“Grow up, can’t you?” Sammie asked her brother for the tenth time that morning.
“I enjoy playing, what’s wrong with that?” Phet answered.
Songkran, the Thai New Year, is celebrated from April 13th to 15th. Songkran is the Sanskrit word meaning, passing or approaching. Buddha images were passing and approaching. A parade of trucks laden with huge statues, all shielded by local beauty queens drove along the road. All that bored Phet, he loved the fun bit. The water festival, where everyone got drenched.
He went to fetch the hotel's hose. Today was ‘Songkran Day’, the annual Thai celebration. Phet was happy, the country’s most fun-filled water festival had begun. The celebration kicked off, to Phet’s mind, dour and boring. Family members washed their elders' feet and wished them ‘all the best,’ for the coming year. But today was the day, that Phet lived for. You could splash anyone you liked. Buckets of water were hurled at passers-by, policemen, teachers, or anyone you saw.
It was a national holiday. It stretched to seven days in some provinces, allowing workers to travel home. Some unfortunate people still had to work. These people were great targets. As businessmen, especially foreign ones had to wear their suits to the office. They had their phones and wallets wrapped in plastic bags for safety. They would try to get to work before all the fun began. Lunchtime was a problem. The office workers were not brave enough to risk the revellers. They ordered food from ‘Grab’ or similar delivery guys, who had to change their uniforms three or four times a day. The food was always carefully wrapped and arrived unharmed. At going home time? Well, they all got soaked, at least, they were on their way to enjoy the fun and a well-earned beer.
Police were on duty in case the revelry got too much, they always knew what to expect. And they often joined in with the fun. Their radios and other valuables are stashed behind a plastic coat.
Yet, there was always one group that did not join in. These were tourists who had never heard of Songkran, these folk had no clue what was coming their way. Uncovered cameras, passports and wallets were all fair game.
Phet loved the newbie tourists the best. Clueless, they did not know what was coming. They were his prime targets. He left the water hose to refill the fish pond, as he armed himself with a high-powered water rifle. The gun fired high in the air, showering passersby, thumbs raised all around.
Phet and Sammie were guarding the entrance to their family’s hotel. From the steps, they had a great view up and down the road. Today was clear of the most traffic. What few cars there were had to crawl past dancing and frolicking folk. Riding a motorcycle was at your own risk as a gallon of ice-cold water would have you bouncing on the tarmac. Cycling? You need the balance of a gymnast and the strength of Popeye.
“I hope this one stops,” Phet pointed, as he saw a yellow and purple taxi rounding the distant corner.
“Yes,” he shouted, as the cab pulled up.
The driver, too smart to leave his vehicle, leaned back to gather his fare.
“My bags?” said the passenger.
The boot lifted as the driver released the catch.
The puzzled tourist, humped his cases and pissed off, slammed the lid. Children rushed and layered white goo across the taxi’s windscreen. The taxi now matched at least half of the people with small buckets of watered and scented powder.
“Bloody kids,” mouthed the tourist. The kids unsure how to approach the grumpy man, decided to flick him from behind. The beer-drinking men in the next-door bar cheered and saluted the children with bottles raised.
“What is wrong with these people?” said Mr Tourist. “Bloody idiots, the lot of them.”
Phet pumped his weapon and sprayed him. Long and hard. The jet had the man ducking.
“Crack shot!” screamed Phet.
The man spluttered, as he received a mouth full of dirty water.
“What the hell do you think you are doing?” screamed the man.
Phet continued firing. His sister tutted.
“Phet, he’s a guest, leave him alone.”
The man let go of his baggage, dropping to the footpath. Glaring at Phet, he kicked his large case and, for good measure, the smaller one, then he dropped his shoulder bag on the big one.
“Do you work here?” the man asked as Phet was crisscrossing wet bullets all over the man’s jacket. “You bloody idiot, my passport, wallet and mobile phone are in these pockets. “Bloody fool.”
Phet was laughing and dancing as he had when he saw his first clown. His sister didn’t share the joke, she signalled the busboy to lug the cases inside. She placed her arm across the man’s shoulder, guiding him away from her brother, showing him the way indoors.
Many staff were given extra time off to visit their folks in the provinces. Leaving a skeleton crew, including a new boy, halfway through his first month’s training.
The lad ducked and zigzagged his way to the bags. Passersby couldn’t resist the chance to soak a young lad in a dry uniform. The guest stormed ahead, as Phet fired water from his head to his feet. The man turned ready to grab and swear at his assailant. He issued another mouth full of wet obscenities. Phet stepped forward, he dropped his weapon and grabbed a bucket full of water and feigned a sprint. The guest decided enough was enough and ducked behind the door in the dry reception.
Phet stood in front of the cases and pointed at them then to the pond.
“No, I daren’t,” the new boy said. He gaped and begged with his eyes, as white goo was fired into the air.
“My family own this hotel. Do it!” ordered Phet.
“Do you want the sack?” asked Phet.
Starting with the biggest, the luggage all sank to the bottom of the pond.
Sammie, stood, arms on hips, “Buddha above! Phet, you are eighty-two years old, don’t you think it is time to grow up.”