When you move to a jungle republic like Thailand, expats are always flaunting their maids at you.
“My maid Lek, she cooks every meal, washes my car and teaches my dog tricks” …
“My maid Nut killed a cobra in the back yard” …
“My maid Oy painted the house, dug a new well and had her Uncle finance my car” … and on and on.
Mostly I hear it from people who’ve never had a maid before.
I’ve had a maid before. In the US I had two. In my downtown condo the maid was actually a brother and sister team. All I really remember about them was she was fat, he was gay and they didn’t just clean my place, they sanitized it. The maid I used at my beach condo was an ex-biker chic named Dixie (no really, her name was Dixie). She had a gold tooth, a wood-side station wagon and held strong convictions about punctuality and the power of Clorox. They were expensive, but worth every dime. They didn’t interfere in my affairs. They didn’t pour out sad stories of their personal lives. They didn’t become members of my family. They showed up on a regular schedule and cleaned my living quarters … period.
Apparently the word “maid” means something different in Thai.
My early months in Bangkok were spent in serviced apartments. Serviced apartments were a new phenomenon to me. They looked like hotels, and in fact offer most hotel services. The main difference is the rooms are designed for long-stay businessmen and their families. The maids will come at about any interval you desire. They even had a laundry facility if you had the free time and energy to wash your own clothes.
The maids in all the serviced apartments I stayed hover a little too much. They seemed to always be in my room and my business. On one occasion I went to Koh Samui for three days and returned to being locked out of my room and all my stuff downstairs being “stored” in the manager’s office.
“We think you go America”, was her excuse. Even though I’d paid to the end of the month, for some reason the maids decided that I had abandoned the room and all my personal effects to run off back to the US, never to be heard from again.
The lack of privacy prompted me to start looking for a more permanent living arrangement.
Right away I made a strategically bad move. A friend recommended a property agent to help in my home search. The agent squired me around town in her big old Mercedes for two weeks looking at condos, apartments and all other manner of domicile. Her name is Joop and she looks like Minnie Mouse with breast implants. Naturally we started dating.
I finally ended up in this high-end stuffy-ass mega building on Wireless Road mostly to impress her. She was more than thrilled to orchestrate every aspect of my living arrangements including of course the hiring of a maid.
One week after I moved in, this short, fat, black-as-tar Thai woman showed up and started cleaning. She spoke not one word of English and when confronted with my rudimentary Thai could only stare in disbelief. (I was able to teach her how to use an electric powered steam iron and a sponge mop. I’m quite proud of that.)
She wasn’t a very good maid so I complained to Joop. She responded with a long sad tale about this maid being her cousin who lost her husband in some horrible farming accident. She painted a picture of a poor single mother just doing what she can to feed her two young children. The woman continued to work for me several more months as I am a sucker for a single mother story.
A few months later Joop and I weren’t getting along so well. The green-eyed monster of jealousy made the scene and suddenly she was one of those psychic detectives. She seemed to know my every move. She knew when I left the apartment, what time I came home and when to place really inconvenient phone calls. I knew the Thai girl intelligence network was good, but this was bordering on clairvoyance.
One day Joop confronted me all wild-eyed and full of jealous rage. She came at me screaming with 8 or 9 long wavy brown hairs trapped between her thumb and forefinger.
“These aren’t mine” she accused … “I’ve got straight black hair and you have no hair … these aren’t mine … they were in your bathroom … Who was here? … Who is she?” She stood there righteous and accusing, the offending hairs shoved in my face like a pair of strange panties or an errant earring.
I examined exhibit A and sure enough, those didn’t look like Joop’s hairs. I also noticed that clinging to the hairs was other debris like small particles of dust and dirt. It didn’t make sense because the maid had come that morning and there wasn’t any debris like that on my floor. These hairs were kind of matted together with all this other stuff like they came straight from the dust bin.
Slowly I developed the queasy feeling that I’d been had. Evidently the maid swept up my floor, saved the evidence of last evening’s visitor and threw me directly under the bus with Joop. I was gob smacked and stone-cold busted.
After my soon-to-be ex girlfriend bilingually berated me in several separate tirades, she finally ran out of steam and went home leaving me to wallow in guilt.
So I did what any self respecting cad would do in such a situation. I fired the maid, changed my locks, got a new phone number and ran off to Phuket for two weeks. Who says salvation’s in the eye of the storm? I had to get off the firing line.
While I was all stretched out on Nai Harn beach I put it all together. The maid was the mole. She had telegraphed my every move. She was a big fat fly on my wall, broadcasting all indiscretions directly to my pathological girlfriend. Her country bumpkin demeanor lulled me into a false sense of superiority. I had totally underestimated her. I felt violated and betrayed … and stupid.
Right then and there I knew I had to either change my philandering ways or start hiring my own maids.