The Bed

July 10, 2000

Before actually moving to Bangkok I came here for two weeks to look for a place to live. This proved to be an adventure of the highest order as I looked at houses and apartments in various sizes, locations, and states of dilapidation.

The Asian financial crisis had not happened long ago and most of the properties shown to me were in states of despair. The agents and owners tried to convince me that the walls would be painted, the smashed windows replaced, piles of dirt, debris, and dead plants removed, a new kitchen installed, the antiquated bathroom refurbished, and the leaking roof fixed - a huge challenge for my imagination.

After much footwork I eventually found a place I liked which was in a medium state of despair. I signed the contract, ordered a bed from a factory, and went back to Switzerland. 97% of my possessions were already on their way across the great blue sea.

Two months passed and I moved to Bangkok. The moving crates arrived on100700k1.jpg time. I unpacked, set up house, and began navigating my neighborhood. I also peered more than curiously at my new surroundings.

During these initial months I was having trouble adjusting to the environment and level of chaos here. In my eyes, things were seldom done correctly. Everything was not clean enough, punctual enough, fast enough, convenient enough, automated enough, or quiet enough. Moving from a town where the cows outnumbered the people only added to my shock. To add to my aggravation, there was no sign of the bed I had paid for months ago.

One day the phone rang at 10 am. It was the factory telling me they would be delivering the bed at 9:30 the next morning. I chose to remain skeptical.

The following day a big moving truck with four passengers and one driver arrived right on time. I opened my gate. They opened the back of their truck. And then they all started laughing. They laughed and they laughed. At first I thought they were100700k2.jpg laughing at me. I was caught in a moment of awkward confusion but soon realized the cause of the laughter.

They had forgotten the bed and driven three hours with a totally empty vehicle.

I was about to totally blow a mental fuse. Then I looked at the smiling, laughing faces in front of me. I remembered that yelling is not a polite thing to do in Thailand. But most importantly, and it may sound silly, I suddenly realized that no matter how aggravated I got the bed would not just simply appear.

I made the spontaneous and monumental decision to join in and laugh along with them. So there we all stood at the back of the empty truck cracking up. It was the best laugh I’d had in awhile.

This decision to laugh somehow transformed me permanently and made living in Thailand much easier from that day on. On that day I learned the real meaning of two Thai phrases. Not only what they mean on paper but what they mean in your attitude.100700k3.jpg

‘Mai pen rai’ and ‘jai yen yen’ are two frequently heard Thai expressions. The first means ‘It doesn’t matter.’ The second means ‘(Be) cool-hearted.’ These expressions may be used for almost any form of disaster or stress causing situation. Blunders, interpersonal mistakes, stressful situations, and mishaps are usually greeted with ‘mai pen rai.’ If one starts to get annoyed or worked up ‘jai yen yen’ serves as a reminder to keep one’s cool.

Every temperament and situation is unique, but in my opinion I see Thai people as having a natural ability to take it easy. I admire this capacity to lighten most serious situations. This may be seen by westerners as an inept uncaring attitude often used as an excuse for blunder. I disagree. I believe it is the most healthy and realistic of mindsets.

The delivery guys said they would be back on the next day with the bed. I waved a cheerful goodbye, and walked back to my house shaking my head but still chuckling. Right on time at 9:30 the following morning they did deliver a bed - a healthy 50-pound bed with frame.

It wasn’t the bed I had ordered but that just doesn’t matter. I had a good laugh about that also. I went to the store and bought the happiest looking sheets I could find. The bed is now clothed in a cheerful scene of cows, chickens, roosters, pigs, geese, silos, ponds, barns, and tractors. Not only did I get a bed; I ended up with a farm and a good story too.

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