Xi'an Man in Siam

Xi'an Man in Siam

The Bionic Salesman
A Journey around Thailand

“Two cliches make us laugh but a hundred cliches moves us because we sense dimly that the cliches are talking among themselves, celebrating a reunion.” Umberto Eco

It must be homesickness that makes me use this quote again. Readers of my other attempts at blogging will recognise it.

You need to remember that I live in China, where they have no fear of cliches, embrace them, cherish them, even.

This is nowhere truer than with the conversations you have with people you’ve just met. These conversations are like reading from a script. The pattern never varies but people never tire of it. It is at once both cliched and profoundly comforting. In China, you’ll never be lost for words.

I mention this because I found myself having this same conversation with an old beggar on the pavement at Siam in central Bangkok.

He had a prosthetic leg which he had taken off and placed, upright, next to him. I suppose you might charitably have called him a busker, because he was blowing into a clarinet, but the sound that came out was a rather alarming rhythmic squawk, like a pelican in distress.

I wanted to take a picture of him and I figured it would be OK as long as I put some money in his hat.

“Xie xie,” he said as I emptied a handful of change.

I wasn’t sure I had heard him right, but when the next person put money in his hat, he again said, “Xie xie.”

And suddenly there we were, in central Bangkok, having that same Chinese conversation. The cliches were having a reunion. It made my day.

He was a cheerful old boy from Xi’an. I told him I lived in Sanya.

“What are you doing here,” I asked.

“I’m retired. I get bored back home.”

We both smiled a smile that said we understood each other.

“Very meaningful,” I said, with all the Chinese hyperbole I could muster.

The Waboba Ball will be launched in Thailand in early February. More information at Bangkok Bounce.