Saturday, January 26, 2008
"I flunked my Thai written driving test today," T, one of my coworkers confessed early Friday evening. It was beer o' clock and we were bitching about work at "Eva's Krug", a small homemade Swedish beer and food garden of sorts very close to work. "Eva" is the Thai wife of the Swedish owner who has retired here on generous Swedish medical pension for a "bad, oh, very! bad back" to grow a stringy blond ponytail, wrap himself in sarong and cook Scandinavian noodles and offal in thick sauces with 17 syllable names for other Swedes who can find the place. Though we are non-Nordic interlopers, we are tolerated because of beer o' clock Fridays.
Flunking a Thai driving test would seem impossible. Though the Thai drivers are nominally more skilled and more disciplined than say, mainland Chinese motorists or a 10 year Congolese child soldier on crank, they aren't up there with the automotive greats, like, oh perhaps, Bobo the Circus Bear Scooter King.
Being callous wannabe Alpha males on beer we hooted. "Sign him up for the Thai Expat Hall of Shame!" I suggested. "Along with K." K is not a coworker, but an English expat with no visible means of support, a Thai wife and bad alcohol habit who recently gained local ignoble status by having the bejeebus kicked outta him by a "katoi" or ladyboy whose new breast job he'd foolishly derided.
T took our taunts well, though and began describing the test questions. There were 28 (in English) and he had to answer 24 correctly to pass. He'd missed five however and described several of them.
"One asked which vehicle is illegal to drive on the road. 1: A farm vehicle. 2. A vehicle with no windshield. 3. A stolen vehicle 4. A tank."
"So what'd you pick?"
"I see farm vehicles and cars with no windshields all the time. A stolen car is obviously a wrong answer. So I picked a tank."
We snorted again. He'd been here longer than several of us, is on his second Thai marriage, speaks semi-fluent Thai but even I knew that after something like 18 military coups since 1950something, it's obviously legal to take the wife and kids on a spin in the M60 Patton to Phuket or wherever the hell you want as long as it's not across the Burmese, Cambodian or Laotian borders. The right answer? No windshield.
What else? "This one even you guys would miss, I think. 'When is it illegal to drive? 1. After consuming alcohol. 2. When you are speeding. 3. As you are having a heart attack and going to hospital.' "
Like him, we assumed alcohol. No. If you believe the test you can get blind drunk and speed - but don't do it during cardiac arrest or you'll be under arrest.
His wife had joined us and laughed when we told her why we were messing with him. She'd taken the test too and had passed with only one wrong answer. We asked how she knew the tank answer was correct. "So many tanks, so many governments," she said. "Tank is law. Can drive anywhere no problem."
Posted by Justin at 2:33 AM