Sunday, May 30, 2010
The Scams of David Viner, Part 1 - The Encounter
Living in Bangkok there is never a dull moment. All you have to do for entertainment is park yourself on the street, and observe the chaos that continually swirls around you. It never fails to provide amusement. But, on occasion, no matter how careful you are, that vortex turns in an unexpected direction, and suddenly envelopes you.
Walking up the street I spotted Mandalay Mike. Mandalay Mike was a point of curiosity in that he was not abnormal in any way. A congenial, good natured, intelligent American fellow, he seemed completely out of place amid the outrageous characters that populated that town. He had spent the previous year or two in Burma, eventually getting deported for political reasons, and was a fixture on our little soi.
The street was littered with tables on the sidewalk, each being serviced by the adjacent establishment. The foreigners, by some unconscious agreement, had chosen this particular table at which to gather. Perhaps it had something to do with the fact the the prettiest girl on the street served us.
As I sat down, Mike was just standing up, proclaiming some urgent business somewhere in town. I was left with his companion, who I had never met. I took a moment to look for character flaws or any obvious signs of derangement, you can never be too careful.
He was an elderly man with a dignified air. His white hair, gold rimmed glasses and neatly clipped beard gave the impression of class and intelligence. His use of the English language was masterly, and he spoke with a cultivated London accent. I was impressed by his demeanor and in the the first few minutes of conversation, found myself enjoying his company.
After the initial pleasantries and a few keen insights were exchanged, I asked him whether he was enjoying his time in Thailand. After a subtly vague, reluctant answer I was left with the idea that something was wrong, and I presented the question again, this time more firmly.
He took on a weary yet slightly embarrassed expression as if he was reluctant to burden me with his problems. He told me that he had been robbed at a Starbucks while turning for a moment to place the newspaper back. His bag, passport, wallet - everything had been taken. I was shocked and asked him how he had been getting by, noting the cold beer in front of him. He replied that he had spent the first three days at the airport, until the idea came upon him to pawn his wedding ring. That had provided the modest amount of money needed to stay at the shoddiest guesthouse on the street and the comfort of a cold beer in the heat of the tropics. But, he added, not to worry, his Japanese wife on Hokkaido was in the process of sending some money, and all would be rectified soon.
I was overwhelmed with concern for this poor old man, and immediately offered to help him financially, to get him by in relative comfort for the next couple of days, until his money arrived. He reluctantly allowed me to force a 500 baht bill into his hands, and spent the rest of our conversation in praise of my good nature.
For the next two days I would meet David at our table and delight in his conversation. He was intelligent, and well versed on a great number of topics. It was some of the most enjoyable conversation I've ever had. I offered him a book I had just bought to ease him through the duller moments before his money arrived.
David appeared to enjoy my company as well. For a further three days he would be waiting at the table, cold beer in front of him, eager to pick up where we had left off the previous evening. I started taking note of his beer consumption, and began to get suspicious. After asking when his his money would finally arrive, he told me there were no Western Unions on Hokkaido, so his wife had to travel quite a distance to get to one. I knew that Hokkaido was the most remote area of Japan, I even had an old friend who lived there, but I found it hard to believe there was no way to wire money from the island.
The next day, David was not there. I had been suspicious the night before, and I was sure he had picked up on it. A couple more days passed, there was no sign of him, he had vanished from the street. During that time I had called my friend in Japan and asked about the presence of Western Unions on Hokkaido. he told me Hokkaido was not the Canadian Arctic, and of course there were Western Unions there. Further investigation on the internet provided me with proof that indeed, Hokkaido was all but riddled with them.
I'm not a vengeful person, but it bothers me a great deal to be outsmarted. Besides, he had taken my book. I vowed to find this David Viner, and make him pay.
Click here for part two