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Stereotyping:

Some refer to it as stereotyping, profiling, even judging a book by its cover. What ever you choose to call it, it is never a good thing, however it is something many people do. Sometimes it happens at a subconscious level, and it is done with no ill intentions, but when the truth revels itself reality will be completely different than expected. I found myself is this situation one time that I will never forget.

So there I was in Bangkok, Thailand getting off the BTS Sky train at a stop that I had never been to before. I wanted to check out a new area that I hadn’t explored before. There was also a condo within walking distance, about a 15 minute walk from there that I wanted to look at as a potential place to live when I eventually move there.

I exited the turn style of the Sky train, and the sound hit me instantly. It was the sound of a saxophone being played. I was looking around for a stereo, or speakers to see where it was coming from because it sounded so crisp, and clear. (Remember those commercials for Memorex? “Is it Memorex, or is it real?” This was definitely real!) I had to see the talented guy that was playing his interment so masterfully.

I exited the Sky train in the direction the music was coming from, even though I wanted to be on the other side of the road from there. Whoever was creating this alluring music definitely wasn’t practicing, they were an accomplished musician sharing their extraordinary talent with anybody who was lucky enough to be nearby. It sounded like smooth Jazz music to me. I am not really into Jazz music, and definitely couldn’t identify the song that was being played. I only knew the music was coming from a Saxophone, and sounded like Jazz. It was beautiful, it was angelic to my ears, or as a gifted musician friend of mine would say, it was mathematically flawless.

The guy playing a Saxophone this well, must have been playing for all of his life. The music was in his blood, and now he was sharing his life long talent from many years of playing in Jazz clubs right there on the streets of Bangkok with everyone fortunate enough to be within earshot. I walked down the steps of the Sky train to the sidewalk to see this black man in his late 50’s, maybe early 60’s, making his instrument sing so beautifully, and what do I behold...

I got to the bottom of the steps, and saw a young Thai school girl maybe 12 years old, dressed in her school uniform, playing her Saxophone like a master musician. She was standing in just the right spot to make her music echo off the walls of the buildings around her. I had to stop near the bottom of the steps, and watch in awe as she played her Saxophone with her eyes closed. I did notice that some other people stopped as well to listen her play, while others were so focused on what they were doing, and where they were going, that they just went about their business seemingly oblivious to her presence.

I myself was mesmerized by her talent, completely focused on the moment. I was not thinking about the condo I was going to see. I was not thinking about the girl I was going to have dinner with that night, or anything else but the present moment. She was that good.

I was in tears just listening to her play so beautifully. I could not let anybody see that of course, an American in tears listening to a young Thai girl play her interment. I was in desperate need for an act of subterfuge. I moved over a few steps as if I was giving people getting off the Sky train more room to walk down the sidewalk. This put me right into the direct sunlight causing me to shield my eyes, allowing me the opportunity to discretely wipe the tears away, and put on my sunglasses, thereby covering my eyes. I would like to think that nobody knew that I was teary eyed, except all of you reading this of course, but if you were there, and heard her play, you would understand.

In hindsight I should have pulled out my cell phone to record her playing her Saxophone, but I was too caught up in the moment to think of it at the time. Who knows, maybe I could have made her famous on Youtube, or at least shared it here with all of you. My words will never do justice to the show she put on. I did try to go back there a few more times, at the same time as I saw her before, but never did see her again.

When I first heard the music, I thought for sure it was an older black male that was playing so beautifully. That’s what one would expect when hearing a Saxophone playing Jazz music so majestically, right? I can’t say that I was disappointed when I saw the truth, but I learned a valuable lesson that day. One that I will not soon forget.






U.S. Customs profiling:

When ever I go through U.S. Customs when I return from aboard I always get stopped / selected for random extra screening. I would like to think that they are profiling me because I have a goatee beard, you know post 911, but I know it was because I was a smart aleck the first time I went to Thailand, and came back.

I was questioned about many things by U.S. Customs, one of which was about the amount of money that I had with me. They informed me that it was against the law of the United States government to carry $10,000, or more of currency on me.

I laughed and said, “If I had $10,000 cash with me I would still be in Thailand.” They didn’t have a sense of humor on that one, and sent me over to a different area for additional screening. The guy there searched my bags thoroughly, and even looked in my wallet. He just wanted to make sure that I didn’t have $10,000 stuffed inside my wallet. I was released after he was satisfied that nothing was in my suitcase that shouldn’t have been there.

I have been stopped every time since then by U.S. Customs for extra screening. I have learned to give myself an extra long layover to give them time to search me. Now they ask me if I have $10,000, or more with me, and I reply, “No sir.”

Their response is always, “You would still be in Thailand if you had $10,000 with you huh?”

Yes, I am on their list. Take it from me... Don’t be a wise guy when going through U.S. Customs.



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