Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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Way across town from where I am staying is my favorite cafe, a quaint boutique of tea and snacks and antique furniture run by an English expatriate. Though a long trek, I made it frequently in order to enjoy a quiet cup of Earl Grey with fruit tarts and biscuits and whipped cream.

Next to this cafe was a Bank of America, which I was overjoyed to discover due to (what I perceived to be) a banking irregularity with my checking account (which turned out to just be me spending my money faster than expected). I went to the BoA and asked for some help. The conversation went something like this:

"Hi there, my bank card claims I have no money, but I'm sure I do. Could you check my record to see what happened?"
"I'm sorry, we can't do that here. You'll have to call the central office."
"Oh, ok. Can you call them from here and figure out what's the problem?"
"No, we can't call from here. We don't know the number."
"... I'm sorry, did you say you don't know the number of the central banking office?"
"That's right."
"Don't you need to call them, like, every day?"
"No, it's all done by computer."
"Well sure, I assume that works for most things. But don't you occasionally need to speak with a person?"
"No."
"Ok... can you find out the number for me?"
"No, we don't have it. You could check the website..."
"I've looked all over the website, and it only has a 1.800 number, which only works from within the United States. I need to have a direct number so I can call from here."
"Well, I'm sorry, I don't have the number."
"... Ok... Um, can I speak with your manager perhaps?"
"... Ok... One second."
[Many seconds pass]
"Hello, how can I help you?"
[Repeat the entire conversation]
"Ahh, yes, I can get you that number. No problem. Wait right here."
[I wait]
"Here you go."
"Great thanks... Oh, wait. Um... this is a 1.800 number. I can't call that from here; it won't work. Do you have a different number?"
"No, that's the only number we have."
"Oh, have you tried to call it? Does it work?"
"I haven't tried it, but I'm sure it works."
"Ah, ok. Could you call it now then?"
"... Well... ok...Ah. Hm... it isn't working."
"Yeah... I think it's because it's a 1.800 number..."

This continues for an unbelievable amount of time, including me leaving and coming back the next day to speak to a more senior manager. Eventually I get and call a real phone number (though finding an international phone is always an excruciating chore), only to discover that in fact the person who stole my money was me, one withdrawal at a time. Oops, perhaps Thailand wasn't as cheap as I thought.

It's always unusual to see a brand name in a remote and exotic country, especially when it's obviously more successful there than here. I mean, I've heard of and eaten Haagen-Dazs my whole life. It's always in the freezer section at any supermarket. But have you ever seen a Haagen-Dazs ice cream shop? In an upscale shopping district? With two floors filled with swanky, stylish furniture, attractive waitresses, and with a live jazz band? Nor had I, until Bangkok.
Overlooking one of the taxi stops I bash against daily is a modern coffeeshop that I cannot pass up. One day I stop in for a cup of tea, and find a comfortable seat and clean table gazing over the night river. While there, minding my own business and writing in my notebook, I'm brazenly flirted with by two very young Thai girls - I'm guessing 16, though that probably means they are much younger. They speak almost no English, and I even less Thai, so there isn't much of a conversation going. Yet they insist on getting my phone number (I have none) and my email address (which I supply), and that seems to satisfy them. I don't get the sense they were really trying to seduce me or actually get to know me, but I don't know what their game was. Perhaps it's just the reverse equivalent of the "how many phone numbers can you get" game that college guys supposedly do at bars.

Copyright 2017 - David Barrett -