everyday banality does the moment of transition

I had it in my head to write, as my last day in Chiang Mai wound down, the exciting tale of my surprisingly busy first day in Chiang Mai, all those months ago.

Then my netbook’s power cable gave up on itself and the beast died. Now in America, I still can’t resuscitate it, and so a half-dozen posts lie fallow on it’s hard drive and I come here, oh internet, to describe why I don’t have the $26 necessary to make it live again.

I passed the first two-thirds of my sojourn at one guest house and then, for my final month, decided it would be best to move to a cheaper place. I found this cheaper place, a room roughly equivalent in comfort and amenity to my last for less than half the rent, plus a modest amount in utilities. I payed my rent up front, and then a utilities deposit which I was told I would most likely get the majority of back.

The month passed.

The afternoon before I checked out, I went to the young man I had done all of the business with thus far. I told him: I’m checking out tomorrow.

He said: what time?

Seven.

Oh, that’s too early.

And we arranged for him to check everything and settle my bill that evening, in case no one was around in the morning to help me. That night he gave me a final receipt, and a refund of most of my utilities deposit. We exchanged pleasantries, and I went to bed.

When I came down to the stairs the next morning there were people there after all: the angry old woman who speaks no English at all, two younger men I had seen around but had not spoken to. I handed one of them my key, and he said: OK, we do your bill.

I said my bill was taken care of.

He brought out some book I had never seen. He shook his head, pointed at something in Thai, and insisted: your bill now.

While he scribbled on an invoice, I continued to protest. I presented them will all my receipts. They said: no good.

When they handed me the bill, it was for everything I had ever owed them. I said, again, look here, receipts for everything. I have payed. I payed you at the beginning of the month.

They said: you pay now.

I said: where’s that other guy I always talked to?

They said: He won’t be in until noon.

I said: I won’t pay.

They said: We’ll call the police.

Oh, of course you will.

And there I was, a foreigner in Thailand, facing either a terrible misunderstanding or a concentrated effort to fleece me of as much money as possible. Before my bill had been settled, I withdrew nearly all of my money from the bank, just to be certain I had enough to pay if the LOW LOW utilities estimate turned out to be inaccurate. It had been a relief when I got money back. Then, this nonsense, which would gobble up all but a few dollars of my cash, of all my money in the (goddamn) world.

As a foreigner, I was at a disadvantage if the police came. Further, Thai police are notorious for not just taking, but demanding bribes. Someone told me a story about a woman who had been burglarized, and the officer who spoke to her refused to fill out a police report without first receiving some cash for his trouble.

The guest house had my passport number.

So: I could pay them what they asked, and get to my flight. The result is me broke, but back in America.

Or I could refused on principle and find myself broke, but stuck in Thailand, my flight missed, possibly in jail. Maybe I could make it to the US Embassy, but I’m still not getting out of the country that day.

Unfortunately, all of my money was in one place, my wallet. I pulled out everything that was there and counted out all but a thousand-baht (about $33) note, which I held up. I said, look, I need this for the taxi to the airport, and in case of emergency while I travel. You can have the rest. It’s not as much as you’re asking for, but it’s all I can give you.

Their willingness to accept this deal leads me to believe that it was not a misunderstanding, that they were indeed fleecing me at the last moment.

I don’t imagine I’ll be staying there again in the future.

Meanwhile: America.

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~ by ironcupshrug on 01/16/2010.

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