Friday, January 11, 2008

Milk Cow Boogie

"I gotta run," said a new coworker, an American guy recently arrived from Cambodia. "Gotta send some money to my girlfriend." We were on the patio of our rented office - an older, cool home in a residential soi of Hua Hin. It was about an hour til quitting time Friday afternoon, another slow, warm and soporific kinda day. I was taking a smoke break between editing the usual titillating stories about aluminum production and sales lawsuits involving Norway, Russia and one of the 'Stanizan countries.

Either that or something filed by a breathless Indian freelancer on an obscure provincial clash between rival political factions in which only surnames and initials were used and that ended with an obscure joke made by a "puckish wag" from Uttar Pradesh about a "rascal" from Uttarakhand. Ha. Ha. Jolly, jolly!

"What's the emergency?" I asked. "The bank is closed. Do they have Western Union in Cambodia?"

They do, he said. But, you see, he had to wire her money immediately so his girlfriend could buy a cow for her mother. Now. At the Phnom Penh airport.

I had one of those "I've been overseas too long" moments when I realized that it seemed perfectly normal for a coworker to leave the office early to wire money to his girlfriend so she could buy a cow for her mother at an airport. And I thought I was on the cutting edge of exotic girlfriend gift fulfillment territory when I bought several grams of birds nest for C's grandfather at a Hong Kong Chinese pharmacy...but a cow. This was a whole new zone. I tried to imagine buying a cow for either of my ex-mothers in law or C's mother. No. Especially Selma, my West Hartford, Connecticut Jewish ex-mother in law.

"You know," I said. "You'll need your passport." Western Union - and banks here - won't wire money elsewhere for foreigners without passport ID.

"Shit," he said. "It's at home." His place is about 10 kilometers from the office and , like me, he walks or uses motorbike taxis. He sighed. "She'll think I'm not sending the money now cuz I don't love her."

"Relax," I said. "Cows don't spoil overnight. Text message her. Tell her you'll send it tomorrow. The cow will keep. It's not every guy who gets to buy a cow for his girlfriend's mother, you know. Savor the moment."


Ben said...

I hope your advice to him and laid-back attitude about the critical time-frame for this transaction wasn't in error....maybe the cow was going to catch the next flight out if the money didn't show up on time....

Matthew said...

The day my wife starts asking to purchase livestock is the day I might have to rethink my marriage.