LiBeL Column

Recent Correspondence

Columns from The Nation newspaper

The good, the bad and the inane.

There are some days when, upon skimming through the contents of your email inbox, you throw your head backwards, look to the heavens and scream “Why God Why?”

Today was one of the days when I received another email from a tormentor.

One of the major upsides to having a successful ( no layoffs so far! ) website is the quantity of congratulatory emails from happy visitors that leave a smug, self-satisfied grin on your face. Even emails from non-believers or “the evil doers”, to quote a George Bush-ism, can brighten up a dull day with their witty repartee and bitchy quips.

However, what really pisses webmasters the world over off is the inane. And there are some people who take inanity to new levels. Maybe I just attract people like this, maybe it’s God’s punishment.

I’m sure you all read The Nation on Mondays. If not then you’ve missed such delights as the great vegetable complaint. One of my ‘faux pas’ was to classify a string bean incorrectly as a vegetable – it’s a fruit. I really don’t care, all I know is that if I found one in my trifle I’d complain loudly. However I received more emails on this topic than when I pissed of the massed ranks of the Bangkok Yanks in the ‘newbie American teacher on the skytrain’ saga. ( It was all fiction – so the emails sympathizing with the poor guy’s plight were really a waste of time. )

All of this pales into insignificance with the guys – and it is always guys – who although friendly enough, consider themselves as being an asset to the teaching profession in Thailand solely because they have the fortune, depending on your point of view, to have been born to Caucasian parents.

I’m in the middle of an ongoing email correspondence with a guy who falls into this category at present. Let’s call him ‘Dwight’ , both for arguments sake and because that’s his name. He hails from a city which has been the focus of world attention recently due to its sudden lack of skyscrapers. ( I hope you’ve spotted that this is a not so subtle attempt at hinting to Dwight that his time as a resident of my email inbox is coming to an end.). Dwight is one of those people that would drive Mother Theresa to drink.

The first email I received from him started off promisingly – ” Your web site is very interesting” – Not exactly prose but hey, it’s another adoring fan, wanting to shower me with promises of free beer if we should ever meet – I thought to myself, until I read what followed. “I suffer long term depression” added Dwight. This upbeat info was followed by the usual request for advice in looking for a job ” . . as jobs here in NYC is still very bad and the housing even worse because of the 8 million people here.” There’s 10 million in Bangkok and they all speak some kind of crazy foreign lingo – It’s very difficult to tell the cowboys from the Indians here, Dwight.

The parting shot was “Can you help me with a few schools easy to get into Thailand ?” And, because I’m a latter day saint I did recommend ‘a few schools easy to get into Thailand’.

Two days later, the inevitable reply and the focus had shifted slightly. Now that we’d bonded – in the kind of personal, manly, long distance correspondence-only type of way that a single email provides, Dwight felt it necessary to confide in me : “Is it easy to get nice women in Thailand or difficult? ” ( This was after he showed a semblance of interest in teaching by asking how he could contact the schools that I’d given him the contact details of . I ruled out carrier pigeon on the grounds of the distance involved and advised that any common 20th century form of communication device could be utilised to achieve the desired result. )

“Dwight – you’ll be a walking babe magnet” I advised. The subsequent email brought a JPEG attachement – his photo. ” Dwight – you’ll be a walking babe magnet, providing you have deep pockets.”, I noted – extremely optimistically I might add. As I’m not used to receiving unsolicited portrait photos, my new best mate added helpfully that ” . . .I wanted to send you my photo by e-mail so as a picture is worth more than a thousand words and please note I like Asian women NOT men.”

As I’m not a totally heartless unromantic bastard I did enquire subtly if he was married and merely seeking a bit of tottie on his Asian adventure or a lonely heart searching for that special someone. The next day I had my answer “There is a nice young woman I like in Cebu, Philippines who to have very deep relations with me but not intercourse to lead to marriage.”

That’s cool, he’s already traveled a bit and met a nice young lady. Maybe he’s not a total f$%kwit after all “I do like her very much but have to meet her in person.” Or maybe I was asking too much.

Why jump to the conclusion that he’s a couple of sandwiches short of a picnic?

” . . . how come some schools have no air conditioning as Thailand has technology?”,

” If I ask, will they pay in dollars I cant get a baht account here and I need the money to pay my rent?” and three of his emails ended with ” . . more later as my time ran out.” ( that’s being generous – one of them actually ended with ” more later as my time ra”)

At the time of writing the US Government had issued a travel advisory – ‘Dwight will be heading to Thailand in early 2002.’ Be warned.