everyday banality subsistence

You do not, as a general rule, drink the tap water in Thailand. It’s treated, or so they tell me, but the pipes that bring it to you are not to be trusted. So you stock up on bottled water, lest your unwittingly impregnate yourself with an exotic new strain of chestburster. Locals, and semi-permanent expats, allegedly have a lot of water-source options. Me? I have 7-11.

Or I did have 7-11 until I moved to a guest house at the end of a dead-end lane that features a purified water dispenser. These things squat all over town, sized for different sized bottles and priced according to no rule I can reason out. The one I see from my window dispenses a liter of water for 1 baht (about three American cents), a fifth of the cheapest price I can get on a new bottle. I’ve developed the habit of going out with three or four liters worth of vessel at lunch and filling them on my way back in.

There is an old man who lives in the apartments lining the lane, opposite the dispenser. So thin he seems tall, though his head barely clears my shoulders, with a face like a paper grocery sack you’ve used and reused until its crumpled and butter-smooth, settling into well-worn folds when you set it down. I often see him tinkering with a trishaw parked just inside the little gate outside his unit, but I’ve yet to see him actually take it anywhere (there are still working trishaw drivers around Chiang Mai, most of them seeming twice the age or more of your average tuk tuk driver). This evening I was out filling my bottles, and he approached me from behind, tugged on my sleeve.

After greetings and a little polite small-talk, he asked: “Why do you use dispenser?”

I said something like: “Because I’m thirsty?”

And he said something like: “No, you from America, you buy new bottles, You don’t need dispenser.” Then laughed, and slapped my shoulder.

I told him I’d try to remember in the future. He laughed again, and went back to tinkering with his ride.

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~ by ironcupshrug on 01/01/2010.

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