Friday, January 25, 2013

Working It: A Bar Boy's Collection Of "Walking ATMs"

Silom Soi 4: one of Yod's old fishing holes.

Yod leaned back in his chair, locked his strong arms behind his head and forcefully exhaled a column of cigarette smoke into the early evening air.  A bird sitting amid one of those fine examples of wildly creative Thai wiring above him chirped - perhaps in protest - and took off, dropping a generous dollop of bird shit onto the ground next to the stylish athletic shoe on the left foot he had sticking out in front of him.

"You see?" he smiled "I'm lucky!" I couldn't disagree with him. Yod was lucky; a survivor of a club life, and, as he figured it, possibly set for life.  At least as far into the future as many young people tend to look nowadays.  He knew he wasn't anything close to a spring chicken on the club market; he was, in fact, pushing the boundaries of twinkiedom. He was stunningly handsome now in his early 30s, and one can only imagine what a gorgeous figure he cut at college age.

It didn't bother him in the least that he was nearly finished with the active nightly work of being offed and having to make it seem as though he was attracted to - or interested in the slightest - in the person who had rented his attentions. In fact, it was a great relief. Granted, sometimes there were women who came into the club and offed him for his services ("big!" he said, pointing to his crotch), but he'd very rarely been interested in the men he'd been with. He could "do it", but he knew what he preferred.

Not Yod's complex, but a
good example of the type:
simple,but comfy
Some were younger and somewhat attractive, but most were nearly twice his age; faking enthusiasm or performing acts he didn't care for in the interest of a tip was often a challenge.  If he hadn't needed to be too intoxicated to agree to the tryst he could almost always "rise to the occasion," but sometimes he was merely an object to penetrate, and some customers were rough.

"Act like man, but they not," he said. "Just feel like man if they treat me same dog."  More than a couple of times he'd called the event to a halt, dressed and left, even though it meant no tip. A few times he'd had to struggle to leave, and once he'd had to fight his way out. What he said about those customers doesn't need to be repeated here.

Yod knew he was being used, and he treated his job as just that: a job. As some guys do, he also ran his own "business". Early on he'd been advised to encourage repeat business - a sound practice in any business, come to think of it - and he put great effort into what a friend had done, which was build a clientele who would send him money after they'd gone home.  Regularly.  It was then he promptly left the bars he freelanced in and started to take things easier.

It's a common story those who rent admirers hear early on, if they're listening, be they customers of of either sex.  Anyone who's known someone who has dallied overseas while in military service has probably heard the story in one form or another; the ship leaves Subic Bay in the Philippines and two weeks later the letter arrives: "I'm pregnant and it's yours".

As I said, Yod didn't work the short-term market all that long, preferring to tap the Walking ATM market instead. His rent and basics were paid, but his business was of the longer-term, better income type. As an example I'll cite a common story: "I'll leave my club life and wait for only you if you can help me with Bt ____ a month until you come back to be with me."

Yes, it's dishonest - probably fair to say morally reprehensible - so save your comments. It doesn't excuse his lies, but there are countless examples of farang saying "I want to bring you to my home country to be with me" (or variations on the theme) and then disappearing after the evening, too, and that's pretty crappy behavior, too. You hear that sort of story nightly if you eavesdrop for any length of time in lots of gay and straight bars where a farang is making their moves on a Thai.

Yod had built his business well. He currently had seven guys who regularly sent him money, thinking Yod was their Special Boy and waiting for them to return to visit him, and none knew about the other.  Two from the United Kingdom, two from Germany, one from France, and two from the USA. There were three others who were irregular contributors - Bt3,000 for his actual birthday and the likes - but these were added bonuses, as they rarely visited.

His regular monthly income was in the neighborhood of - get this - 45,000 baht per month, and he had no actual job. That's $1,500USD, or 1,100 Euro.  It might not sound like a lot where you're reading this, but in Thailand it's pretty darned good money. In addition to this regular income, two had believed they were the ones who had built the handsome home he showed pictures of where his mother, father and two brothers lived. They hired help now for the rice and cassava planting and harvesting, and his brothers attended good schools.

He said the easiest ones were the ones who came to visit on a set schedule, because the others could be scheduled around them. Only once over seven years had he needed to beg off or re-arrange a visitor's time in Thailand.  Some of the men he really did feel an affection for, and once he'd felt so sorry for a Dutch man who had fallen hard for him that Yod made up a story to end the relationship to avoid hurting the man too deeply. If he had wanted to settle down with a man, the Dutchman would have been the one. "He very very kind to me and act like Thai way," he said, but that wasn't what Yod wanted.

