.
My thoughts are with … Andrea.
You have to believe me; I had no intention of carrying the Angel Doll column into this week. Last week’s was a stand-alone story and should have been left at that. Sequels are never good as their predecessors. Go and see what The Hangover spawned and you will understand. And speaking of spawn, let’s get back to the real issue in question — the spawn of Satan that entered my life last week in the shape of an Angel Doll.
Though I can feel the fever pitch of the national fad dimming — not unlike the lights in the Air Asia cabin — Thais are still going crazy over the dolls. I was at a Surat Thani restaurant last night where a woman at another table was nursing her six-month old child. “Look!” said one of the waitresses, “A real-life Angel Doll!” So that’s how we describe babies now, is it?
In case you missed last week’s column, I purchased an Angel Doll from Sampeng to experience what all the fuss was about. I christened my doll Andrea and spent a day with her; a day in which my car got scratched, a migraine set in and I was non-productive and listless.
I blamed Andrea for it all. She ended up in the trash, a perfect end to the story. Alas, Chucky never dies. It just returns for the sequel.
An hour after I’d tossed Andrea into the trash, she was fished out by my Thai staff. She was back on my shelf, with a brand new bracelet, hair clip, and necklace. Her hair had been plaited, but that would be transient. Andrea’s hairdo changed on a daily basis.
The day after her resurrection I received a phone call. It was my accountant, who, like most accountants, only allows displays of personality for special occasions. On that day she was beaming.
“The money has come through!” she chirped. “We just received confirmation!”
We had been owed a very large sum of money for a factory project we did in the North-east two years ago. Despite us fulfilling our part of the deal more than adequately, our client was subscribing to the blood-extraction-from-a-stone bill payment theory.
Out of the blue they paid up. It wasn’t until the afternoon that the news got back to me — my staff were attributing that windfall to you-know-who.
“Ever since she’s come into our lives, she has brought good luck,” said my receptionist. My personal assistant agreed vigorously, stroking Andrea’s hair as the conversation ensued.
My sales person frowned at me and said: “You shouldn’t look down on her so much.” I told her I would consider her suggestion with the same grain of salt I perused her potential client contact sheet.
Then another bombshell.
I had a visit from a former staff member of mine. Upon seeing Andrea, she hugged her and insisted on having a picture taken.
Two days later she entered a lucky draw at the company she now works for. She drew out a cash prize of 100,000 Baht.
My personal assistant nearly wet his pants.
“It’s Andrea! It’s Andrea!” he bellowed throughout my school, piquing the interest of my receptionist and sales staff and the occasional student. Everybody was wide-eyed. Andrea, who sat on my office shelf, started receiving visits every 15 minutes from my staff. Some gave her a wai. Some whispered to her. My personal assistant hugged her.
“Andrea, give me the winning lottery numbers and I’ll buy you a one baht gold necklace,” he said, kissing her on the forehead. This is the man who wipes down the mouths of water bottles for fear of botulism; no compunction about being the fifth in a row to kiss Andrea’s forehead.
A day later I was in Surat Thani. I wanted to take Andrea down as part of the show, but my staff were adamant; Andrea was NOT going to be shoved into a suitcase.
I was just as adamant that I wasn’t going to carry Andrea onto the plane. When the suggestion was made that I purchase an extra ticket for her, I seized upon the opportunity to teach the popular English idioms “when hell freezes over” and “over my dead body”.
But the damned doll keeps pulling off the lucky charm shtick.
At that Surat Thani restaurant, after paying the bill we had no means of getting back to our hotel.
“Let’s ask Andrea to help us,” suggested my personal assistant. He turned and shouted into the night air: “Andrea, make a taxi come and pick us up now!”
“This has gone way too far,” I snapped, but none of my staff were listening to me. They were all too bedazzled by the headlights of the oncoming taxi that appeared out of nowhere not 30 seconds later.
I feel like I am living in a Twilight Zone episode. Little Miss Chucky is bestowing good luck upon my staff and me – but will there have to be a payoff? Will I have to burn in the hideous flames of Hades for eternity because she arranged that cab?
“How can Andrea give you lucky lottery numbers?” I asked my personal assistant as the cabin lights were dimming.
“Oh, easy. When I waft my hand across the lottery tickets, I ask Andrea to choose a ticket,” he answered.
“But she’s not with you when you buy it.”
“She doesn’t need to be. She is there … in spirit.”
That’s what I was contemplating as I sat in the dimness of the Air Asia cabin. Why are we so quick to attribute our good fortune to a life-like doll? Like that overdue payment … what happened to the hard work we did, the excellent product we delivered, the letters requesting payment, the lawyer, the conscience of the North-Eastern factory … did none of that count?
As for my former staff member, in a lucky draw somebody has to fluke it. And from my experience in Surat Thani town there are taxis roaming the streets all the time.
All I know for sure is next week my staff are going to be devastated when I donate Andrea to an orphanage.
Perhaps they can get on with their lives. They could even return to creating good luck for themselves through diligence and opportunity, rather than joss sticks and prayers.
That is my hope for Thailand as well. It is more than a hope; it is a necessity, for if we don’t, it’s not just the Air Asia cabin lights that are dimming.