In search of the common 'man'
from : room 25, Han Chow hotel. Georgetown, Malaysia
I wanted to pose our ten questions to someone different. One of the less fortunate who have no work and no reason to bump into tourists. It turned out that meeting the man on the street is not always a difficult thing, especially if you take 'man on the street' in its literal sense and go looking for the down and outs of a city with only a pack of cigarettes in hand.
I went down to the corner store
late one night and picked up a pack of Pall Mall and though I had my
lighter with me, stopped the first person I met to ask for a light.
Actually I didn't have to stop him because this middle-aged Chinese
man was sitting on the curb.. He lit my cigarette and I sat down next
A group of Malay men were sitting at a table drinking and I stopped to ask for a light. One handed his lighter over silently. For those of you wishing to try this approach to anthropological investigation, know this. If someone flicks the wheel and aids you in lighting your smoke, you have an invitation to talk. If someone simply hands you their lighter, take care of business and move on. I moved on.
I spied a little bald Indian
man sitting on the doorstep of a shuttered business next to a sleeping
figure. I already had a lit cigarette so I asked him if he wanted one.
He accepted, he spoke English, I asked if I could sit with him, he patted
the ground next to him. "What are you doing out here?"
"Well, easy come easy go
I suppose. If had that money I would hold on to it tight. Are you married?"
I had tried talking to prostitutes before, in Vietnam, but gave up because they were all hands. My small success with the sailor and the mumbling Indian sometime security guard made me think I would try it again with the ladies I had seen on a previous night. So, fortified with Dutch courage and emboldened with my canny 'cigarette plan', I sauntered off in the direction of the corner where I knew my quarry plied their trade. On the way I started thinking - Am I really going to ask a hooker looking for a John on a dark corner for a light? And I am supposed to expect that she won't think I am looking for something more than to talk? It was a stupid idea. The plan fell apart and I retreated to an all night tea bar to observe them and formulate another approach but as no-one went near them they remained in the shadows.
Only one thing for it. On my first reconnoitering pass only one of the four asked me 'where are you going?' This sort of hurt my pride. Only one? What, do I not look rich and single and desperate enough to this motley crew? Am I too ugly even for them? I doubled back and passed again. This time they pretended to be too busy talking to notice me but before my ego could be further assaulted I noticed something odd. They were certainly curvaceous and dressed to kill but they were a little too . . too strong looking. In fact they had a beefy look that said 'I may look like a lady but piss me off and I'll snap you in two!' Their biceps betrayed their penchant for steroid washed down with hormones and a keenness for pumping iron after painting their nails and shaving their backs.I was just mulling over how interesting it would be to pose our "ten questions" to one of these she-males (#2. What is your occupation? Why? #3. Do you enjoy it, or would you rather do something else?) when from the blackness further back emerged a true horror. It was like a Malaysian Sumo wrestler in a one piece dress like a sausage casing. Pendulous breasts, love handles and lumpy butt all as visible as the 5 o'clock shadow on it's jowls. And it was wearing lipstick!
Egads! I span around and teetered off as fast as my buckling knees would carry me. The things I go through to gather interesting stories!
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