Hay, yelled an Indian man at the food court. He was drinking a stout beer. Once he knew I was from Australia he started singing a Men at Work song- yes the whole song about some blokes down under. He also cracked a Crocodile Dundee joke, and said he’d put a few shrimps on the barbie.
It didn’t take him long to invite himself to my table. He was looking for a pen so he could write down his number and give it to me. It was urgent he gave me his number. He was shouting to everyone for a pen. Tall, skinny, dark skinned, and wearing a red T-shirt and board shorts, he went into his spiel.
“I’m Richard. I speak 8 different languages. I was educated at St Paul’s and I’m a salesman.” That’s all I can remember. He spoke so fast.
I questioned him on his Chinese. He parroted off phrase in Mandarin, Cantonese and Hokkien.
“Now what do you do in Australia,” he asks.
” I’m a traveler.”
” But what do you do?”
“I don’t like talking about what I do when I’m traveling.”
“Are you bullshitting me?”
I give him the microphone again. He got robbed recently in a business deal. “I’m well known around Johor. I don’t give in easy to thugs.”
He said the guy who ripped him off got what he deserved. “ A broken nose and a few broken ribs.” He counts his money, to see if he has enough to pay for his beer.
I ease up a bit and tell him I’m into sales. That gives him another inch that he’ll extend to a mile if I let him.
He can show me around if he knows what hotel I’m staying at.
“The one down the road,” I say.
“I can’t remember, it’s just over there.” I point in a vague direction.
“You aren’t bullshitting me again?”
“No, it’s over there.”
“Near the mall in a proper hotel?”
“Yes, over there near the mall in a proper hotel.”
“Come on,” he says, really irritable at this stage, “stop bullshitting me. I’m not a gangster.”
I tell him I’ve got to get back to my book. I don’t want this guy rocking up at my room.
He’s about to leave and shakes my hand, but holds onto it and starts giving me a palm reading.
“You have two girlfriends and a long life. When were you born?”
I make up a date. I’m now four years younger, and the Business Major in Accountancy by correspondence at St Paul’s college in London is now crunching numbers. I’ve heard of identity theft and I don’t want him to have a good start by telling him my real date.
Then I get to the point. I’m not into fortune telling bullshit, so lets drop this.
“I’m not a gangster,” he says, seemingly genuinely put out by my opinionated outburst.
He’s not even a wannabe gangster but I keep that thought to myself.
Then he asks me if I have a girl friend. So much for having two of them.
” No I don’t.”
“Are you gay?”
“No I’m not.”
“But if you don’t have a girlfriend or a wife then you must be gay.”
Shortly before this conversation, I had asked him about the whore scene, telling him the man next door in the restaurant offered me girls from Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.
“Yes, a knock shop,” he said.
He’s forgot that conversation and is desperate to keep this one going.
I need to get rid of this seemingly harmless fruit cake that is just about to turn on me.
“I’ll text you tomorrow,” I say. “ We’ll have a vegetarian meal and I’ll meet you here at 12.30.”
He had written three numbers on a piece of paper for me, and showed me one number that I could I add him on What’s App. Now he wants me to add him on Facebook. I said he could fire over his Facebook link when I text him tomorrow.
That is if I ever buy a sim.
I’ll say anything to get rid of him. It seemed to work.
“So see you soon,” I say again, making sure he gets the message. I tell him I’m going to read my book. I show him. It’s One Crowded Hour by Tim Bowden.
Richard seems a gentleman enough to let me get back to my book and stumbles out into the street. He’s been outwitted. No fault of his own. He was very convincing. But I’ve met enough humbuggers in my life time to know that Richard was just another new recruit.
He has nothing on the Balinese. I still think of Simon the Christian from Ubud who wanted to cut off my penis after I never took up his invitation to stay at his home. You just never can be too careful when you are traveling alone.
A lady from the drink stand comes up to me with her Chinese boss. “Where is the pen?” I said Richard took it. I asked the boss if Richard was ok, or just a petty criminal. “ No one can threaten you here. Don’t worry, no one can threaten you here.” The criminal bit totally ignored.
The drink lady had her opinion on him. “He’s crazy.”
That’s about the best character assessment I could ever come up with too. It is Johor Bahru after all, and this place runs on a fun kind of craziness. I’m just wondering why I seem to attract them like flies on a fresh turd, though.
But did I tell you that the deep fried bananas sprinkled with cheese and chocolate flakes was delicious which I washed down with a fresh lime tea? And did I tell you that I’ll still be out to the world when Richard rocks up here looking for me tomorrow?
Richard was absolutely right on one account, I was bullshitting him.