A Helluva Long Way to Do Nothing
A Thai Trip Journal, 1989
Part IV: The Singapore Guys
And now to the tale of the Singapore Guys. Make of this what you will:
Early last week, as I was walking on Silom Avenue, a stranger stopped me and blurted out a cheerful, "Hey, how are you doing!?!" He shook my hand like we were long-lost friends. He said that his name was Jerry, and he was from Singapore. He had very good English. We traded small talk for a few minutes, then he got down to business. "Hey, you know, my girlfriend was married to an American man. They had two children together, but then they got divorced. He sent her child support money for a while, but then he stopped sending it. He lived in Washington, D.C., and now my girlfriend wants to go there to see if she can find him. But she doesn't know anything about America. Maybe you could help her."
I shrugged. "I don't know," I explained. "I live in Chicago. I've don't know anything about Washington. I've never been there."
Jerry was not deterred. "Oh, that's OK. I am sure you know a lot of things. Maybe you can tell her where to stay, and how much money to take. Say, what about charge cards over there. Do places take the Visa card there?"
I told him yes.
"Maybe she should get a Visa card. It's very easy to get a Visa card in Thailand. You just put 2500 baht in the bank, and you can get a card. Hey, are you busy tonight?"
I didn't want to be committed to anything, so I said I wasn't sure.
"Maybe we can get together tonight and you can meet my girlfriend. Where are you staying?"
By now, Jerry was starting to seem a little odd. Nonetheless, I gave him the number of the hotel and told him he was welcome to call. I still more or less believed his story, and for obvious reasons I could sympathize with someone who was about to go to a foreign country.
He called that night, and I told him that I was busy, but that tomorrow night might be OK. He cheerfully signed off, vowing to call back the next night, but to the best of my knowledge he never did.
A few days later, I was on my way to a bookstore just beyond the southeast end of Silom Avenue. Another stranger, maybe in his fifties, suddenly waved and gave me a cheerful, "Hey, how are you doing?" He was Asian, perhaps about 5'3", and his ears stuck straight out from his head. He shook my hand. "What country are you from?" he asked. "America," I said.
"America!" he exclaimed. "I have been to America! I was in the U.S. Navy!" He gave me his best Navy salute. "I am from Singapore!"
Suddenly this was starting to sound familiar.
He made a little small talk, then told me that he hadn't liked the navy, so he had quit. I was a little confused about how someone from Singapore wound up in the U.S. Navy, but no matter.
He rambled on a bit, then began demonstrating an impressive knowledge of U.S. geography. (He knew the capital of Oregon. I didn't.) Then he got down to brass tacks: "Say, my sister is going to America to study, but she has never been there before. Maybe you could talk to her and tell her about America." He wanted to meet me for lunch the next day so that I could meet his sister. I politely declined, saying that I had to meet a friend, and that I wasn't sure what time I'd be available. (A lie.) Nonetheless, he gave me directions to a nearby restaurant where they'd be if I could make it after all. Then, he had another question for me:
"Do they take the Visa card in America?"
He followed that with a few more questions about Visa, and I told him that I didn't know since I didn't have one myself.
Shortly after that he made his departure, walking away with a jovial "OK, we'll see you tomorrow!"
"Maybe," I said, using the term "maybe" to mean "When hell freezes."
So I ask you... what was that all about? I have no doubt that it was some sort of scam, but I have no idea how the whole thing was supposed to work. If it wasn't a scam, it was one really amazing coincidence.
Back at the hotel restaurant, the Colonials are watching snooker. During a break in the match, the younger one tells his friend a joke:
"Indian tribe, in America," he says. "One day, young son comes to his father. He says, 'Father, how did you choose my name?' Father looks at the boy and says, 'I will tell you that, my son.' He says 'When I had my first child, your oldest brother, your mother handed him to me, and I looked up. The first thing I saw was the yellow moon. I named him Yellow Moon. When I had my second child, your older brother, your mother handed him to me, and when I looked up I saw the little mountain. I named him Little Mountain.' He paused. 'Why do you want to know, Two Dogs Fucking?"
OK, I admit it... it was rude and maybe even a little racist, but it struck me as being pretty damn funny just the same.
This article contains eight parts:
Part One: Get Your Wings
Part Two: Orient Orientation
Part Three: The Colonials
Part Four: The Singapore Guys
Part Five: The Least-Laid Plans
Part Six: Doing Nothing at the Border
Part Seven: Back to Bangkok
Part Eight: Ayutthaya, Bang Pa-in, and Home