A Close Encounter


My arrival in mid-October had predated the busy tourist season by a few weeks. With the “hot” women yet to arrive in numbers, the ones manning the neighborhood bars were not very high quality — raucous, bawdy and with intimidating tattoos. One night, after two Rum & Cokes with a lady who had an image of a dragon disemboweling a naked man on her right thigh, I decided to try the live music bar just down the street. In the past this had featured Thai waitresses attired in uniforms worn by high school girls. I have always been a supporter of education and decided to see how their, ah, classes were progressing.

To my disappointment, school was not in session. In place of the young “students” I fondly recalled was a somewhat dispirited collection of older (as in over twenty-five) ladies mulling about. No Westerner was in sight, so I had the bar entirely to myself. 

The gun-chewing waitress who came over to be my intellectual stimulation for the evening was named Lawt. To help break the ice, I got out the Thai language cheat sheet I use for basic communication. It has the usual greetings, names of Thai dishes, and useful questions that together allow me to function in this country. On the back are more sophisticated phrases to be employed when extending the hand of friendship towards the opposite sex. Some examples: “What is your name? How much for one night? Will you come home with me now?”

Lawt ponderously examined the first page (I was not going to let her see the other side until after she’d had a few drinks). There was none of the usual admiration Thai bar girls effortlessly fake upon meeting a foreigner trying to learn their language. No reaction at all in fact. It seemed a long evening was at hand.

But I am nothing if not ambitious. Adopting a slow, sustainable pace with red wine coolers, I encouraged Lawt to order any kind of concoction she wished. When she confessed that her miserly boss partially deducted any alcoholic drinks the girls had from their pay, I offered to make up the difference.

The hours passed and the band played on. Slowly I could sense a subtle change in Lawt as the alcohol began to work its magic. For one thing, it became harder to sip my coolers as she leaned into me, pinning one arm against the chair while she pawed at the other. Clearly the time had come to make my move, especially since I was losing feeling in my extemities. It was then, just as I had managed to re-extract my cheat sheet and was stumbling through my “please come home with me” line, that things took an unexpected turn. It began when Lawt, taking advantage of my liquor largess, had a huge bottle of beer brought to the table with two glasses of ice. Turns out this was not for us to share, but for her and one of the other waitresses.

Well all right! For a brief moment, I had the heady feeling of someone who has baited a mouse trap and returned to find it has ensnared not one, but two of the lovable little creatures. In this, the very bar where I’d once learned the importance of having a backup lady. But it bothered me that Lawt had not asked permission to get an extra glass for her friend. And the choice of beer did not sit well with my proud self-image as a Pacific Northwest wine taster. What unpleasantness would I have to endure next, I wondered.

When Lawt offered me a sip, I tried to pass, explaining I preferred wine. She responded by grabbing the back of my neck and forcing my head down towards the glass. It felt like I was pledging a fraternity. Desperately I tried to hold on to my Seattle haughtiness by frantically reciting names of famous varietals: “Chardonnay! Bordeaux! Boone’s Farm!” But my dominatrix remained unrelenting.

In the end I escaped by breaking from her grasp, stepping to one side and pretending to dance to the live music. The girls mistook my gyrations for an epileptic seizure, and I regret I’ve had to take advantage of this ruse so early in the season. But it was either that or a bottle of iced, San Miguel Light. My self-respect would never have recovered.

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