A POLITE LADY AND AN UGLY MAN
By Andrew Biggs
UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is toying with the idea of women-only train carriages.
The idea is to stem the rising tide of female harassment in public places after British Transport Police reported a rise in sexual assaults on trains.
Jeremy, don’t. Just don’t.
I live in a country where we have such things. We, too, have high rates of sexual assault.
So we have lady buses and, to my absolute horror, lady parking.
Expats in Thailand are generally a friendly enough lot. But scratch the surface and each has his or her own pet peeve.
I have a friend who absolutely hates the word “farang”. Detests it. Thinks it’s the most demeaning word on the planet and bristles whenever he hears it.
My friend Stuart goes nuts when a department store salesgirl says: “No have.” I can relate to that one. It’s the tone of voice that sets him off; the lackadaisical, wouldn’t-give-a-flying-airplane drawl that accompanies those two words, usually followed by locating the aforesaid out-of-stock item on a store shelf within a radius of three metres.
Then I met a guy at an Austcham meeting who led me through a dull conversation for a good 15 minutes — until he started raving about Thai taxi drivers.
“They round the price up every time. Every time!” he started screaming. “Like, if it’s 54 baht, and I give him 60, he doesn’t give me any change back. It’s like a mandatory tip! And that’s illegal!”
What a strange thing to raise one’s blood pressure over. He should be thankful the taxi driver even turned on the meter in the first place. And we’re talking six baht, the equivalent of 23 cents. Not to mention why anybody with a short fuse over illegal practices would think of joining Austcham in Thailand. My dull friend wasn’t just dull; he was masochistic.
And as I said, we all have our pet peeves.
Mine is lady parking.
Now and again I venture into department stores in Bangkok. I always bring some form of weaponry with me, such as a handgun or double-edged dagger, since the car park sends a very clear message; Bangkok department stores are so dangerous, there needs to be parking for women only.
I dislike the “lady parking” floor as much as Stuart dislikes female shop assistants, and nearly as much as that Austcham guy wants to murder taxi drivers.
They are even worse when you’re running late. A good example: I was once a judge for a competition at CentralWorld, and I got there five minutes before the competition was about to start.
Unfortunately this was a Saturday and despite being handed a parking ticket by female parking attendant on the ground floor, the parking lot was full.
Except … for … one … floor.
I’d gone up and down all six floors twice and the calm that normally envelops my life, thanks to deep breathing techniques and medication, was faltering.
My cellphone started to ring. I knew it was the nice competition organizer and she’d be asking where I was so I ignored the call.
I was tempted to pick it up and scream into the phone: “WELL IF YOU’D SET ASIDE A CAR PARK SPACE FOR ME I’D BE SITTING AT THE JUDGE’S DESK BY NOW”, except that I remembered her asking me that two weeks ago, with my reply being a cheerful: “Oh no, don’t worry, I’ll take a cab. What sort of idiot takes his car into inner city Bangkok on a weekend?”
I was on my way down when I hit the half-empty Lady Floor.
This is a regular car park floor, only the pillars have been painted pink, since that is the color of ladies apparently, even in this day and age.
Not only that, but the writing is in flowery script, a font that goes well with parasols and crinoline hoop skirts.
I’d had enough. It was outrageous enough to be given a parking card for a parking lot that was full; but to have to be subjected to a half-empty Lady Floor coated in pink paint on the way up and down?
The entrance to the Lady Floor was partitioned off, and a female security guard guarded it.
“I’m in a hurry,” I said in Thai, briskly and reeking of self-importance. “I’m a high-ranking judge for a very important high-class event about to start on the ground floor in full view of hundreds of people, including a smattering of khunyings.”
The middle-aged lady in the security guard uniform smiled back at me. “Only ladies,” she replied.
“Yes, I know, but — look, the whole idea of this floor is ridiculous. It is gross sexual discrimination of the worst kind. It’s probably even illegal according to United Nations equal rights statutes.”
“Sorry, lady only,” she said in English.
“How do you know I’m not a lady?” I asked. “Seriously. There are plenty of women who look like men. Look at Demi Moore or Sarah Huckabee. Do you stop them from parking here?
“Do you strip-search women who look like men? Why don’t I just keep a wig in the back seat of my car and put it on and shout khaaaa at you as I drive in? Would you let me in then?”
Those above two paragraphs were said in my head, dear reader. As much as I wanted to shout them at the security guard, I knew it would have been futile.
Though I had a valid point.
“What about transgenders? I’m assuming you let them in, but what about if Chaz Bono came to Thailand and wanted to park here? He’s a woman, you know.”
“If he’s a woman, he can park here,” she said.
“Well that’s not fair,” I said, as my cellphone went off again. I ignored it. “Please let me in. I can’t find a park anywhere else.”
“Sorry, lady only,” she said in English, and then in Thai: “It’s a safe place for women to park.”
“Oh, so Thai men are so dangerous you have to cordon off entire car park floors to avoid them?”
I shook my head incredulously. “All men are bad and all women are good? Well I’ve got one word for you: Lucrezia Borgia. All right, it’s two, but would she be allowed to park here? What about Myra Hindley or Kellyanne Conway? Can they park here?”
“If they are women, yes,” she replied.
I was utterly frustrated. Has Thai society failed if it needs to segregate the sexes? Shouldn’t we be educating young boys about giving respect to women? Lady Parking and Lady Train Carriages are an admission of failure. Take note, Jeremy Corbyn.
My cellphone was going off again. In anger I picked it up.
“Where are you, Khun Andrew?”
“I’m on the Lady Floor trying to find a park since the whole carpark is full but still the parking attendant on the ground floor gave me a ticket and –“
“We have a space reserved for you on the ground floor next to the parking ticket booth. Just drive back down. There’s an official waiting for you there.”
I looked at the security officer in front of me; a woman who earns 300 baht a day to stand in a stinking hot, carbon-monoxide-infested parking lot for 12 hours, but still manages to be friendly and smiling, even at ugly farangs who are fluent in Thai.
“Sorry, lady only,” she said again in English.
“And you are a lady,” I replied, as I drove off down to the ground floor to my preferential, and thoroughly undeserved, treatment.