This morning’s encounter: Thai national anthem.
The folks at work had mentioned it but they only knew that it played at 1800 in the evenings. When I asked what time it played in the morning, because if they played at night, they must play it in the morning, right? No one knew.
Now I do. 8am, on the dot.
Oh, it took me my utmost willpower and training to not only avoid giggling, but to also keep a straight face.
Tradition and respect mandates that people stop what they are doing and stand in attention when the anthem is played. At the time the anthem came on, I was amongst a whole hoard of people, pouring out of the skytrain into a quiet station. I was near the front and those leading the crowd were mostly women, noisily clacking the stairs leading down from the platform with their assortment of high heels and sandals. They were running. They must be late for work.
Then without a word everyone stops. I look up and see the stairs across from me, also with people coming to a stop in the middle of the steps. On both cases, the bottom half of the steps were empty, gleaming their clean floors and banisters. At first I thought maybe there’s something going on the bottom of the steps and the people in front wanted to avoid. Using my above-average height, I craned my neck to peer down and didn’t see anything.
About the same time, everyone started to quiet down to a hush and I finally heard the reedy tones of the anthem being broadcasted through some PA system.
I looked around to watch the people. The cars and taxis still rushed by in the road beneath us because they can’t hear the music. The street vendors continue stirring their wares, probably being too far from the station. A couple of women looked impatient, but most stood immobile, with the stairs in front of them feet empty, untouched. It was as if someone froze time on the station, smack dead in the middle of rush hour. That was then I wanted to crack up laughing.
The minute the tune was over, the women resumed running, clacking those heels down the steps and out of the station. I guess they were supposed to be at work by 8.