So, I survived my first Songkran in Thailand. I didn’t get wet, and I didn’t get into any traffic accidents!
How did I achieve this? I stayed home.
Songkran, if you didn’t know, is the Buddhist New Year in Thailand – plus some neighboring countries. It’s the biggest holiday of the year – officially three days, but most people take a week. Thais celebrate by throwing water at each other. Well, water plus some white stuff, which means you don’t just get wet, you get white and wet. Apparently this is considered fun.
The other way Thais celebrate is by drinking as much alcohol as possible and then driving as fast as possible. This is also considered fun. This year they must be congratulated for breaking the record for the number of road fatalities in Songkran week. Something like 350 I believe, although I suspect many deaths go unreported. I’m assuming the objective is to kill as many as possible, otherwise why would they do it?
[…removes tongue from cheek…]
My own road is usually very quiet, even during the day. Five vehicles per hour would constitute a traffic jam. But in the official three days, there was a constant and steady stream of pickup trucks going past. On the back they all had large drums of the white gloop, plus about ten people of all ages ready to spray, shoot or pour the stuff onto anyone within range. Motorcyclists seemed to be easy targets and were glooped the most! I figured I wouldn’t even be able to open my gate without getting drowned.
I assumed they were all headed for local beaches to engage in gloop fights, although with the trucks going in both directions, there was plenty of action right there in the road.
I finally ventured out on day four. The fridge was starting to look ominously short of beer, so needs must. That’s a strange regional English expression, the meaning of which has never been fully clear to me, but somehow the phrase seems to fit. Anyways, I ended-up in a big traffic jam in a small village where the road narrows.
There were processions of glooping trucks going in both directions, accompanied by musicians and dancers, and we all lined up patiently until there was space to pass. Well, that would be “all” minus one, as “patient” is not an adjective usually linked with moi.
What intrigued me the most was that, rather than running into local stores, or hiding behind the nearest food stall, people were actually running out of the stores to be glooped. I guess they thought this would give them immunity from traffic accidents and the like.
Anyhoo, while feeling righteous and obnoxious in about equal measures at the thought of how silly this all is, something from my dim and distant past came to mind.
Of course, if I’m honest, fifty years ago the thought of going out and glooping people would have seemed like the most fun anyone could have – legally. And in a way, I guess that’s something I did do back in the days of yore.
A couple of friends and I all owned Minis. That would be the original kind, not the pretend kind made by a bunch of Germans. What the heck do they know about making a “peoples car”? 🙂 The original Mini was quite primitive. Costs were saved. Weight was saved. It was small, fast, but very basic.
But, one thing it did have was windshield washers. Quite rare fifty plus years ago. Except they weren’t the electric kind you get today, they were operated by a manual pump. Push large button under the dash, get brief squirt of water on the windshield. To clean windshield properly, push many times, get many squirts. Probably a bit like watching a man with prostate problems.
And, unlike today, there was no link between washers and wipers, so it was possible to squirt without wiping. This may seem like a disadvantage, unless you had the devious mind of a twenty year-old.
It occurred to us group of Minieurs that washers didn’t necessarily have to point towards the windshield. With some small adjustments and a little experimenting to get the right direction and angle of squirt, we could aim the jet sideways and slightly upwards.
And with jets thus armed and aimed, we drove slowly through small villages, just like Sao Pao – the one I was in last week, and with a well-timed push of the pump button, some unsuspecting pedestrian would get a brief soaking. This was fun. No one had any idea where the water had come from. Most would take a look at the sky to see if it was raining – just as the second Mini in the convoy would squirt them.
Now, third in convoy had to be real careful because by this point, some pedestrians had it figured. Not many, but some. So, if the pre-squirted pedestrian was giving them the evil eye, they had to hold their squirt so to speak! Hard to drive with your legs crossed, but anyways…
At least we didn’t add any white powder to the washer bottle, so the worst thing that happened was a few people getting an unexpected wetting. But now you can see why I titled the article Mini Songkran. It was both Mini and mini.