The first St. Louis Snow of the Season
How I Learned A Little About Thailand While Waiting for Our Food
Place: Clayton (St. Louis), Missouri, U.S.A.
Time: Noonish - December 8, 2005
It takes a bit longer to get to the Thai restaurant than I had anticipated; a lapse in memory had caused me to forget about the snow falling that day. Sage weatherpeople had predicted it would start before the morning commute and wreak all kinds of havoc - it actually really got going right as I was arriving at the office. I have to spend a few minutes removing snow from my windows that had fallen in the three and a half hours since I'd arrived.
It doesn't matter, though. It doesn't take me very long to get there even though I drive slowly and carefully. I park somewhere maybe I shouldn't be parking, but I am figuring on popping in there, picking up the order, and scooting out. Boy am I wrong.
I enter the warm restaurant after a short, chilling trek up the sidewalk. I tell the youngish, yet world-weary looking Thai man that I'm there to pick up the order. There's no need to tell him who it's for; my company appears to be the only one who has lunch orders for pick up on a near daily basis. I pay using another man's credit card, the man paying for our order, the man who was at our office that day signing us up for a retirement investment plan (it is sorta like a 401K but for smaller businesses). Sixty-seven dollars. Whoah. I feel funny signing somebody else's name to the credit card receipt. That's a first for me.
"Oh, nobody looks at those anyway," they'd told me. Whatever. Still feels weird.
"It's not ready yet," the Thai man says.
"OK," I say absently as I look around the restaurant. They must be putting the finishing touches on it. They'd said it would take twenty minutes and I'm there about ten minutes late.
"You may want to, uh, sit," the man says, gesturing to a stool at the pay counter.
Oh, I get it now. So I sit.
And I sit...and I sit. And I do some more sitting.
"We are short-handed today," the Thai man says apologetically after I'd gotten some quality sitting time in. "One of our cooks is back in Thailand for his wedding."
"Oh, well, that's a good excuse," I chuckle. I am genuinely not annoyed by the wait. I like the place, and although I'm hungry, I'm not ravenously so. He chuckles back.
The man has quite a scar on his face. It goes from his upper left cheek down, takes a 90-degree turn and heads for his chin. I noticed it the last time I was in picking up food. I wonder how he got it, but I don't ask. Maybe that would be too nosey.
While sitting some more, I look around, observing the goings-on of the Thai restaurant at lunch time. There are some dining-in patrons here and there. It is not a very large place but big enough. There appears to be a bigger dining area beyond the counter and down a hallway. I don't know how many are in there. A fiftyish bespeckled blonde woman comes out of it, declaring she wants to wait for her friend out in the main dining area in case she doesn't see her. The Thai man says that'd be fine.
I ask the man if Thailand ever gets any snow. He kind of chuckles. "No, never, just rain sometimes." D'oh! I chuckle, too, and apologetically explain my ineptness at geography.
I keep looking at a wonderful painting to my left, kind of high up on the wall. It is of a Thai man, I assume, and from the way he is decorated he looks to be some sort of general or something.
"Who's that?" I ask the Thai man as he returns to the counter. He is organizing a couple of checks.
"That is Lao Ma*, the fifth king of Thailand," the Thai man responds, "he freed the slaves. He's verrry popular, like Abraham Lincoln."
"Oh, cool," I say. "About when did he rule?"
"Same time as Lincoln," the Thai man responds. Ah, late 1800's. "What king are you on now?"
"Oh, the ninth," he responds. He does not give me a name to the ninth King. That guy must not be nearly as popular, I think.
After a while of more sitting, and wondering how far along they are on our order, he apologizes again for the delay. He pours me a steaming cup of tea that has an orangish tint to it. Call me uncultured or a typical American, but it's not exactly my cup of tea (ha, ha); I usually prefer tea of the sweetened and Lipton variety. But, it warms my soul, much needed after being out in the bitter cold. Indeed, the snow falling is dry and powdery. Not good for snowballs, snowmen, only for looking pretty and causing traffic headaches.
"Sorry, again, for the wait," he says later while writing some more checks.
"No problem," I say. "I get paid for my time! Right now I'm getting paid to sit here and drink tea."
We share a chuckle.
"The King of Thailand," I begin my next question, "does he actively legislate or is it like England and there's a --?"
"Like England," the Thai man says before I get to finish my question, "there's a Parlaiment."
"Gotcha," I say, nodding thoughtfully.
After some more sitting, I notice a magazine nearby, one of those egghead science magazines, with a picture of a baby lots of electrodes attached to its head. Apparently the cover story is about how a baby's brain works. That looks interesting. I pick it up and begin to hunt for the article, but I don't have time to find it. The food is finally ready!
I go through the big order with the man who had brought it out and everything looks in order. I thank them and go to leave. As I pick it up the scent of the Thai spices stings my nose a little. The man who brought out the food scampers over to the door and holds it for me. Again, I find myself venturing out into the blustery, snowy weather again, with a box of hot Thai food that I cannot wait to eat.
*My research later tells me that the fifth king's full name is Chulalongkorn the Great or Rama V. I swear it sounded like he said "Loa Ma"/"low ma". Maybe he was saying Rama? Maybe Chulalongkorn is actually pronounced that way? Or maybe I just heard him wrong. Somebody who knows more about Thailand might be able to help me with this.
anthropod says: The fifth king is Chulalongkorn, the ninth Bhumibol Adulyadej, but they have lots of names. He probably called him Rama, but the r/l thing is hard to pronounce. See also Chakri. About Thai kings, at least, I know something.