Karma in Thailand

I think Thailand is rubbing off on me. Or maybe it’s Mary Karr’s memoir, Lit, which I just finished reading, but I’ve recently found myself remaining ultra calm in frenzied situations, and thanking some form of a Karma God when something goes my way.

In Lit, Karr discusses, among other things, her hesitance to believe in God or any higher power, but when she battles alcoholism and finds her only saving grace is to look up and say thanks, she becomes a believer.

I’m more like the former Karr, believing in no specific religion. I like to pick and choose my beliefs, and karma is one notion I can fully stand behind.

Just one week ago I was bragging to an acquaintance about my trusty MacBook computer, saying it had been virtually problem free since I bought it six years ago. Hours later, I came home to discover a glaring, white screen taunting a blinking, grey question mark. Superstitious Buddha would say I jinxed it.

This sucks, I thought, but I calmly powered it down, plugged in the charger and went to bed. It will be better in the morning.

When I awoke (still unnaturally stress free), I rebooted my laptop to see the same terrifying signal. I could almost hear it screaming, nee-ner-nee-ner with a sour giggle. The old me would have given a repeat performance as Carrie Bradshaw in that episode of Sex & the City when her faithful Apple computer crashes and she screams profanities at the screen.

Instead, I asked around Suwannaphum for help. Each computer geek I approached started shaking his head as soon as he caught a glimpse of the Apple logo. One common response? Your computer is like a Mercedes-Benz. We only drive Toyotas around here.

Just as expected. In an instant, my weekend plans were changed from a lazy, hammock-lounging vacation across the border in Laos to an overnight bus ticket to Bangkok – the only hope for repairing my Benz, or the best place to be should I have to purchase a new one.

I stepped off the Toyota-made bus at the Mochit Station in Bangkok somewhere around 4:00am. I took a cab to Pantip Plaza (IT Mall) where I hoped to find a hotel nearby so I could take care of my computer first thing in the morning. The driver dropped me at a swanky resort, asking 3,500 THB/night for a room. I was tired, but not that tired. After checking the prices at a few more hotels in the area, I decided to head to the only place I knew offered cheap rooms at any time of the night – Sawasdee House where I had previously stayed.

Accepting the first offer that came my way, I found myself on the back of a motorcycle bound for Khao San Road. Only when my knee grazed the side of a passing taxi as I flew down the chaotic streets of Bangkok behind a man I had absolutely no reason to trust did I start to realize the mistake I could have made. While my backpack was still hanging from my shoulders and threatening to pull me off the bike each time he increased speed, I held on tight and welcomed the early-morning breeze on my tired face, thinking about crossing yet another experience off my list. I arrived without a scratch and muttered a quick thanks to whoever might be listening at such an ungodly hour.

Stupidity aside, in my dreary state, I would have accepted a ride from a clown on a unicycle had it promised to get me there quickly.

But the hour I wasted walking around unfamiliar territory turned out to be a blessing in disguise; 5:00am was the check-in time for a new day, so I managed to score two nights for one (700THB) in my old digs. Thank you!

After a few hours rest, I followed Patrice Schneider’s advice from the Apple & Mac OSX Blog and headed back to Pantip Plaza, an overwhelming indoor market for anything technological. I found myself on the fourth floor explaining my detrimental situation with a smile. Without even looking at my laptop, the young Thai gentlemen behind the counter told me my hard drive was broken.

Broken? I asked. As in, not fixable?

No. You lost everything. Dead. Gone. Totaled.

But I’m a writer, I heard myself say, barely believing the words out of my own mouth. The claim, however far from the truth, somehow justified my sad addiction to that shiny pink square. I used to say acting was the only career one could self proclaim before any major accomplishments give him/her the right to do so, but it turns out I’m guilty of my own criticism. Karma? I think so.

Nevertheless, I’m lost without that small screen full of a million possibilities. And yet instead of crying, I managed to laugh. It might have been covering up tears, but a laugh is a laugh in the Land of Smiles.

Just when I thought the world might have ended, my mind cleared enough to remember I had recently backed everything up on my external drive. Thank you!

