The Invisible Man
by A Fool in Paradise
“You know the money that you and the rest of the family send Steve each month on the condition he not return to the British Isles?” There was a slight pause before her slow, sheepish response: “Y-e-s?”
“Well I should warn you that my friends and I here are putting together a counter offer.”
I could hear her laughter as I quickly handed the phone back to an embarrassed Steve. He had passed it to me in order to wish his mother in the UK a Happy Birthday and I took the opportunity to have a joke at his expense. All in fun, of course.
Steve is a relative newcomer to Pattaya, but not to Thailand, having spent several years living in Bangkok. He has a great sense of humour and fits in quite well. During the time I’ve known him, I have also discovered he has two character traits. The first is a condition not unknown to many Pattaya expats. As he himself confessed, “I don’t have a problem not drinking and can go for weeks or even months without having a drop of alcohol. It’s just that, once I start, I find it difficult to stop.” Oh yes, I’ve travelled down that road myself. On the few occasions we’ve gone out on the town together, I’ve witnessed him in action. Bar crawling around the sois, I reach a point where I cannot face another drink and, usually before the witching hour, I head off home to bed. At this stage however, Steve is still in the mood so I leave him to his own devices. The next afternoon I find out he had crawled home at sunrise in a very tired and emotional state.
Steve has a two-year-old daughter and, luckily, an understanding Thai wife who has learned to be tolerant of his behaviour. He recounts an incident when he once made it home at 10 o’clock in the morning. Knowing he had done wrong and wishing to apologise in the most profound way, he gave his wife several thousand baht with the words, “Go out and buy some naughty DVDs and a slinky, sexy nightie and tonight, when the baby goes to sleep, we’ll have some fun.” [Wink, wink, nudge, nudge] He went straight to bed. When he awoke that evening with expectations running high, he asked his wife, “What did you buy, darling?”
She took him by the hand into the lounge room and pointed to a 2 foot high, pink, stuffed pony for their daughter, a stack of Tom and Jerry DVDs and held up a pair of lavender, long-sleeve, flannelette, lady’s pyjamas you would not wish on your mother-in-law! His punishment was complete.
Steve’s second character trait seems to contradict the first. In this part of the world, it is usual when a customer enters a bar for one of the service staff to approach and take his order. Should the customer reply he just wants to sit and not have anything to drink, fairly soon the mamasan will approach to politely explain, “Sir, this is a business where we require customers to at least order one drink. If you don’t wish to comply, may I suggest you leave and find somewhere with more lenient policies.” Or words to that effect.
Steve never has that problem because he finds it extremely difficult to ever get served. I’m not joking; he and I can walk into a bar, find a seat and my order will be taken immediately. My drink and bin will arrive and Steve will still be sitting there waiting to be served. We used to call a girl over to take his order but then we decided it was more fun to just wait and see if anyone even notices him, often timing how long it takes him to be served. I recall one particular day we arranged to meet at a bar in Soi 6. I was running late and, when I finally made it to the bar, I went searching for him among the crowd. He was sitting up the back, literally at the main bar counter in front of the cash register. I ordered my beer from the loitering service girl and one of the hostesses came over, put her arms around me and expressed what a sexy man I was. When my glass and bin were placed on the counter, I noticed Steve had nothing in front of him. “Did you just get here too?” I asked.
“No,” he replied. “I’ve been sitting here for half an hour and nobody has said ‘hello’ or even noticed me. Not one of them has asked if I want a drink.”
But it gets better. Last New Year’s Eve, four of us went out in search of amusement, Pattaya-style. At about 10pm, we entered a crowded Go Go Bar and made our way to what was the only vacant table. Three of us took over that table while Steve occupied a corner of the adjoining one. All was fine – our orders were taken, drinks arrived and companionship appeared in the form of three scantily-clad dancers in between pole-shuffling assignments. When it was time for refills, I saw Steve was not drinking. “Please don’t tell me!” I commented.
“Yep! Nobody has even asked me yet. They saw four of us come in; they served the three of you; but apparently I’m invisible.” As we all laughed, he said it didn’t matter because he was a bit hungry and wanted to get a bite to eat anyway. We said we would wait for him as he made his way out the door.
He was back 30 minutes later and resumed the same seat. By this time, we had just ordered our third beer and the girl bringing the glasses to our table had to literally ask Steve to move his leg so she could place them on our table. That was the only recognition he was given by any member of staff all night. We left at 11:30pm and Steve’s bar bin was zero. The invisible man.
“So this is why you stay out all night,” I remarked. “You don’t really drink a lot. You just spend most of the time waiting to get served!”
“Yes,” Steve replied defiantly, “and I save a lot of money.”