A few weeks ago, after a particularly interesting night in Pai Thailand, I received the following email.
This is ____ the girl you helped a lot last night in Pai. my friend ____ now is transferring to Chiangmai lam hospital to have an operation. he got two parts of bone break of his left leg. i haven’t deal with the motorcycle problem yet by now. how is your wrist now ? i’m really sorry that you got hurt your wrist. sorry…
You appeared like a super man to me last night! you followed my friend to the hospital after the accident, you found me, you helped me to push my motorcycle for 3 km, you took me to the hospital and also took me back to the hotel.you did so much! like i said you are the best american i ever known. you are so helpful and nice! thanks for everything you did for me.
thank you Michael !
_____ from China
Now, I don’t think I’m a hero for the events described above. I mean, I’m far from being Martin Luther King Jr. (or even, say, Kirk Cameron).
All I am is a guy who was riding his scooter in the rain, after midnight, on a dark stretch of road leading out of a small town in northern Thailand, against all common sense and to the horror of my mother is she ever found out (which she now will, I suppose).
I saw an opportunity to help an injured stranger, which then turned into an opportunity to help a different stranger in need, and I took it. I don’t believe in karma, I was not looking for a reward.
So why then, you might ask, did I spend four hours after the stroke of the witching hour helping people I didn’t know? I’d like to think of it as common decency; just showing concern for my fellow man.
And frankly, it was exciting.
The setting? Pai, Thailand: a small town north of Chiang Mai filled with friendly locals, laid back expats , and tourists; a town embraced by natural beauty in every direction.
With its rice fields, rolling green hills, tranquil muddy rivers, and big open sky sporting puffy white clouds, Pai is a little bit like what Eden might have been, had it existed.
The people are generally very friendly, quick to smile, quick to help. In fact, by the time I came across the injured stranger (let’s call him German Bob for funsies), he was already being carried into the back of a white pick up truck owned by two Thai men and a local woman who had pulled over to help him.
I gave his crashed motorbike a cursory once over, asked the German if he wanted me to go to the hospital with him (silly question apparently), and followed the truck there on my scooter.
At the hospital, once it became obvious that German Bob was in no great mortal danger, we got to talking a little bit (him through gritted teeth, rolling eyeballs, and in between moans, that is).
Turns out the crashed bike was not his – he’d borrowed it from a girl he met and was speeding into town to buy a lighter, hoping to return to her hotel as quickly as possible.
He crashed his motorbike on the way to buy a fucking lighter! Smoking really IS bad for your health, ya’ll.
The girls’ hotel was located some ways out of town, and Bob didn’t recall its name. It had two lemons on its sign, however, that much he knew for certain. Bob produced a key to room 202 and told me that the girl was eagerly awaiting his return.
A bit of detective work at 1am sounded like fun, so I grabbed the key and promised I’d find the mystery girl and bring her to German Bob’s bedside.
I drove back to the scene of the accident to make sure Bob’s crunched motorbike was still there.
Crunched motorbike, check.
I then proceeded further down the road into the mysterious night, the single beam of my scooter’s headlamp keeping the darkness at bay as I searched in for two lemons in vain.
Bob’s memory was relatively sound, however, and I eventually came across a fruit-filled hotel sign some 5 clicks out of town. They weren’t lemons at all (passion fruit actually), but we’ll give poor Bob the benefit of the doubt.
Pulling into the parking lot on my hardy little scooter, I mentally prepared myself to knock on a stranger’s door to deliver some bad news.
I took a few deeps breaths outside of room 202, my heart beating a little too quickly, and knocked on the door.
A few moments later it flew open and a short Asian girl (let’s call her Sue) stood before me in an equally short night gown.
I was obviously not who Sue was expecting as evidenced by the look on her face, which transitioned from puzzlement to alarm and back again within three heartbeats. We stood there looking at one another for a few seconds before I remembered I had to speak.
“I’m sorry to alarm you but your friend was in an accident. He is in the hospital now. Your bike is on the side of the road a few kilometers from here “, I blurted, all while trying to make what I hoped to be cross-cultural calming motions with my hands.
It took her some time to accept the news, but I guess my stammering sincerity made the harsh truth easier to stomach. We stopped by the hotel owner’s bungalow so she could (much to her confusion) take my photograph (y’know, just in case German Bob didn’t exist and I was actually a deranged lunatic who’d come to kidnap Sue and drag her back to my den of unspeakable horrors).
Photos snapped, our next task was to check up on German Bob’s – er, Sue’s – crashed motorbike.
The bike appeared to be in better shape than Bob was, just some minor scratches on the body. But the keys were missing from the ignition, and there was a shirtless (and mostly toothless) old Thai man standing nearby in the dark, looking at the bike (and us) with some obvious consternation.
We decided that leaving Sue’s bike there was probably not a great idea, so I pushed the fucking thing three kilometers back to her hotel.
That sweaty task completed, we set off on my scooter to the hospital. German Bob was medicated and sleeping when we got there, but woke up long enough to chat Sue up through his drugged-out haze.
They’d placed Bob in a room with 5 elderly female patients who were not super happy about our late night visit, so we kept it short. Sue told Bob she’d visit him in the morning, asked him if he had the key to the scooter (he did not), and off we went.
While dropping Sue off at her hotel at 3:30 in the morning, I nearly caused the second motorbike accident of the evening when I dropped the damned scooter and wrenched my wrist trying to keep it from falling. Apparently scooters do no like standing sideways on steep hills, kick stand or no kickstand.
Sue offered to nurse my new injury but I begged off, not wanting my travel partner to freak out due to my long, unexplained absence in the middle of the night.
Saying goodbye to ol’ Sue, I braced myself against fresh rain as I drove back to my hotel. Stumbling into my room half a hour later I fell into bed, exhausted but content.
I never saw or heard from German Bob again after that night. Sue, on the other hand, sent me about 18 emails in gratitude, bought my travel partner and I dinner and drinks one night, and was pretty much consumed with expressing her thanks for a few days. We still keep in touch, and she still calls me “her superman” in her emails.
I never told Sue, but I think Superman is a dick. I much prefer Batman, but if she keeps it up I just might start wearing really tight spandex pants as my ego swells to unchecked heights.
Michael Miszczak is a nomadic Brooklynite and the co-creator of www.justapack.com. He started backpacking five years ago and has thought of doing little else since. He’s spent months in Asia, Europe, and Latin America. One day he hopes to explore Saturn…but only if he can bring his backpack.
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