Expecting to buy a new computer I can’t afford, I asked the tech guy where to go. He simply directed me downstairs to the second floor where I could purchase a new hard drive for a mere B3,500 ($115) and take it back to him for installation, adding another B1,070 ($35) to the bill.

An hour after savoring a peppermint-white-chocolate-mocha from the nearby Starbucks (basking in the red-cupped-Christmas cheer), I had a brand new computer inside my old one. The techie even updated it with Mac OSX operating system, and on my way out I bought copies of the latest software in Microsoft Office and Adobe Creative Suite for a total of $9. Merry Christmas to me!

Back at the Sawasdee House, I celebrated my newish computer with a beer and a few more chapters of Lit. Or maybe it was a chapter and a few more beers. Things are a little blurry now.

When it was time to check out, I packed my bag and went to the restroom one last time. Realizing I had used the last of my toilet paper at the mall, I looked around in a drunken panic only to discover a fresh roll sitting on the lid behind me. Thank you!

Or thank me. At the end of my first trip to Sawasdee House nearly two months earlier, I left a roll of toilet paper in the ladies room (after learning too late that Thais don’t use it) in hopes of helping the next foreigner who wandered into the stall, unprepared as I. If that’s not karma, I don’t know what is.

Proof: What goes around, comes around.

Karma in Thailand


  1. Michelle Lim says:

    Loved this one 🙂

  2. Angela Church says:

    Jessica- I found it so funny reading this blog, and slightly ironic as a similar situation happened to me a few weeks back. As hard as it is to admit, I heavily depend on technology, and my phone is at the top of my list. On the eve of Thanksgiving, I had misplaced my iPhone after having come home from a long day at work, prepared for an exciting and eventful long weekend. After frantically searching my house for 2 hours and retracing my steps over and over again, I decided to admit defeat and take a wall back to the mailboxes where I had convinced myself I would have never left it there. A short walk later, it appeared, lying face down in the street where I had stopped to check the mail. Trying to stay calm, I picked up the pace and quickly picked up my phone from the ground. Slowly I turned it around and in that instant I felt that my world had ended. The shattered screen was all I could see, it would not power on, and questions of what would I do now immediately ran through my head. This is where our stories differ…my calmness began to fade. The closer I got to my house, the flood gates began to open and a full on tantrum began to occur. I must have cried for 3 hours about a stupid phone. I also didn’t have much luck with the sales associate that was assisting me. 2 hours and $350 later, I had myself a bran new iPhone 4 8g with a new two year contract. It wasn’t until I got home that I realized that, unlike you, I hadn’t backed up my phone since August. All photos taken since then were lost forever. My brief relief was overcome with the sadness of losing Ashton’s preschool photos, or Halloween, and several other random candid’s. To top off my feelings of defeat, when I plugged the new phone into iTunes to set it up, it was unable to sync due to the space, or lack there of. Again, my emotions had overcome me and tears ran down my face. I deleted over 200 songs, several pictures, rarely used apps and came to terms that this was going to be all I could do. I would be very limited for the next 2 years. Over the next few days, as thankful as I was to have a phone, I was more and more frustrated with the inability to update apps or even take a single photo without the reminder of there being no more space. Eventually, tired of the whole ordeal, I made a last ditch effort at the local AT&T activate store in the mall. Speaking with a different sales associate I was able to successfully not only get the newest iPhone, he also saved me $150 from the previous transaction. I learned some valuable lessons from my Thanksgiving weekend. Technology should never be able to bring you to tears. Never place your cell phone in your lap as most commonly, you forget. Sales associates aren’t always out to do what’s in your best interest, when in doubt try another store. Most importantly, back up those items that hold the most value to you because once the photos are gone, they are gone fore good! I am glad to hear you had a positive experience and what sounds like an adventure while doing so!

    • jessicajhill says:

      Wow, Ang. I’m sorry to hear about your phone and that it caused so much stress and hassle. I’m glad things are better now! The other good thing about phone technology though, is that every other person in the room on those special occasions such as Ashton’s Halloween probably had a phone as well. Have you asked any of the other moms for pictures? I bet they captured your cute little guy in at least a few…I mean, how could they not?

      Good to hear from you, and thanks for reading!

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