Coffee Shop (Bangkok)

Written by Mark McElroy

On the walk home from this afternoon’s massage, the sky shifts from cloudy to swollen and grey. In Bangkok’s heat, the frist spritz of rain refreshes us. But minutes later, the sky grows darker, and fat drops hammer down.

The satay vendor at the corner scrambles to raise a patched umbrella. Merchants with wares spread out on blankets whisk purses, sunglasses, and carved elephants away. Even dogs, knowing what’s coming, huddle under bushes and palm fronds.

We duck under the awning of Pearl Coffee Shop No. 19. Inside, friends order beers (three bucks each) and Clyde and I order Cokes (eighty cents apiece). We pay, retreat to seats under the outside awning, and sip our drinks until the cloudburst passes.

As we leave, the young Thai woman from behind the counter steps outside. She hands our friend J. R. a 500 baht note (about fifteen dollars) and says, “Sir, when you paid, you dropped this bill.”

When peope ask why we love Thailand so much, I often mention massages or inexpensive luxury hotels. But I confess moments like this are the real treasures: the ubiquitous goodwill, the delight our hostess took in returning the money, and the lightness in our step as we pick our way around the puddles, headed home.

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Mark McElroy

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