So, there I was, sitting on my patio, in what is rapidly becoming a late evening ritual, listening to the waves and mulling over the events of the day through a haze of rum on the rocks with a dash of freshly squeezed lime juice … yes, life can be tough … when I suddenly leaped up and wrote myself a note which I left in the middle of my desk.
And then, early this morning, wishing I’d poured slightly less rum, I found this piece of paper which said “Have you scanned everything?” Now, I don’t know whether to blame senility or the rum – most likely an unfortunate combination – but I had no recollection of having written the note, nor any idea what I was supposed to scan. Yes, I had scanned some documents yesterday, but I felt pretty sure I had finished the job. So I couldn’t do much more than leave the note on my desk, in the hope a few neurons would align themselves during the morning and would energize a little light bulb in my head to remind me what I was supposed to scan.
Sure enough, around lunchtime, it hit me. It had nothing to do with scanning documents, it was the headline for a possible blog article. This one!
Here’s the story…
I’ve spent more than half my adult life living in Malaysia, so when it comes to money, I tend to think in Malaysian Ringgit. I find them less scary than Thai Baht. Here, a decent car can cost between a half and two million, and to me, that’s a scary amount of money. So, almost every price I look at, I mentally convert to Ringgit. I could claim it’s good to keep the brain active, but when all I need to do is chop a zero off the end, I’m not sure too much processing is needed to achieve the conversion.
And when I do look at prices, especially in supermarkets, I have been known to laugh out loud. A few people look at me, and quickly realize I’m one of those strange farang creatures, and assume it’s normal behavior. But seriously, some of the prices here are laughable.
A while ago, I needed some carrots and not much else, so I popped into a small convenience store, a little larger than the ubiquitous 7/11s. I pointed at three rather large carrots, the only type available in Thailand. The lady kindly bagged them, weighed them, and stuck on the price label. I looked at it and thought “Oh, they’re a tad expensive” but they were just three carrots and I needed at least one that evening for a veggie curry, plus the small store probably had big overheads and low profit margins, so I shrugged and left.
You see, the label said 9.75 and my brain said Ringgit. Now, I don’t know where in the world you are, so I’ll convert everything to US$. RM9.75 would be $3. Maybe where you are that would be normal for three carrots, but to me they seemed expensive. And then of course I realized “That’s THB9.75 you muppet.” Which means my three carrots were actually just less than one Ringgit or about 30 US cents. That’s one of those times when I laughed. They might as well give them away with corn flakes.
Another time I was in a rather posh supermarket where they had lots of expensive imported goods, when I spotted strawberries. It was a huge container, about the size and weight of a house brick. I figured I’d need a mortgage to buy those. I looked at the price, saw a 40 and thought … hmm, RM40, less than I expected but more than I was willing to pay, and put them back on the shelf. And then, you guessed it, I laughed out loud as I realized they were 40 Baht, RM4, or about US$1.25 and hurriedly grabbed them back from the shelf before anyone else noticed the bargain.
But what I was mulling over last night was the price of my weekly shopping, which I had done earlier in the day. It’s not really “weekly” in the sense I go exactly once per week and buy everything I need for the next seven days. It’s more a question of getting low on some essential commodity, such as beer, and thinking well it’s been a while so I’d better go stock up. I’m guessing most people do the same.
So, let me tell you what I bought, at least in general terms. I promise I won’t itemize everything, but for sure, I need to mention the big items.
I started with the essentials for the week. A case of beer. A bottle of scotch – real scotch that is, not some flavored local hooch – and a bottle of wine for the weekend. I confess, the wine was one of the cheapest on the shelf, something I refer to as vino collapso but quite drinkable. Then I figured I should add some food and other items.
I bought enough pork and chicken for more than a week – maybe ten days. Those are about the only meats I can find, except sometimes they have duck. Not complaining. I like both. But right now, I could kill for a steak!
I added all sorts of veggies, fruits, other drinks, snacks, some cold meats, bacon, sausages, you know, the usual fare. I promised not to itemize. I paid and came home. I remember being horrified by the price because I had to give the lady three 1000 baht bills. Another scary amount.
And then last night I realized, for my approximately weekly shopping I had paid THB2400, about RM240 or US$75. I say “approximately weekly” because at least the scotch should last more than a week. Actually that’s why I was drinking rum, to try to ensure the scotch will last more than a week! Sneaky eh!
I used to think Malaysia was cheap, and maybe when I first moved there it was, but in Malaysia those items above would cost way more than double what I paid here. The booze alone would cost more than RM240. And I’m sure the food would have been at least another RM240.
So, the way I look at is, by living in Thailand, I get free booze:-)
Which brings me back to the title of this article. If I’d looked properly at the bill in the store, and realized how low the total really was, I would have been tempted to ask “Have you scanned everything?”