Slow to the Pace of a Turtle with a Broken Leg
People who spend time with infants know what it is like to go without a good night’s rest. Imagine 65 years of being woken up throughout the night — not by one’s child, but by one’s own snoring and snorting and gasping for breath.
65 years without a decent night’s sleep! That’s the story told by our new friend over omelets at the Klong Khood Homestay on the island of Ko Chang, Thailand. Enthusiastic about finally being able to find out the endings to his dreams, Daniel hurries to his bungalow mid-omelet and mid-conversation to return with the miracle machine.
While he demonstrates his nighttime breathing device, I realize that after a few months in Thailand, my eating has slowed to the pace of a turtle with a broken leg. I now enjoy hearing the details of strangers’ sleeping habits between bites of omelet.
Financially successful Western individuals and people in traditional societies understand the pleasure of dining slowly. Take for example fine dining in the United States: a couple can finish a bottle of wine, rub one another’s thighs with their feet, and take the time to learn the name of the dairy in Idaho where the goat cheese was made.
In America, too many people spend their lives eating at the pace of a jackrabbit running from a kid with a bb gun. When life finally slows down to the point that you can enjoy it, your body aches and you find you can’t ride into the sunset with a walker. By American standards, slow and inattentive service is considered a hindrance to the enjoyment of one’s meal. In Thailand, it’s the opposite. Restaurants in Thailand do not embrace the idea of high turnover. Thai people do not tip, so the servers will make the same wage whether they serve one table or 20 in the span of a shift. After taking your order and serving your food, servers won’t approach your table again unless you get their attention. They never hand you the bill until you ask for it. You have no excuse not to chew your food 25 times per bite, have a New York Times style conversation, and get frisky.
Long after swallowing the last bite of omelet and rice, I’m still sitting at the table, talking with Daniel. Having gained one another’s trust over breakfast conversation about snoring, Amy and I load up on his rented motorcycle and join him for a hike to one of the many waterfalls on the island of Ko Chang.
I’m looking forward to the day when American culture will allow the average restaurant patron to plop an artificial leg on the table that can inspire a two-hour conversation without the server blinking an eye.
Many Americans look forward to retirement as a time in their lives when they can finally slow down and enjoy life. Slow down young, and getting old simply means a long-awaited diner discount.