musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Laughter in the Rain

It’s not often that a Neil Sedaka song pops into my head while walking the streets of Bangkok, but the deluge of rain that I found myself overwhelmed by on Wednesday night triggered Sedaka’s mid-1970s hit “Laughter in the Rain” to run circuits around my brain for several hours.

sedaka_laughter

It was one of those freak rain storms that didn’t come and go quickly, as they usually do. Instead, this intense and persistent strorm lasted several hours, raining hard enough to ensure flooded streets and traffic gridlock. I had been dining with my friend Michael at Soul Food Mahanakorn, a Thai restaurant on Thonglor. Ten o’clock came and went and it was still raining, so we both ordered another round of Beer Lao, the dark variety. Eleven o’clock threatened to rear its head and it was still raining hard. Rain or not, it looked like the restaurant would be closing soon, so we paid our bill (the food is quite good at that place, but it’s not cheap, and portions aren’t very big either; I had the odd feeling of leaving a restaurant still a bit hungry!) and marched outside to face the elements.

For Michael, getting home wasn’t going to be that difficult a task, even in the pouring rain. From the restaurant, he had only a short hike to the Thonglor BTS Skytrain station, and then a dry ride back to his place near Sathorn Road. For me, however, the transport options weren’t looking as simple. I live on New Petchburi Road, not an area serviced by the Skytrain or subway. In heavy rains like this one the number of available taxis decreases dramatically, and even if you do luck into finding one, the traffic is so backed up that you are looking at a very long ride home. The rain also means that taking a motorcycle taxi is not a particularly desirable option. Yeah, you can take one, but without a raincoat, which I didn’t have with me, you’re going to get soaked. And at this time of night, even motorcycle taxis are almost impossible to find.

Thonglor was already quite flooded, so with umbrella in hand, I decided to walk back to the Sukhumvit intersection in hopes of finding a dry stretch of pavement where I could wait and possibly flag down a taxi. I waited under an awning for nearly 30 minutes, the rain never letting up and no taxis stopping. That’s when I started laughing and that Neil Sedaka song began playing in my head. I mean what else could I do but wait out the rain and laugh about it all? It was that ridiculous.

Another reason for laughter was the sight of the cockroach dance. While I was waiting under the awning I noticed a woman standing nearby who started twitching and slapping her back, and then screaming. What the hell? But she wasn’t the only one. A young man standing next to the woman commenced into doing an exaggerated slap and shuffle of his own. At that point I noticed the source of this chaos; cockroaches. Dozens if not hundreds of the little critters, skittering across the pavement … and up legs and arms and backs and heads! Things got so bad that the man yanked off his shirt and tried to brush off the intruders. While I was laughing at this scene I felt a crawling presence on my own shoulder. Yep, the cockroaches had found me too!

I finally gave up on a taxi and decided that there wasn’t much I could do at this point but to start walking home. It’s a bit of a hike, but I’ve done it before, and hey, it’s good exercise, right? The clock was pushing midnight by this time and the rain had let up enough that I put away my umbrella and just donned a baseball cap as protection from the elements. But there was still no sign of any vacant taxis, either the regular ones or the motorcycle variety.

The walk home was, shall we say, soggy. Several of the sois and driveways that I had to cross were so flooded that the water came up almost to my knees. Needless to say, these old Reeboks were going to need a thorough drying afterwards. Actually, I need a new pair anyway, but I’ll wait until after rainy season has safely retreated until I buy anything new. Marching down Thonglor, I passed vendors who were packing it in for the night, pedestrians seeking shelter, and swirling pools of garbage. But I pressed on, laughing in the rain, that song still playing in my head.

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