kindness of strangers

king of little Thailand

king of little Thailand
Written by Cathoel Jorss,

Unable to stomach any more Spanish food I went out and found a tiny Thai place. It was up a narrow staircase from the paved street where people wander in the evening in great numbers; the combination of Thai intricacy with Spanish kitsch in the decor was eye-watering. The girl tried to seat me at a little table under a limeskin-green wall but I asked her: can’t I please sit and look out? “This table is reserved,” she said, indicating the last little window seat. The owner came out and asked her what was going on. He was a dapper Thai gentleman who reminded me of the portrait of the King above the bar. He came over and swept the chair back invitingly, ushering me in and then jamming the table back further into the alcove, saying ruefully, “For Thai people,” as I worked my legs in under it. “Or,” I said, “Spanish people.” “Yes…” opening a large menu in front of me. I sat eating my dinner all alone and gazing down into the street where people towed their children, and several tall black men down either side of the pedestrian zone were running an illegal market, holding their stalls (spread on canvas) by four guy ropes, one at each corner, and all of them looking around constantly, alert. There seems to also be a trade in contraband recycled cardboard; I saw one man towing a giant carton by a rope like a small boy playing battleships come speeding down the alleyway and hastily harvest the best, cleanest folded boxes from the large pile all the local shops had planted out under the streetlamp; without waste of time he towed his bounty away. Not five minutes later another man pulled up diagonally across the walkway in a dirty white unmarked van and jumping out threw his back door open; looking about him nervously he stashed several large cartons of folded boxes into the back of his truck and then drove away, still looking anxiously all around. The restaurant owner came back to ask would I like a “cocktail” “of the house”, “it is a kind of Baileys,” he said, in English, “so you digest.” Thank you, I said, I would. And when he came back with the bill (I think it’s “la quinta, por favore,”) I used the formulation taught me by eavesdropping on Germans in cafes in Berlin: “Just give me fifteen back, please.” As he turned to go I touched his arm as lightly as I could. He could have made four times the money on my table had he given it to a group. “You are a very cultured person,” I said, “thank you for your hospitality. I appreciate it.” “Oh,” he said, “oh!” and touched his open hand over his heart. I grabbed my bag and ran away shyly and at the top of the staircase he caught my eye as a large group of Germans came in and his hand went unconsciously over his heart.

4 comments on “king of little Thailand

  1. Some wonderful things can happen to you when overseas & you show interest & gratitude.

    Diane McLauchlan March 28, 2015 at 12:12 pm

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