Monday, February 8, 2010

A Teddy Bear smile - Koh Samui, Thailand

The water-heater doesn't work, I inform the receptionist. The little man replies with his condensed English: check tonight. He smiles and I smile back before I go to the beach.
I come back in the evening and turn on the shower. Tropical weather can make you sweat and suffer but don't expect it to help you to bear freezing water. I wash up fast, with clenched jaw and teeth. Before I go out I tell the receptionist. The man sympathizes, gets sad while he listens, it seems that he's the one who took a cold shower. He rearranges his face into a Teddy Bear smile and selects another entry from his disarrayed phrasebook. Check again!
When I'm back to my room I find a different heater: it's older than the other one but the light is on. Unfortunately the water doesn't get any warmer. I go down to pick up a new Teddy Bear smile: the solution is the same...once more check again. The third machine is a modern antique. Discouraged, I wait with my hand in the water. Surprisingly enough it gets a bit warmer. I let the man know, he is satisfied and smiles. 
Smiling in Thailand is a multi-functional gesture: it can break ice barriers or hide one's embarrassment. Sometimes, in a hotel, at a southern island, it can even be used as a customer care tool.

Image "Sailboat Teddies", by Ruane Manning, from

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