Thursday, June 15, 2006

Comment Rage

Chase Me Ladies, I'm in the Calvary says this about this, so I reply with this. Now I'm wondering if I went a little bit overboard in replying these few hours later. I'm still fine with the content, but it's the tone, man - the tone! I know those words will never be unwritten, and I feel kind of better about it.

As for the anecdote about the man with the Pith helmet - it's a true story. It happened some years at a place called Allez Vous in the backpacker ghetto of Phạm Ngũ Lão. Locals would know about it. To understand the venue, imagine a bar which handles lots of visitors, but in most cases just once or twice. It's not one of the numerous Vietnamese cafés and restaurants, nor was it one of the standard expat watering holes. It was designed for the backpacker crowd - who are willing to try anything once with attractive furnishings. That the service was not enough to encourage many repeat customers doesn't matter - they're probably going to take the next bus to Phnom Penh tomorrow, never to return. So the customer experience is likely to rise to a certain level, but not beyond that. There's frankly no incentive.

The staff were friendly enough, but weak. I don't mean physically weak; one of the bar-workers talked to me about his National Service, and other males probably had the same experience; they could have taken down a Western prat no problem. But without direction from management, they were unwilling to deal with the hassle of a foreigner draining his glass into a pool table pocket. I had to point it out to them at great length, and with some reluctance, they gently moved the man away from the table. In other places (including pool halls in this country), an asshole like that would have been immediately ejected from the bar with force inverse to the liability law strength for that place.

It was the same weakness that made me leave Allez Vous for good. The staff were nice, but one day someone hired their asshole cousin, who immediately appointed himself as the pool table master. Write your name on the chalkboard, and when you win, you play the winner of the last match. Since he was generally the winner, he generally played every game... until I beat him in pool one night.

He just lost it. He didn't hit me or anything, but his body language was definitely aggro. He wanted to challenge me to another game. I refused. I pointed out that there were other people waiting, and it was their turn. So I started setting up the table, but he was still asking me to play him, and he was loud about it - so much that the legitimate challenger (i.e., one with his name in chalk) just decided it was "not worth it". Understandably.

Still, I had been coming to Allez Vous for a couple of months. So I reminded the bar staff of that, and also asked them to do something about their errant workmate, or I was never coming back. They looked back with horror. Maybe with a little bit of fear. I was a little scared too. Fortunately, some acquaintances were visiting another bar somewhere, and I had been invited along, so just then I walked outside straight into the interior of their waiting taxi-cab. I wasn't coming back.

And three years on, I never came back to Allez Vous. Nor did I need to - there are far better places in this town for both Vietnamese, and expats alike. And oh god, it feels good to share the story.