Once a week I leave our 100% Thai compound for a farangization visit to Pattaya.
Mam doesn't begrudge my re-union with the West. She has me the rest of the time.
This week I took the 1pm bus down the coast. Thirty minutes later I was at Maggie May's. The afternoon drinkers were few. I recognized one face.
Jimmie had been coming to Pattaya several years. The postman from Northumberland had obeyed the advice of his lager lout mates and never gotten involved with a bar girl. Every night of his two-week holiday the 40 year-old drank up a storm brought a willing female companion back to his 400 baht/night room on Soi Concrete.
The next day Jimmie repeated the same process with the same enthusiasm as the previous night. He was a simple man with simpler pleasures. They were unattainable in the UK.
I was not friends with Jimmie. He was a little too National Front and his Geordie accent defied any attempt at a two-way conversation.
"Ah feel leik Ahm deein an expensive version of GROUNDHOG DAY." Jimmie said in his Gordie accent one afternoon, nursing his hangover with a beer.
Actually he had to repeat the sentence three times before I could understand his dialect. He shrugged and added, "Met a lass last neet . She's a canny good one. Doesn't want nothin an fucks leik sheh likes it. Ah think Ahm gonna stay wi hor."
Being a married man and nearly faithful ( I believe Bill Clinton never had sex with Monica Lewinsky ), I don't like seeing any man in his golden age succumbing to allure of commitment. "Jimmie, fight off that urge. Have another beer."
Jimmie was weak. The girl was cute. He looked like a vulture. She loved sex and he was thinking about extending his vacation.
"Ah want te stay wi hor the month. Sheh says Aa've te gis hor 15,000 baht (00US) fre the month an then the bor 6000 baht. Does tha seem leik a canny good deal?"
15K was about three times her monthly salary at the bar.
"If it makes her happy."
"What bout the 6000 to the bor?"
"Well, it's an insurance policy. Once you leave she's going to have to work somewhere and she likes where she works. So you have to give the bar their due." 200 baht a night for a month came to 6000. She was playing him fair and square.
"Ah just feels a little tee much leik a slaver."
"You get over it."
"It's not aboot the money."
Anytime I heard someone say that it wasn't about the money, then it was definitely about the money.
"If you say so. Just enjoy yourselves and forget about the bar fines." My head was hurting from the struggle to translate his Geordie-speak into a form of an understandable dialect of English. I ordered a draft beer, hoping for some price.
Jimmie coughed to disrupt my non-flow of thought.
"200 isn't too much."
"For a bar fine?"
His dumbfoundment was due to a basic cultural confusion.
Most farangs thought that the girls should be free to come and go as they like.
"Pay attention, because I'm saying this once and once only. The fines in Pattaya generally run according to these rates. Go-go girls get 500 baht. Show girls cost 600-1000 baht. Service girls in go-go bars are 500 baht. Bar girls are 200 baht.
Short time girls on Soi 6, Welkom Inn, and Jade Garden at 200 baht. Free lancers at Marine Disco or Tony's don't expect a bar fine, although it would stop them from asking for one." I explained all this to Jimmie as well as that his girl gets a commission from the barfine. "25-50%."
So yee think it's a canny good idea ?"
"Yeah, sounds great to me." Some people need a shove to push them off the cliff and sometimes these romances are the best a man like Jimmie can expect from life.
"Cheers." Jimmie bought a round for the bar to celebrate his decision. The girl came down later and thanked me.
"Only trying to make a man happy." Drinking with a woman wasn't as much fun as with your mates unless they were boring Wankers.
"I make him happy. He make me happy. Good."
"Yeah, sure. But can you understand what he says."
"No." She shook her head. "I don't speak German."
Neither does Jimmie, then again I'm not so sure that he speaks English.
It Doesn't matter. Money says love in every language. It's the universal translator.
Not matter where you go.