Tales from a Barfly
The following tale was originally written in my “Mobi’s Bar thread” in the Thai Visa Expat forum (Pattaya section).
This has been revised and edited for publication below.
Is There a God out there?
After a string of pretty quiet days last week, I wasn’t expecting last Saturday to be much different, although I confess that when I awoke on Saturday morning, I had a feeling that the evening may become a little problematic.
The reason for my fears was that Saturday was the start of a long weekend, (Monday and Tuesday were public holidays), and that two of my regular customers had pre-arranged to take two of Mobi’s best girls out for the evening as one of them was celebrating her birthday.
There was nothing wrong with this as that is what bars are all about, and far be it for Mobi’s to put a dampener on our customers’ thoughtful and kind plans – or indeed on the two girls in question having a nice break and an enjoyable night out.
But as stated, the two ladies in question are without doubt two of my best workers, and I did have pangs of apprehension on how we might manage without them if we were suddenly deluged with dozens of customers.
‘I should be so lucky,’ I reassured myself.
So, as silly as it might sound, as I drove down to Mobi’s that evening, I was sort of hoping that Saturday might be much like the previous few days and that customers would be conspicuous by their absence
The reason for this?
Well, my worst fears are that we get a large number of men in and no ladies to take care of them. Not only would these customers be disappointed at the paucity of Mobi’s girls, but it might also mean that they might never return – and even worse – pass on the bad message to their fellow drinking friends around the lake.
It is sometimes silly thoughts like these that torment me during this period when we are trying to build up our business and are trying to satisfy every customer, without exception.
I know it is crazy to think like this and I have to be more philosophical and accept that ‘what will be will be’. If I have done my best, then there is little more I can do. In other words, be more like all the good Buddhists around me, with whom I have chosen to live.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived that evening was a new customer standing up at the bar who was already looking somewhat the worst for wear. He was being well looked after by several of Mobi’s ladies and he warmly shook my hand, introducing himself as Sam, an Englishman from the English Midlands.
Sam was celebrating the advent of his fiftieth birthday, no less, but all attempts to buy him a birthday drink were vigorously rejected.
Sam told us that this was the first time he had drunk any alcohol in the past seven years, and he was determined to make the most of it. So the booze kept coming and he kept buying drinks for all and sundry. He finally he decided to ‘ring the bell’ to make sure that everyone in the bar was able to toast his happy occasion.
As you can imagine, after a seven year dry spell, it wasn’t too long before Sam was in no fit state to go anywhere, let alone drive his motor bike. He told me that he had no idea where he was; he had lost his way when looking for the road to Chachchoengsao – a province north of Chonburi, some 90 minutes’ drive away.
I was becoming extremely concerned about his ability to drive, and Sam admitted that it would be very foolhardy to attempt to make the journey that afternoon, and told me that he would return to his friend’s place in Pattaya if we could point him in the right direction.
Yet again we were faced with this moral dilemma. We had a drunk on our hands who was planning to get on his bike and drive away.
I made an ‘executive decision’ not to serve Sam any more drinks, and amazingly, he accepted this without argument. But it didn’t stop him climbing on his bike, (unaided by the girls, who I had instructed to leave him alone), and off he drove back towards Pattaya, where I hope and pray he arrived in one piece and didn’t hurt anyone else along the way…
A post script to this tale is that after I published this story on the Thai Visa expat forum, I received a message from a friend of Sam’s in Pattaya who confirmed that he had arrived back safely.
Sam’s friend also confirmed that it was indeed the first time in 7 years that Sam had taken a drink. Apparently he used to live in Phuket with his then Thai wife who tragically died in the 2004 Tsunami.
Sam had reacted to this terrible loss by going on a 3 year drinking binge, and only stopped drinking in 2007, when he decided it was time to get his life back together.
From that day in 2007 to his arrival in Mobi’s, he hadn’t touched a drop of alcohol.
I sincerely hope that Sam is now sober once more and completely free of the after effects of a very drunken 50th birthday.
Meanwhile back at Mobi’s…..
Our resident drunk, Mr Ting Tong, had arrived and was greeted like a long lost friend. Upon enquiring about his 3-4 day absence, he informed us that he had ‘many family’ at his home and that he couldn’t go out….
On a previous occasion when I asked him why he spent so many hours drinking at Mobi’s he had told me: ‘I have many family at home….
So, let’s just get this straight. ‘Many family at home’ means he cannot go out too much…
But it also means that he cannot go home too much…
Maybe there are two different ‘families’ – those who make him stay at home, and those who send him away to get pissed…
The wonders and mysteries of Mr Ting Tong are never ending.
Anyway, on this particular occasion, he went home early, and – for him – relatively sober.
My three English regulars had arrived, and two of the three confirmed their plans to take out two of Mobi’s girls to celebrate one of the girl’s birthday.
I had asked how they planned to get to Pattaya, as the two men only had one motorcycle between them.
