In an article about the world’s last opium den, I read that whores in Bangkok prefer Americans to all other customers. The British are too cheap, the Japanese try to extinguish cigarettes on the girls’ arms, and the Germans are too… well, German. That’s how the article put it, with ellipses and all. I didn’t quite understand the complaint against the Germans. It seemed to allude to a problem so subtle and so droll that I would never get the joke. After all, the article ran in Vanity Fair.
Yesterday at 7:01am I sprinted across 41st Street to catch a 7:00am bus to Boston. The street corners of Times Square were eerily deserted—not for any of the nightmare reasons, like an alien invasion or a dirty bomb, but for the holiday. It was Thanksgiving. Somewhere behind the nearest skyscrapers, a flotilla of huge, anthropomorphic balloons was taking to the sky for the 83rd Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But here in the neon fog, nothing moved but me and a family of five, apparently lost on their way to see Dora the Explorer. A police van idled at the curb. I found most of this unremarkable at the time.
Down in the Greyhound station I stood in line with two Germans, strapping lads with ruddy cheeks and long woolen coats. They might have been woodsmen, or cologne models. Despite the early hour and the lateness of the bus, they joked with each other like old friends. I thought about the Vanity Fair article and how unfairly it had characterized their race.
A blonde woman in a trench coat tried to engage the Germans in conversation. They responded in a schoolboy’s monotone. “…tax reform in Switzerland has resulted in a 6% increase for citizens of other countries who earn more than…” and “…unlike the buses in Holland, which are supposed to run every five minutes, but in practice they are unsuitable to many weather conditions …”
That’s how the Germans blew it. No wonder the whores in Bangkok hate them. A Greyhound attendant began taking tickets, and the Germans kept boring this poor, beautiful woman with tax regulations and bus schedules. I jumped them in line and found my way to Boston for the most American of holidays.