Yod spent a lot of time at his real home in the agricultural area outside of Bangkok proper, but also had regular stretches in Bangkok and other tourist areas where he managed his bank accounts and kept in contact with his guys from a variety of internet shops. Although he was out of the club scene, he figured he could always make room for one more farang; besides, he enjoyed time with his friends there. His one regular remaining vice was smoking tobacco.

Unlike many Thai club/bar/sex workers he spoke of, he'd dodged the drink/drug/gambling webs and had salted away a small fortune. His family was well taken care of, and he was considering settling down with a woman and making his own family.

After three hours of chatting we called it an evening. Yod wouldn't let me pick up the tab for himself, my translator friend and I. I look forward to following his story.


Anonymous said...

Such behaviour is still reprehensible.

khunbaobao said...

I hope you aren't one who is regularly sending money as a result of such an arrangement, but I agree it's not fair to the people who consider them to be the current loves of their lives. It's not directly stealing, like grossly padding an expense account, but it's emotional theft, and that's a nasty thing to do most times. In one case I've heard it was a form of "payback," and that tale will come up at some point.

Today's is a story I've heard variations on many times - you may have, too - and please remember I'm just the messenger.

Thanks for the comment, though!

Was Once said...

Not right livelihood as taught by Buddha, these life choices often come back to bite you. And it takes two to tango, desperation on both sides doesn't help. Thanks for the story.

khunbaobao said...

Oh, absolutely Was Once. The charm of those who practice this can be intoxicating, as I think you'd agree. I'd say I felt more sorry for the funding agents, but if they're getting sufficient enjoyment living in the fantasy I can't be critical of their naïveté.

federalfalang said...

Are you saying this is a common thing? I heard this was just an urban myth.

Anonymous said...

It's not fair saying all bar girls or all bar boys are like this... there can be bad apples in every barrel...would you agree??

khunbaobao said...

I'd agree with that 100%. Not all bar girls or bar boys are on the take like Yod, but some are. I thought it was an interesting story, so I shared it.

That Bad Apple thing also applies to people online who go out of their way to discredit another person - or their postings - but as I put such behavior away back in elementary school (with few exceptions, I am human) let me just say you have to consider the source. People who read my blog see the real me, but this IS the internet.

By the way, I never said "all", I just passed along the experiences of one guy. His is a story I've heard more than a few times, but out of all I've interviewed I'd say he was in the minority.

I had the comments made about me relayed in an email, and an anonymous bully is still only a bully. I'd suggest you do like I do and just let it roll off.

khunbaobao said...

Where are my manners? I forgot to say welcome to federalfalang. Welcome. I hope you'll continue to read and comment.

Anonymous said...

I don't see any harm done. Likely mutually beneficial. He helped some farang men feel needed, useful, and if not loved then at least appreciated. My guess is that those farang men weren't naive, and gave him money because they wanted to help him.

khunbaobao said...

Again... I'd agree with anonymous, if the farang was aware of the situation on some level and, more importantly, was content with it.

Personally I think there are more worthwhile forms of charity, but to each their own.

Thanks for the comment. Jump in again!

Anonymous said...

Dear BaoBao - thank you very much for your blog. It is not common to find a gay farang writing about Thailand with so much respect and affection.

As to this specific post, the boy in question is a very nice human being. He takes care of his family and his life. Doing farangs wrong? I do not think so. He gives them what they need - fairy tales of a physical and emotional relationship with a handsome young man. Were any of them more serious about this (and not keen to limit the affair to their visits to Thailand) - they would have undertaken steps to either move or have the boy come with them to their country. In one example when the foreigner got really involved emotionally - the boy ended the affair - very considerate of him.

I guess many of us who visit or live in Thailand would have enjoyed ourselves much more if we treated men we meet there not as a "service providers" but real human beings - which is very possible even under the short transactions we often engage in.

Once again, thank you for the wonderful blog. Please, keep going.

khunbaobao said...

Thank YOU for the kind words.

We're in agreement on most of the points you've made in your comment. It's not called The World's Oldest Profession for nothing, and let's face it: ANY of us who have forced ourselves to do a job we dislike or find objectionable for personal, moral or other reasons has "prostituted" ourselves.

Emotional/financial entanglements can begin on either side. Sometimes they develop into something that's rewarding - in a number of ways - for both involved, and sometimes it's just a transaction.

As for my affection for Thailand and the people there, you're correct. It's what keeps me coming back to visit, and may one day find me calling it home. Who knows?