‘We were wondering if we could borrow the ‘Bar motorcycle’, said one.
‘Bar motorcycle? No such thing I’m afraid, but we do have a bar bicycle. You are more than welcome to borrow that,’ said I.
One of them explained that he couldn’t possibly take his friend plus two girls on the back of his motorbike….
They declined my offer of the pedal bike and the problem was eventually solved when the third gentleman of the threesome (who was not planning to go with them), offered to take one of the girls on the back of his motorcycle.
So off they went, two men and a girl on one machine, and a man and a girl on the other – all the way to North Pattaya in the pitch dark.
Not a journey I would even venture on my own on a motorbike at night, let alone with two passengers sitting behind me.
Brave or foolhardy? I’ll let my readers be the judge.
The bar was starting to slowly fill with a mix of single gents and couples.
So far so good, as the remaining girls were more or less up to the task of ministering to the ‘restless and lonely.’
I was beginning to breathe a sigh of relief that not only would we get through the evening without any major mishaps when all of a sudden we were ‘invaded’ by a very large crowd of expats and their girlfriends/wives. They kept coming and coming and completely occupied one of our long tables. We even emptied half the remaining seats from the rest of the bar as they all crammed in together.
They all wanted food!!
Normally, the most number of dishes that has been ordered at one time is around three ‘meals’, and more often than not it is just a single order at a time, which is well within Noo’s capabilities (and a single microwave) to do.
Not only were we suddenly faced with multiple food orders, but the good folk were starting to ‘cross order’ – choosing items from different parts of our menu and mixing them together.
Needless to say it sorely tested our girls’ English and it wasn’t long before I realised that nobody really understood what was being ordered.
In stepped Mobi, and I have to say that even I was mightily confused by their ordering and the only way to ensure we had got it correct was to write it all down and repeat it back to them.
Then off to the kitchen where poor Noo and one of the girls were struggling to prepare all the food. We only had one microwave, so that made preparing multiple orders a big challenge.
I related all the confusing orders to Noo and after counting the number of orders, I realised that there were more people at the table than the number of meals I had written down.
I rushed back out to ask if anyone was not eating. You can imagine my relief when one gentleman put his hand up to confirm he was not eating…..
Quite how Noo managed to produce all the food in double quick time, I will never know. I had already resigned myself to the meals being completed one by one, and then sent out to the table when each was ready, but Noo would have none of it. She patiently insisted in finishing every last item of the order and then had two of the girls take it out on trays and deliver it all at once to the table.
Must be a first for Thai eating establishments!!
I checked to make sure everyone was happy, and one lady said plaintively,
‘I suppose it’s too much to ask if you have any Branston Pickle?’
‘Branston Pickle? Of course we have, madam.’
I think I am now her friend for life.
I believe we originally enticed the crowd in by our whiteboard signs advertising: ‘Food from Noon to Midnight’, but once they had experienced the special ambience that Mobi’s had to offer, they were well and truly hooked….
One of my regulars told me that I should change the music as the new crowd was very young and wouldn’t appreciate my somewhat dated music selections.
I wasn’t too convinced about this, and to prove my point, once the food had satisfied their starving bellies, the ladies started to break out into song.
The first song that got them going was Lighthouse’s ‘Ocean Boulevard’ and once I could see they were indeed into old-ish music, I put on a selection which included James Taylor’s ‘You’ve got a Friend‘, along some of Fleetwood Mac’s Hits, and a quite few other sing-able tracks from the 70’s and 80’s and 90’s which all provoked hearty singing for the men as well as the women.
The gang stayed until the small hours – challenging us with their drink orders, although they did make it easier by looking across the side of the bar to see what we had in stock and then ordering accordingly.
Most thoughtful of them.
At around 1 am, one young lady asked us to order a moto-taxi take her to Second Road, in the heart of Pattaya’s red light district. I asked her if she was sure she would be OK, and she assured me she would, but it was with some relief that I had to tell her that all the moto-drivers had gone to bed.
I certainly didn’t want a farang lady being attacked by some drugged-up motorbike taxi driver in the wilds of Mabprachan Lake environs on my conscience.
As 2 a.m. approached, they started to drift away, and finally, there was a small group of men hanging on grimly with some late, late beers.
Noo and I were exhausted, (her aunt who usually helps with the till, bar-tending and cooking was also away), so I took a chance and informed the last of the drinkers that they were welcome to order more beer and stay as long as they liked, but would they mind if they cleared their current bills and started new ones, so that we could close the till and cash up for the night.
This usually has the effect of gently reminding customers that it is way past our closing time, and so it proved on this occasion.
By 2.45 the last customer had paid up and left, and we finally crawled between the sheets at around 4 am.
A late night indeed, but a very productive one. With the exception of our opening ‘party night’, it was the best night ever, and I like to think that every customer had an enjoyable and fulfilling evening at Mobi’s.
We had passed our sternest test, even though two of our best girls, and Noo’s Aunt were absent.
Maybe there is a God out there after all….