On Mondays, before the cleaning ladies arrived to do my apartment, I used to leave a pair of two hundred baht tips ($6 apiece), placed underneath the widescreen TV, where it was sure to be noticed. This routine went smoothly for a long time, but then — to my surprise — complications arose.
It had to do with the number of maids involved. The two regulars, Lek and Pong, showed up every week, scrubbed the bathroom, changed the sheets and swept the room. They were very grateful for the money. But sometimes a third woman, Saenga, helped out. Because she was more shy than the other two, I felt a certain sympathy and wanted to be sure she also received something.
The easiest solution would have been for me to have three tips laid out so Saenga could be compensated whenever she was part of the crew. But when I suggested this to Lek and Pong, they reacted with something akin to horror. No, they said, Saenga could never know about the tips. For that matter, I should not even be mentioning the money in any setting where someone could overhear us. When I asked why, Lek struggled with an explanation. But as I thought about the ramifications later, a degree of understanding began to dawn.
First of all, two hundred baht, while a mere pocket change to me, is a nice little sum to the girls. Enough that if the other maids were to find out about my generosity, it could cause some jealousy, maybe even anger at the way they had been excluded (by not getting to clean my room). Were I to begin tipping Saenga, the entire arrangement would be exposed with unpredictable consequences. The cat would be out of the bag.
Not wanting to risk setting off a squabble, I decided to devise a more covert method of tipping my two regulars. It was a simple solution: I would place the money in the left-hand drawer of what I like to call the “make-up niche”, a small enclosed area with a long mirror that my streetwalker dates use to pretty themselves up before going back out to troll for more customers. Since the drawer makes a grinding noise, I demonstrated to the girls how they should cover it by emitting a loud cough. This gave them a good laugh and now when I run across them, I sometimes make a deliberate cough of my own as a reminder of our shared little secret.
My clever little scheme so far has gone undetected by the other maids. I just hope none of them ever become followers of this blog!
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