Spring 1992: when you’ve lived in this city for 20 months as i have
you develop a hard or at least a hardish edge – it’s part of the art of survival.
The new World Trade Centre is a glass and marble hulk within walking distance of my place. It’s all shiny and well finished but largely unoccupied as yet except for a security desk at the main entrance, a small anonymous office next to that and on the fourth floor a bar cum coffee house. The attraction is the place is quiet and the coffee, though expensive, (the rental is steep, i’d say) is excellent. And strange as it may seem good coffee is hard to come by in this city.
Two saturdays back i was sitting there around noon reading The Bangkok Post and enjoying my brew when a young man in his early twenties i reckon came from nowhere it would seem, strolled over to my table and said sweetly, ‘Hello, nice see you again, long time.’
I put the paper down and looked at him. I’m not always the best with names but a face i never forget and this man i’d never seen before.
‘You look good,’ he went on. ‘You still work same place?’
‘I sit, OK?’ he said and that was intended as my invitation to him. He sat and i was now his host.
The waiter came and the young man ordered a bottle of the most expensive beer on the menu. The waiter was back a minute later with the beer, a glass and a bill. He poured the beer for the young man and then looked at me to see if i would take the bill. The young man indicated to him to put the bill on the table next to my cup. The waiter put it on top of my bill for the coffee.
No sooner had my ‘guest’ taken a sip of his beer than two other young men appeared out of nowhere and came to the table.
‘These my friend, you remember?’ said the ‘guest’ to me.
I smiled and he motioned to them to sit.
The waiter came again, took the order for two more bottles of the most expensive beer and they were duly brought as was another bill, again placed on top of my bill.
The three sipped their beers, chatted away in Thai and ignored me. Why engage me in conversation when i was there for only one thing?
I waited a minute before deciding to speak plainly. I stood up and said, ‘Excuse one second, i go toilet.’
‘OK’ the three chimed.
The toilets in that place are to the left of the bar and slightly behind it and next to the toilets is a down escalator. I hopped on and in no time was at street level and on my way home. I didn’t give a toss whether the trio had enough money to pay for their expensive beers and for my excellent coffee.