She who must be obeyed takes her job of managing me very seriously. It’s an uphill struggle, a fight against the combined evils of ageing and apathy.
She likes me to smell fresh and I have no trouble with that; even if I am returned to the bathroom for a second attempt when my face smells like cheese, even if I haven’t eaten any cheese. She likes me to dress well, which is in direct conflict with my standard attire of jeans and T-shirt; but at least she buys my T-shirts. She doesn’t buy my underwear which is probably why there are holes where there shouldn’t be.
A constant irritation for her is my facial hair. She can sit me in a chair and attack the hair on my head occasionally, but the hair on my face needs more regular attention which of course I frequently ignore.
Yesterday we were heading out and she looked at me disapprovingly.
If I stand back and look at you, you look like a….a…..a wizard.
What, you mean someone clever and devious with a jaunty hat and long magic stick?
No, just a crap wizard.
There then followed an entreaty that I should remove my facial hair entirely; but this is a bad idea because I may look like a crap wizard now, but I look like something even crappier if all my face is revealed. Which is why for most of my post-pubescent life, I have kept my face partially covered, except for once.
I was working in Bangkok, and for the first and last time in my life I found myself a member of the management team. Most of the other members of the team, and the managing director, were engineers of some sort; so my back-office responsibilities were tolerated as mere supporters of the more important task of sucking oil out of the ground. Still, they were a good bunch and we worked well together and had a load more fun than management teams are probably meant to have. I like to think I was an important instigator of the fun element, to the extent I was once reminded by the MD that I was meant to be employed for more than my entertainment value. High praise indeed!
One of the company traditions was the end of year party, and one of the traditions of that party (started by the boss who fancied himself as a bit of a showman) was a show by the management team. Being Thailand, we were expected to make dicks of ourselves without losing the respect we were due, which was a fine balance, and I expect we strayed into the making dicks of ourselves segment more often than we should.
Still, the previous year had been a success, and we were planning what we should do for the current year. For reasons I forget, the consensus was that we would mime to Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl, an idea that seemed totally lacking in comedic possibilities; until I suggested that one of us should come on the stage as the uptown girl. This was immediately seized upon as a great idea and everyone looked at me and I felt very proud of myself until I realised why they were looking at me.
“No, no, no. Not me. I have a beard, wouldn’t work on an uptown girl.”
“Shave it off”, said the drilling manager who was big and Dutch and scary.
“Good”, said the boss, “that’s decided then”. Even though it wasn’t. Shit.
The Thais in our company were bloody good at organising things. Example: at the end of my time there we sold the company and my IT division had two weeks to completely dismantle the IT infrastructure installed by the old owner and replace it with something new for the new owner. I really doubted this could be done in the time available; but they came up with a plan which filled every one of the fourteen days, and they did it; albeit by filling some days with all 24 hours. Heroes.
So imagine how well they could plan something which involved lots of food and endless sanuk?
Once my role was made known to the secret party planning committee, I was taken under their wing and trasnported to a place in Bangkok that hired party dresses, no questions asked as to the sex of the renter. I was exceedingly embarrassed to enter such a place, but I need not have worried; every single customer trying on a dress during their lunch break was a man preparing for their company’s end of year party.
Dress selected (and matching high-heeled shoes and god knows what else), I turned up for the party, face hair intact. About one hour before our show, I left the main room and headed for a secluded toilet. Moment of truth, and before too long my beard and moustache had been transferred from my face to the sink and I suddenly didn’t recognise myself. No time to scream; because I was then put under the enthusiastic care of a bunch of ladyboys who took great delight in layering several inches of make-up onto my resigned face. Finally the transformation was complete and I was ejected onto the stage in a flurry of lace and a stumble of high heels.
I must admit, I was a glittering success darlings; even though my only role was to totter across the stage and then down some steps towards the exit without breaking a leg and therefore breaking the heart of the health and safety manager (serve him right, he would have made a much better uptown girl); but I did it brilliantly.
On reflection, using me was a master stroke. I was unrecognisable and the general consensus amongst the Thais was that I must be the wife of one of the farangs (poor bastard). I was like Eliza in Pygmalion, only with better cheek bones. Once the secret was leaked, I was mobbed and everyone wanted to have their photograph taken with me. Could have been a great opportunity to chat up some of the girls I fancied, except who wants to be chatted up by a hideous transvestite? (Several guys on Beach Road every evening seems to be the answer).
Things were not so great the next morning, however, when everyone realised what an ugly bugger I was, even without the dress and make up; and it took me weeks to grow back my protective layer of hair.
I’ll take crap wizard any day.
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