There’s A Fry In My Lice
by Mr Kevin
There’s A Fry In My Lice
I know you are looking for a story rich in intrigue, romance, betrayal and avaricious conspiracy. Next time; I promise not to disappoint. But this story is true, funny and fortunately unusual, though not quite unique, in my experience in Thailand.
One hot sunny afternoon, (need I say?), I was settling down to a 40Bt plate of shrimp fried rice with mushrooms at my local Thai wok. I was about half-way through my favorite Thai dish when I came across a most unwelcome dinner guest; a fly in my fried rice. Horrors! This one was not a late arrival but had been cooked right in with the goong and kai, his wings hideously spread, a crucified culinary omen.
I’m not squeamish, but my appetite was presently satisfied, and I called the waitress over and pointed out the fly ceremoniously laid out amidst the white rice.
She went away and instantly returned with a spoon and obligingly lifted the little fellow, who in life had probably menaced and annoyed me a day or two before, from my lunch and deposited him on the floor at her feet; an ignominious end for him to be sure.
But the precious human drama his death ignited was just beginning.
It quickly dawned on me that it was not obvious to the waitress that I was finished eating as she walked away without a word, leaving my plate in front of me.
I could sense, with some amusement that I was about to encounter one of those “charming mysteries” unique to amazing Thailand.
The customer is always wrong.
Nobody paid me the least attention for a while. But neither did I lift my spoon or make any move for solid ten minutes. Ten minutes is an eternity in such situation and I could feel the tension building. (My mind wandered, thinking up names for this story: “I Got Flies Instead of Lice”? “You Want Ketchup With Those Flies”? “What Really Bugs Me About Thailand”).
I speak Thai well enough to say things like “I feel like throwing up” and to express my unhappiness. But I kept my mouth shut, to keep the still-living flies out, and my emotions in. As we all know the slightest show of anger or impatience toward Thai people, no matter how justified, is met with icy unmoving silence and a total loss of English skills. I was really curious, but had an idea, how this was to play out; for they didn’t have my 40Bt yet.
Let me say that I have received unsatisfactory food in Thai restaurants before. That’s OK. I always pay my bin, usually far in excess of 40Bt, and uncomplaining go on my way, never to eat there again. I’m not wealthy, but I’m not a whining and petty person either.
After the long wait I rose and left the place. Of course I was instantly
chased down the soi by the wailing desperate waitress, bin in hand, as if I had forgotten to pay; never mind that in my country not only would my bill be torn up, but I could probably sue for $1.6 million in actual damages plus treble punitive damages, at the very least destroying the reputation and business of the restaurant.
Alas I live in Thailand where you have to find justice for yourself.
And these people wanted the whole 40Bt.
I returned to the place….ahhh!…my moment was coming…and faced the unblinking dreaded manager. I asked how much the bin was. “Forty Baht” she said (all Thai can magically speak English when they want money) handing me the bill, which I took and thoughtfully perused for a moment.
I asked for a menu and sat down. I could feel the cool humorless stare falling upon me. The Land of Smiles was nowhere in sight.
I studied the menu for a while to the bemusement of the breathless manager and staff. They were somewhat disarmed by this and tempers seemed to relax….No doubt they actually thought I was going to order more food.
My immediate dilemma was I didn’t know how to say “fly” in Thai. So, looking up from the menu and using the English word, I asked….”Fly tow-rai? (How much does it cost for a fly?)” What a curveball…hahahahahaha…putting the 40Bt in immediate peril. Without the slightest embarrassment, and with other customers listening, the straight-faced manager said “No charge for fry.”…”Er”, says I, “Fly fee. Sigh het du-oy sip Baht my? (The fly is free but the mushrooms added is 10Bt?)” I could have saved it. I knew already that when it comes to 40Bt Thai people have no sense of humor or humility.
Finally I told her in Thai that the dead fly made me feel like puking and I was not willing to pay for it at all, making it suddenly a tense situation all out of proportion to its significance. Sometimes you must suffer for your dignity. I could see she was rather furious at this, so I calmly removed my mobile phone and fearlessly offered to call the police and have them come and settle the matter. This ended the discussion. A farang willing to call the police is a dangerous character indeed.
She told me to go …my previously tried and failed strategy…and without another word I left, handing the waitress/undertaker a 5Bt tip for her trouble…which must confound them all to this day.
Hey look!... countless small inconveniences and annoyances are part of Thailand, and if you don’t learn to laugh ‘em off (which I almost always do) you’ll go nuts. But you have to draw some lines of principle somewhere sometime, and for me, bugs in my food is one those lines. Thai people need to learn that the customer is not always wrong and money not fairly earned is not justly deserved.