I have a friend from Northern Burma, his mother was from Nepal, his dad, in the military in Burma before he died of drinking too much.
I’ll call him Mick, he seems like a Mick to me as much as he seems like his other name. Mick is 28 and has lived in Thailand for the past 8 years doing various construction jobs when and where he could. He stayed in Bangkok for a while and then moved south for the past couple of years where I’ve been lucky to know him.
He doesn’t work in construction anymore with the other Burmese in the area, he found himself a new job that pays pretty well (9-15,000 THB per month) depending on whether it’s Thailand’s tourist ‘high-season’ or not. Mick is a funny guy, he listens well, and more importantly – the guy has hundreds of stories that are just fascinating to me, about his life in Burma before coming to Thailand.
Even more importantly, his English was far better than Mick’s English. This was a problem because their jobs depended on it. The success of the business depended on being able to speak intelligible English.
Yesterday we ate apples as he told me about what was going on in the workplace where he works with four Thai guys, three of which he has known for more than 3 years.
One of the guys was new to Mick – but not new to the job. He’d been there years before and had long since quit and worked in other jobs. I knew him back then. Some weeks ago he returned and wanted to get right back into the job like he was before.
The problem was, Mick was now doing part of this guy’s old job. Let’s call the new Thai guy, Dick, because, as you’ll see in a minute – Dick was a serious dick, and he and Mick were at odds constantly.
Dick wanted Mick out of the business. He wanted his old job back just the way he had it before, and he wanted Mick the hell out. It started with some short disagreements and arguments between the two. Dick would tell Mick things the way Dick wanted them done – which went against how Mick was taught by the owner – uhh, let’s call the owner “Mack” as in “Mack Daddy”.
Eventually, it became too much and Mick started to directly disagree with Dick and to do it his own way. They had many talks with Mack about it – and Mack didn’t care one way or the other. He told them to just resolve their differences and quit bothering him. Mack loved Dick because Dick could do some crucial parts of the job – and was happy to have him back. Mack loved Mick because Mick worked his ass off and was VERY friendly to customers and other co-workers alike. Mack wanted them both to stay and get over it.
Dick wasn’t OK with that and ramped it up by saying, throughout the day, something like…
“Oh, your wife, she’s not pretty, but I’d give her about 200 baht to fuck her… She’d probably give me change though.”
Mick boiled inside, he told me. But, Mick wanted, more than anything – to continue to work at that job because otherwise, he’d be making 3,000 baht per month as a construction worker like the rest of his Burmese friends instead of the 9000+ THB he made at this job. Mick realized at the first signs of a problem with Dick that he’d have to keep hold of his emotions for as long as necessary.
After the offer of cash for his wife, Mick told Dick that it wasn’t nice to say such things and that he would never say anything bad about Dick’s wife or family. Mick asked Dick to leave his family out of their discussions.
Now, at this point – I don’t know about you… but, for myself I’d give a warning and make it real clear to Dick that the next time the words “your wife” came out of Dick’s mouth my fingers were going to be wrist deep in his eye sockets.
Dick listened to what Mick told him, then quickly said,
“I’ll give her 250 baht, that’s IT, and she better give it to me 3 times for that much money!”
Mick was able to keep his cool over it – repeatedly. It has happened daily for weeks and is still going on. Mick told me that he went from fuming to being able to rationalize that he was winning the game – the more that Dick was a dick to him.
Dick then started, during arguments with Mick to fake like he was going to punch Mick in the face, holding back just inches from connecting. He was trying desperately to get Mick to fight him. This is almost comical, considering Mick fought often back in Burma with police and military from the time he was 15 years old and working in the ruby and gold mines. Someone cheated Mick out of some money in Burma that was worth about 800 Thai baht… for months Mick could do nothing because the guy disappeared. Then Mick saw him at the table after he played soccer with his friends – they were eating and laughing…
Mick walked over calmly and then grabbed the guy by the throat, pulled him up out of his chair and punched him in the face with his right hand as hard as he could swing for a half-dozen times or so, before anybody at the table even knew what was happening.
Mick fought the other 3 guys as well – and everybody was hurting by the end of it – including Mick of course.
I have no doubt, that Mick could either destroy dick or just hurt him really bad.
It’s escalating all the time… just yesterday Mick told me that Dick grabbed him by the throat and threatened to punch him – Mick also grabbed the smaller Dick by the throat and squeezed it like he’d pop his head off. The boss saw it – and broke it up. See, Mick isn’t going to get hurt physically over it. If Dick hits him – I think it’s “game-on”.
But, it’s amazing to me that even up until now – Mick has never given in and let his anger get the best of him. He needs the money to support his wife and kids, and mother in Burma. He’ll do almost anything to keep that up – even take abuse from a big dick like Dick.
How many of us could do that?
Count me out.
UPDATE – Shortly after I talked with Mick, he called me from Bangkok. He was showering at the business where he worked and two Thai guys came and threw a bag over his head and beat the hell out of him, kicking him and really hurting him. He fled to Bangkok and was going back to Burma to work as a tour guide he told me. Crazy events. This kind of stuff happens all the time in Thailand. Thais settle disputes with violence. Remember that, it may serve you well.