Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

A Bangkok Story

I walked into the glowing white supermarket, a halo of sanitation.

Thinking myself rather native and shopping for the new breakfast I’ve fallen in love with — a discovered fruit equivalent to a steroidal grapefruit sliced and cellophaned like the sterile environment from which it came — I pick up a package and grab a bottle of carrot juice to accompany it. I Am Health.

There are a few other things I pick up, too — chewing gum, cough drops, an ultra fine ball-point pen, things I can live without but must have, as they are branded “so Bangkok” with their Thai and mint green / pale orange palate.

By now my hands are full with groceries. I head to the checkout isle. The perfect glow from the florescent lights make me feel dirty just for the sweat I know is rolling down my back from the heat outside. Inside, of course, it’s a perfect 70.

And then the trouble starts. As I’m standing in line, the grip on my carrot juice is compromised by the condensation rapidly forming and it falls, splats upon the gleaming linoleum floor, shattering the sanctity of cleanliness.

There is orange everywhere.

From every corner of the store, women in identical blue smocks swarm upon the puddle of carrot. A manager is shouting in Thai, directing the clean-up cadets. I stand there, petrified.

Customers continue to walk through the mess, tracking orange stains across the floor. The Thai, apparently, don’t often look down when they walk.

These people, the Thai people — usually so blasé about hindrances; irritation never entering into the equation — are hardly ever not smiling. And yet this man, this manager? Not smiling.

I just keep uttering the few phrases I know in Thai:

Sabai di mai ka? (“Everything okay?” Closer to, I find out later, “Are you physically comfortable?”)

Kun sabai di mai ka (“How are you?”)

Kapun ka (“Thank you”)

Mai pen rai (“No problem / Don’t worry about it”)

Mak, mak! (“A lot / very much”) — this one repeated over and over, embarrassed, for good measure.

Finally, I reach the checkout, orange streams of guilt trailing behind me, and hurry through as fast I can, forgetting to pick myself up another bottle of juice.

§201 · June 8, 2006 · JetSet · · [Print]

1 Comment to “Supermarket Blowout”

  1. date 11 says:

    leo gursky moment.

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