NOT DEAF, VERY DUMB
By Andrew Biggs
There has been a commotion this past week in the media over the appearance of two attractive young westerners begging for money at a Khlong Toey intersection.
Just four days ago The Bangkok Post published a photograph of one of them, a woman, clutching a bunch of Thai flags and trying to flog them off car window to car window. There was a man as well.
Why were they begging? Why were they so attractive? And most importantly to the authorities — did they have work permits?
It wasn’t just the Bangkok Post that spotted these two. Your favorite columnist came face to face with them almost a whole week before they hit the media!
It was Friday morning, December 1, and I was on Kasemrat Road waiting for the lights to turn red at the Rama 4 Road T-junction.
I was sitting in the back of my stately automobile while my driver and personal assistant sat in the front. My PA was playing a popular luk thung song over the car stereo system. Normally I would never allow the likes of hired help to control my own car’s playlist, but he was playing one particular song because he “thought I might be interested in it from a language point of view.”
It’s a song sung by a young Thai country singer who bemoans the fact he cannot speak English and thus cannot pick up western girls. To rub salt into the wound, all the pretty Thai girls he knows aren’t interested in him on account of their desire to hook up with foreign men.
(A terrible cop-out; this singer, even dressed up in his glittery rhinestone-studded jacket and posing to a camera with gauze stretched over its lens, has a face only his mother would love. A little less kabuki make-up along with a jar or two of protein powder may yield better results than an English conversation course.)
The name of the song is Ai Khui Bor Khaeng which is truly ingenious, revealing the Thai people’s wicked sense of humor. It means “I Don’t Speak English Well,” but really it is a lewd play on words. When sung quickly, it sounds very much like “My Penis Isn’t Erect”. To date it has racked up nearly a million hits on YouTube proving that toilet humor is universal.
That is how I remember the sudden appearance of the western beggar.
“I Don’t Speak English Well” was blaring out of the speakers, my PA explaining how one particular Thai vowel turns the linguistic lament into a paean to erectile dysfunction, when I was aware of the appearance of a street beggar clutching paper Thai flags.
He was in his early twenties, looking healthy, and much better-looking than the runt singing that double-entendre country song. He looked as though he’d hopped a bus from Khaosan Road to Khlong Toei.
And he stopped at each car lined up at the red light, handing over a Thai flag with a small slip of paper.
“Wind down the window!” I bellowed at my driver. “And turn down that godawful song!”
Both orders bore instant fruit. As my driver wound down his window, the smiling young >>farang<< passed a Thai flag to my driver along with the slip of paper before walking off.
In perfect Thai, the printed message read:
“Hello. I’m a deaf man. I’m selling this flag for 100 Baht so I can save up enough money to buy a hearing aid. Can you help me?”
A deaf guy? Saving up to buy an earphone?
Yeah right. And I’m a Saudi prince.
“He doesn’t look deaf,” said my PA immediately. “He’s too handsome to be deaf.”
There was no time to berate my PA for his un-PC views on the disabled, even if he did have a point. I was more offended by anyone, regardless of aural affliction, flogging a 20 baht Thai flag for five times its price.
Within 30 seconds the allegedly hearing-impaired beggar was back.
“Hand it back,” I barked to my driver, to which he wound down the window and obeyed. The man took it back and was gone.
I do regret that last order; had my stinginess and outrage over the inflated flag not marred my judgment, I would have purchased it then and there to use as evidence for this column.
But that wasn’t the end of it.
As the lights changed and we moved forward onto Rama 4 Road, I realized the guy wasn’t alone. There was another foreigner peddling the overpriced flags — a very attractive blonde woman.
“Look at her!” my PC exclaimed as we whizzed past. “So many attractive deaf people today!”
It really was a jarring experience on so many levels.
We foreigners do behave badly over here so often. Didn’t we just have two gay guys baring their buttocks at a temple? Now even the deaf ones are playing up.
It’s certainly not the first time I’ve spotted westerners standing on the streets of Khlong Toei doing things that people of sane mind would never think to perform.
Now and again there are religious types, foreigners who stand on the side of the road with a loud speaker attached to a long pole, blaring out messages about how we should repent our sins and turn to Jesus because he is the Lord.
It takes a special kind of nutcase to stand in the blazing heat amid petrol fumes, holding a pole with a speaker extolling the virtues of Jesus — or rather, the peril of not doing so. These poor souls have nothing going for them; being religious types, they naturally don’t possess the physical beauty we saw in those two faux deaf backpackers. Anyone lacking sexual appeal needs something to clutch onto in life, hence the religious poles.
They may be wacky, but the fresh-faced youngsters clutching flags are worse.
They are taking advantage of the kind nature of Thais. Here in this Buddhist country there is the notion of “making merit”, or doing something altruistic in order to create good karma.
My next door neighbour, for instance, is a very elegant lady with never a hair out of place and always immaculately dressed.
I just found out she spends one morning each weekend cleaning out the toilets of the local temple. It’s something she does for no other reason than to perform a good deed. Buddhism promotes this kindness and self-sacrifice.
So when young people get it into their heads that it would be great to play on the generosity of the locals by faking a disability, I get a little angry. I’d take it one step further; even if they are deaf, what right do they have milking motorists of 100 baht in exchange for a cheap flag?
How upside-down is this modern world! Thais are convinced westerners are rich and Thais are poor. But did you notice the cute juxtaposition in the news this week?
On the day these two impoverished foreigners were out plying the streets, deputy prime minister Pravit Wongsuwan was being held to task for being photographed wearing a Richard Mille wristwatch. It retails for up to 10 million baht.
These two deaf foreigners want hearing aids? They should quit their street side antics right this minute and join the Thai army.