The Tuk Tuk driver had unknowingly agreed to a 15 dollar ride up 20 miles to where I was staying. 20 miles in a sketchy moped contraption, at scarcely sane speeds in the thick of the Phuket witching hour. I couldn't help but smile and think, "This is going to be special".
The course was plotted, our deal cut and I leaned back ready for this little adventure. “Onward dear sir” I mumbled to myself settling down for the long road. We took off in a snap. I leaned out the side of the squeaky contraption taking in the sights and sounds, the anxious horns, the fluorescent smoke coming off side car grills, the people, the smells, vibrant colors spattered everywhere.
I lurched forward when he abruptly slowed down, the last jolt on his brakes confirmed what my raised eyebrow had suspected. I think there might be a mix up here. He awkwardly leaned out the window and screeched.
I hear desperation.
“Mai Khao??????!!!!” as he sternly pointed north.
“…….Ya man, Mai Khao………………..I am not paying close to 600 Baht for a 3 minute drive man, what did you expect?”
My mood shifted and started to deteriorate. I see what’s going on here. He was so eager to close a deal and had assumed I was going to a bar down the street like everyone else. He found some easy money.
“That so far!!?” he disapproved
“Nope you agreed to this”, I shrugged
“Yes, for here”
I felt myself the enforcer for karmic retribution at this point. I must remain firm I said to myself. He fumingly agreed and receded back into the cab.
Victory. I was going to be the guy that got him back for all those people he must have swindled. I took him away from the profitable alcohol driven Patong beach and conned the con. Hell yeah. I leaned back into my seat and faced the oncoming traffic through the open side of the Tuk Tuk, and grinned an I WIN smile. The night was warm and the air felt heavy with moisture. The road was a little blurry and bumpy, yet it was soothing to feel the cooler air run through my steamy face and hair. Perhaps it was those couple of beers at the touristy lady boy cabaret that were fueling this buzzy victorious evening.
BOOOM…. BOOOM…. BOOOM…. the quickly sobering thud of a novice bass junky track woke me up. BOOM….... BOOM. Are you serious?! Is this guy for real??! Menacing vibes are afoot. He looked at me through the rear view mirror and made eye contact as the headlights of the cars behind us flashed through his dark cab. He looked forward then floored it.
Alright, this guy is pissed.
THUD! A road bump. What the f*** is going on?!
Strangely and seemingly out of nowhere the bumps seemed to shock and shake an irrelevant memory out of me. A vision of a beautiful pond I had stumbled upon earlier came to mind.
THUD! Another bump
As if in some way, my egoist vengeful mood was being hacked by this vision to bring me back. How much did I drink?
....the memory won.
I remembered walking to the beach from where I was staying and just happening upon a serene and verdant pond which had a placid little temple isle right in there middle of the water. I could see incense rising off of the little altar next to a palm leaf box offering. I closed my eyes as the smell of that incense and seaweed of the nearby beach sashayed its way to my nose. All I wanted was to run my fingers through the sweet, calm water. Green everywhere. It was surreal. I walked further down and got a better angle of it. The scene unfurled before me while I did the dumb-crouch-high-gait walk, and giggled "omg" to aloud......literally "OMG!".....Idiot. I followed that up with what I imagine as an overbite goofy smile. As I took in this sight in all its resplendent nature. I brought out the camera and snapped a picture, as I put the camera down I glimpsed a pair of ladies chuckling off the trail to the left, I turned to see whom they were laughing at. (I say this reluctantly) I looked around and obviously concluded it was at my expense. My jaw dropped. Absolute embarrassment, is probably the best way I can explain how I felt. I gave them the international raised shoulder 'Yup I’m embarrassed look'. I straightened my posture and just took it on the chin. While my embarrassment gracefully subsided, our heads bowed toward each other. There was faint something in that laugh though. No, it wasn’t me rationalizing the moment to make milder this embarrassment. It was something else. I raised an eyebrow when I realized that the laughter was layered a top something more. It was pride. Pride in the work they obviously work so hard to accomplish. However the emotion it can illicit was I imagine rarely seen, yet witnessed first hand in this stud. Glad I could help ladies. As I walked away, I nodded a laugh out and said to myself “see it through your heart”.
I guess if you could ask me what my lesson was, was to not take yourself so seriously. As in, NOT to take yourself as the “enforcer of karmic retribution” serious.
The Tuk Tuk squealed as it came to a stop. The door slammed as the driver stepped out to walk around. I nodded out of my daze. The traffic lights and neon brought me back, noise everywhere. As he stepped out ready for war, I imagined his family, his kids, …wife maybe? I imagined them at dinner laughing, you know that typical family movie scene around some dinner table. He made his final approach, I squinted at him leaned over and said.
“Ill take a cab from here man”
He paused for a while blindsided, sighed for a moment, cracked an honest smile, tilted his head and said.
“thank you, truly”.
“no prob”, I smiled.
At that moment I knew it was just a misunderstanding.
I think it was Rumi that once said, “How can you have war, when everyone and everything, is your beloved. How can you be unaware when you are connected to everything”.
Be relentless and blind, in the compassion you share.