Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Thai Smiles, Part 14: The Water Story

It was late one Saturday afternoon and the heat and crowds of Jatujak Market had taken their toll on me. Chanting "mai pen rai, mai pen rai" under my breath while working my way as politely as I could through the crowds and vendors that make the surrounding sidewalks an obstacle course I was frustrated and more than a little cranky at how slow things were moving.

Off to my right I noticed a tall, dark-skinned man at the edge of this river of humanity, trying to get the cap off one of the more inexpensive bottles of drinking water - the type with a pull-strip around the base of the cap to seal it instead of the usual screw cap. Sometimes the pull tabs aren't scored as well as they might be, and can be a real bitch to open. This was one of those times.

Misery loves company and I'd just wrestled with one of these bottle tops myself not 10 minutes before, so I pulled over to the edge of the pedestrian traffic and stopped to watch. Granted, it was a somewhat twisted satisfaction watching him struggle with one, too, but I'd honestly thought "well, he's opened these thousands of times before - maybe he knows the trick".

He didn't.

He pulled at the tiny pull tab that sticks out maybe 3 millimeters from the neck of the bottle, but it was wet - as they often are after chilling in a tub of ice water - and it slipped out of his grip several times. He tried with thumb and index fingers of both hands first, then with other combinations, his brow furrowed as he became more frustrated. Finally he tipped the bottle to the side, brought the tab to his mouth and tried to catch it between his front teeth. I could almost hear them clack together above the crowd noise as the bottle jerked away from his mouth, still firmly sealed.

He shrugged his shoulders almost imperceptibly in resignation and again brought the bottle to his mouth - this time putting the entire top between his molars and biting the cap open. These bottles are made from a far softer form of plastic than the clear bottles are, and the pressure of his hand squeezing it while he bit down caused it to spray the icy water up onto his face, where it drained down his neck and into his shirt, down his chest. The look of surprise on his face was classic.

After quickly wiping off his face and neck with his sleeve he was putting the straw into the bottle and looking around to see if anyone saw the embarrassing thing that had just happened to him... and saw me, with my camera pointing at him. He grinned, somewhat sheepishly, and I got the shot below.

He pantomimed the "explosion" again after looking at his image on my camera, and we both laughed about his misfortune. To this day I think of his perseverance every time I wrestle with one of those bottle tops.


Anonymous said...

his smile is too appealing.. and his teeth are too perfect to risk breaking or cracking a tooth on a bottle cap. Great photo though.. interesting haircut.. and lots of embarrassed good-humor in his eyes.

khunbaobao said...

He does have great looking teeth, doesn't he? No worries about breaking them on the hinged cap, though - it's soft plastic like the rest of the bottle. You can see it in the photo. Thanks for joining in!

Anonymous said...

Nice slice of life my brother. I feel like I was there.

Anonymous said...

Kinda like Justin Bieber haircut, lol...

khunbaobao said...

My first thought was Moe Howard, but at least he still HAS hair, something I envy a little!