Jan 28

A birthday surprise

by in Writing

A birthday surprise

It was 7PM, and, as we made our evening plans, there were more than a few stifled yawns. Andrew’d been diving all day, we’d been in the sun all day, and Andrew had to be up again at 7AM for two more dives and a PADI test.

“I’ll definitely be more into going out tomorrow,” he said. Antje added that we could then celebrate his (knock on wood) upcoming PADI certification.

At this Inga smiled and said exactly what I’d been about to say. “Antje also has something to celebrate tomorrow.” Antje playfully rolled her eyes.

Antje’s not big on birthdays – and neither was Andrew, as it turned out. He’d had his 30th two days earlier, and, though we’d been with him, hadn’t mentioned it.

We ate on a beach-side, bamboo table, and afterwards walked down the only real “street” – bigger than a golf-cart path and a one-lane road. It’s kind of annoying, this street: motor-scooters putter by all the time, and it’s too small for that to be comfortable; when the Thais go by on their motor-scooter + side-buggy contraptions, you have to physically step off the side. Also, about a third of the tourists, and all the Thais, walk/drive on the left; the others walk/drive on the right. A whole lot of weaving.

On the plus side, though, it’s almost impossible to walk down this street without receiving three different coupons for various “TONIGHT ONLY!” drink specials. They’d always seemed to good to be true, so we usually trashed them. This time we tried one out.

“Are the drinks really 3-for-1?” we asked.


“So we can, um, get 3 gin and tonics for [$3]?”


Oh my goodness.

The only problem was that there were four of us, not three. But that wasn’t a problem either!

“Six gin and tonics, please!”

I watched him pour, waiting for the half-shot screw-over. He did the opposite, 2 parts gin to 1 part tonic. Yikes! But maybe the gin was watered down? A sip confirmed it wasn’t.

So this was going to be something of a night after all, and – on cue – FIRE!

These guys were even better, with chain-ball flames that they did amazing things with, like lighting their cigarettes, or making an angelic halo of fire above Andrew’s now motionless head. We clapped a lot and tried to tip, but they didn’t want the tips, just the clapping.

Somehow Inga’s drink had migrated my way, and in the middle of this amazing situation it reoccured to me:

Antje’s birthday was tomorrow! I had a gift, but now that I thought of it, I could do better.

Under the guise of buying another round, which I did, I snuck out of the bar and jogged toward our favorite breakfast place. They were still open! Why were they still open? It didn’t matter! I explained about Antje’s birthday.

“Would you be able to deliver breakfast to our bungalow tomorrow?”

The two guys conferred with each other in Thai for some time. They didn’t seem TOO happy about the request, but it seemed they’d acquiesced. One of them turned to me.


Oh. OK!

I jogged back to our bungalow place. They were open!

“Would you be able to deliver breakfast to our bungalow tomorrow?”

“Of course,” she smiled.

[note: This woman, whom I earlier implied might be a cockroach in her next life, had already, before this moment, redeemed that initial lie many times over through other small niceties. So I take that comment back unconditionally, and hereby change my Buddhist wager to her becoming, in her next life, a butterfly, seahorse, or giraffe.]

That completed, I jogged back to the bar, bought the drinks for a song, and delivered them to the table.

No one had noticed!

Emboldened, I left again ten minutes later, when Andrew went home, and accomplished errand #2.

This time they noticed the absence, though, and I had to lie (cockroach?) about where I’d been, what I’d been doing, and had to pretend to not be so sweaty. A half hour later, as we prepared to leave, Antje went over to the fire twirlers, hoping, this time, that they’d accept a small tip. Inga and I were alone, and as quickly as possible and in my suddenly really bad German I tried to explain what was planned for tomorrow. Inga looked very, very… confused. I repeated that Antje and I would probably meet up with Inga at around 4, that we’d be doing other stuff until that point. Somewhere in there the content seemed to get lost, or something got lost, but Inga said that she’d already picked up a card, and that we could all sign it–

–Antje was back.

All in all, things had worked out well, surprisingly well. And, the next morning, at 9AM sharp, someone knocked on our door.

The knock had ripped Antje out of a dream, and she sat up blinking, “Who’s that?”

“I have no idea,” I smiled. Then, tray of food in hand, I said, “Maybe it’s just a birthday breakfast?”

She was shocked, or maybe confused, or kept blinking at me. And, as politely as she could, she said:

“But it’s not my birthday.”


“Yes it is.” I checked the calendar.

It was…

…one day before her birthday.

What the hell?


How was that even–


“But Inga said –”

“She meant at midnight,” Antje clarified.

Oh yeah. They do that in Germany.

But how had I lost – or gained – an entire day?

Goddamnit, KO TAO! This could only happen on an island!

Depressed, I settled into breakfast in bed. Antje found it funny, even though German culture generally forbids pre-birthday celebrations as an omen of bad luck. Verboten! “Come on,” she said, “t’s funny. Or did you have other things planned?”

I didn’t tell her that the wheels were already in motion. I didn’t mention that things were happening that could no longer be stopped. Somewhere on this island there was a woman cracking her knuckles and preparing special ointments for Antje’s massage. And that could not be stopped, now. It was beyond my control, and I reclined in bed.

Antje took a shower. Really, the timing was perfect. She was dressed by 10AM, when the masseuse was supposed to arrive.

Luckily she was still keeping busy when 10:05 rolled around, then 10:10. Come on, masseuse! By 10:15, Antje’d had enough, though. “Aren’t we going?” she asked.

I did the kinds of things that people do in movie when they’re clearly stalling. I unpacked and repacked my backpack. I walked into the bathroom and pretended to be doing something in there. I took my wallet out and opened it. Oh look, 5 euros. “Something’s weird,” Antje said. I gave up.

“Something’s supposed to happen,” I said. “We have to stay here.”


“It’s a secret.”

Ten minutes later, nothing had happened.

I left and walked to the massage place. My request the night before – a morning massage for Antje in our bungalow – had caused something of a scandal in that establishment that I never really understood. When I’d left, the four masseuses and their clients, all Thai women, were tittering and looking my way. [note: now that I re-read that, or re-think it, I wonder if the words "for my wife" were lost in translation, and they thought I was brazenly asking for a special morning bungalow session. At the time, though, I thought it was related to sweatiness and gin-reek.]. Anyway, the staff recognized me immediately.

“1 o’clock!” the woman confirmed. “Massage, 1 o’clock!”

What? I’d written “10:00AM” on a piece of paper, and even underlined it. But this was good news.

“We come now,” the woman said.

“No, not now. Tomorrow? Tomorrow, 10AM?”

“Yes, yes.”

“OK, good. So tomorrow, 10AM?”

“Yes, yes.”

“Great. Tomorrow. 10AM.”

At least that was settled.

Happy fake-birthday, Antje!

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4 Responses to “A birthday surprise”

  1. From Mom:

    This made me burst out laughing loudly two different times! Thanks! Can’t wait to celebrate Antje’s birthday with her :-).


    Posted on January 28, 2012 at 23:08 #
  2. From Meg Adams:

    It’s not your fault. You come from a family of women who expect whole weeks of celebration for their birthday. You came by this mistake honestly :). I loved this– Ms. Antje is lucky to have you (I’m biased). Two celebrations are always better than one!

    Posted on January 29, 2012 at 04:13 #
  3. From Eva:

    Conor: First, your german is very good and second, every time a celebration is wonderful. Thank you for laughing at our breakfast

    Posted on January 29, 2012 at 12:04 #
  4. From Roxy:

    I have to concur – there’s nothing wrong with some pre-birthday celebrating!

    Posted on January 31, 2012 at 20:26 #