Shops of this kind are known as ‘convenience stores’. We have a lot of convenience on our road, so much convenience that life could practically live itself.
My little survey of local shops is a good introduction to Pattaya life in general. It’s an easy place to live. Everything’s very convenient. If I ever bumped into a Martian who had successfully applied for an Earth visa and was looking around for somewhere to build his dome, or whatever it is that Martians live in, I’d strongly advise that he, she or it consider beaming down to Pattaya.
It’s a sobering thought that while some shops declare that they are ‘convenient’, such a claim suggests that others are ‘inconvenient’. How could our market economy support such unwanted retail outlets? You’d think that competition would reject such customer-unfriendly offerings as a cat rejects fur-balls.
Yet there is much in life in other places that remains inconvenient. I, Mr Pobaan, am myself a refugee from big-city living. I toiled in the engine rooms of a major metropolis for the best part of 30 years, commuting to its centre, tolerating its transport breakdowns, its crowding and its inability to cater for all the masses it contained. In the evenings I commuted home again, exhausted and washed out, dreading the beep beep of the following morning’s alarm clock.
Life there wasn’t convenient, it was a constant struggle. Why? Perhaps it was because of the size of the place. I have little doubt that I wouldn’t enjoy living in Bangkok for that very reason; too many people fighting to enjoy too little space.
For the time being, Pattaya isn’t like that. Despite our claim, we’re not yet a real city; just a sprawling agglomeration of former villages with developmental in-fill and out-push into surrounding countryside. But change is all around us. The place is growing so fast that sometimes when I drive into town I wonder if I’ll recognise our soi when I come back home. So far, Pattaya’s central services are coping with the increasing demand from an expanding population and life remains easy and convenient. I’m not making any predictions, however, about how long this can remain the case.
In movies, Martians always land their spacecraft in America, mostly in scrubland at the outskirts of Mid-West cities. This is so that the people who gather around to gawp at the aliens as they wobble out of the bright light and down the gang-plank are guaranteed to be American and can thus be played by Hollywood actors without their having to put in all those hours with a foreign accent coach.
But visitors from outer space shouldn’t be so parochial. If they took my advice they would consider other, more adventurous, options. Landing in Colorado may be handy for the film-makers but, in the long run, it’s not going to work out all that convenient for the invaders. They’re already clocking up huge landing fees for their flying saucer—or even bigger fines if they’re blocking a traffic box. They won’t get into a decent restaurant without booking. They’ll have to tip anybody who does anything for them. The deckchairs on the hotel sun-deck will all be taken unless they get there early. And the nearest convenience store will be beyond walking distance if they’re the walking kind of alien; wobbling or possibly sliding distance otherwise. Whatever, it won’t be convenient.
That’s why I would always advise incoming Martians to overfly America completely and set a course for the eastern seaboard of Thailand. Turn your hyper-thrusters to max and head for Pattaya. You’ll be able to pick out the place easily enough at night. Just turn up your sonic sensors and listen for ‘Hotel California’ being thrashed out by any number of bands of aging rockers. Then come down somewhere near our town centre (Foodland on Pattaya Klang) and check out the easy living we have on offer.
When you go to the cinema, it’s not so expensive that you feel you’re buying the seat rather than merely renting it for a couple of hours; and you won’t have to wade through snow-drifts of popcorn dropped by other cineastes as you seek out your screen.
When you go out to eat, you’ll find friendly staff who will welcome you into restaurants that are nearly empty, as if the whole purpose of their business were for this moment, to provide a nourishing meal just for you.
If you want to go away for the weekend, you can do so at a moment’s notice. You won’t spend the first half of your holiday stuck in a traffic jam on some orbital motorway and, when you get there, you’ll find plenty of rooms available at the first hotel you try.
I know Martians can be sticklers for punctuality, but in Pattaya you can relax and chill a little. People don’t mind so much if you’re a bit late for things. They don’t even seem to worry if you’re behind with paying your bills. After a while, you find that conquering the tyranny of the clock over all aspects of your life eases your stress levels and lowers your blood pressure. If your kind of alien doesn’t have blood, this more relaxed approach to time-keeping could well lower the pressure in whatever fluid you have instead. I’m just guessing here.
It’s a funny thing that, before you discover a place where life is easy, you don’t know that it can be difficult. When we’re born, you think, we should be equipped to deal with whatever the world throws at us. And we are. We cope. We rub along. We get by.We’re happy. Life is often good. Life is occasionally convenient.
Then we discover Pattaya.