Yesterday at the dining hall I saw a student from the past semester named Mic. Nothing strange about that--I see Mic all the time, and in fact we started joking that he was following me because for a three day stretch I saw him every day.
So Mic and I are pretty friendly I guess. He is going to work somewhere in Virginia next summer (King's Mill Resort? Anyone? He says it as though it's the White House, and is always surprised when I haven't heard of it) so he wants to practice his English, which is frankly pretty good already.
Anyway, I walked by his table at lunch, where he was sitting with two freshmen I didn't know. Probably hazing their frosh asses, if he's anything like I was in college (Am I right?). So I see him and ask how he is doing, and he says Not good.
"I turn in presentation one day late."
"Why was your presentation late?"
"Because...only two people." (Usually groups have 3 people in them)
"Oh, I see!"
"Yes, one day late."
"Maybe...stop drinking so much!"
The whole table (Mic and his frosh slaves) started laughing. Satisfied at having made a Thai person laugh for the first time in my life, I started to walk away. But Mic got in the last word.
"No!" he said, and then he slapped me in the buttocks region.
Had my student just spanked me? Now, it could have been the he slapped me on the right thigh, with overflow tappage going onto the right butt cheek. Or it could have been that he was just trying to spank me, his teacher, his revered ajarn, fountain of knowledge, he of what I always imagined to be sacred butt cheeks.
Is this a Thai formality or show of respect that I missed out on? Should I be spanking more people here in Thailand? Who haven't I spanked that I should have spanked already? Is there some sort of etiquette book for Thai spankings? Like, maybe if someone is somewhat higher than you on the social scale, you spank them really hard (you can spank your friends or equals as hard as you damn well please) but for someone much higher than me--say, the King--I would only spank lightly, and perhaps across one butt cheek only (the right, as the left is viewed as dirty, as we all know).
This is extremely, extremely relevant, as today is the King's birthday and I want to give him 82 birthday spankings. But when I see him at dinner (we usually eat at the same poorly-lit flea-ridden mud-soaked hovel of a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, favored by royalty and high-society types), how should I spank him? Why isn't this in my Lonely Planet?
A cursory Google search revealed this Salon article. WARNING: horrible "Thai" pun in the title.
This confirms everything I thought about spanking and I hope to see the King tonight so I can give him a spanking.
"Spanking King Bhumibol" is a really good title for a semi-edgy teen comedy that I am going to make in 1999.