I must admit that when I hear about the shopping malls and theaters being closed it does not ruffle my feathers. My “local” mall, Terminal 21, has started playing hip hop themed music. And going to a movie up on the top floor means enduring a procession of loud advertisements before the show finally starts. The current plan is to keep these venues closed for at least three weeks. Three years would be fine by me.
The shutting down of the Bangkok bars, on the other hand, has proven to be more traumatic. I am a long time regular at Beer Garden on Soi 7. It is such fun to saunter in on a busy night, find a good seat, order my usual glass of red wine, then casually scan the premise to see if any of my special friends have arrived yet. (Like Liam Neeson’s character in the opening bar scene of Schindler’s List, except I am not looking for high ranking SS officers.) To have this routine suddenly shut off has led to some empty evenings.
Of greater concern is how my pair of barmaid friends, Sumontha and Sirada, will be getting by. Thailand does not have much of a safety net: if things go bad, family and friends become the fallback positions, though neither may have much in the way of money. This got me thinking that if the two of them will not be getting paid while the bar is closed — an assumption that proved correct — they could be feeling the pinch. So for my final visit before the shutdown, I gave them each three thousand baht (@ $90 USD) to help them through the following two weeks. (This had Sirada in tears.)
Today’s announcement by the Thai goverment of a state of emergency and possible curfew bodes ill for the girls; it could be another couple of months before they can return to work. I will continue providing support, relying on Sumontha to tell me how much they need. It’s something I am happy to do. Last year, when I was under the weather, I made a joke about them bringing some wine to my apartment to aid in my recovery, never imagining they’d actually do it. So when they did show up late one night after work and presented me with two bottles of respectable red vintages, I was stunned. Friends like these deserve to be helped.