The Return of Flying Season


This was just in the news here. Usually now is the slow season for this kind of thing.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/general/1282790/family-awoken-by-body-crashing-through-roof

 

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Flying Season starts at Christmas and ends about the beginning of May. About three foreign men per week, sometimes more, choose to end it all. There are probably other less dramatic, less easily visualized ways to commit suicide, but the one that captures imaginations is this. Like the Golden Gate Bridge, the balcony proves a lure for those so inclined.

Yes this is the time when foreign men inexplicably begin to leap to their deaths from the balconies of their high-rise apartments, usually in Bangkok, Pattaya and Phuket. The above news story is not uncommon here in Thailand, where many lonely foreign men eke out their final days. Apart from the vicissitudes of senescence itself, the gnawing realization that the girls who have been so attentive have been more interested in your wallet than your personality finally gets to quite a few of these guys. The Thai police always rule these balcony jumps as suicides, even if the man is found with his hands tied behind his back or his head in a plastic bag found thirty feet from the body. These bar girls have brothers and boyfriends and to them, this is no game.

Loneliness kills, no doubt about it. Most of them are probably suicides, because this is the jumping off place, the place you wind up when you can no longer imagine life anywhere else.

 

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Flying Season in Thailand


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Soon we will be averaging four to five a week.

It’s flying season here in Thailand.  This is the time of year when foreign men, usually in their sixties, leap off the balconies of their condos in three main Thai cities, Phuket, Pattaya and Bangkok.  Many times they fly of their own volition.  At other times they have obviously had help getting aloft, reaching terminal velocity with a shove from the family or boyfriend of the women they’ve been sexually involved with and financially supporting.

During flying season many a caucasian body is found at the base of a high-rise apartment building.  The season begins in December and ends in May, when for some reason many of these old fellows either choose or are allowed to remain alive. If a note is left behind, it usually refers to health or money problems.

There are two on-line forums where surviving ex-pats can keep track of this activity.  Thaivisaforum.com and stickmanbangkok.com.  When the Thai police investigate, they always conclude it was a suicide.  In one notorious case, the man’s head was found in a plastic bag thirty meters from his body.  “Suicide,” the police report read.

Thailand serves the same function for the world at large that California served for the United States.  It’s the place you wind up when you bomb out of every other place.  I remember I had an uncle who abandoned his family in St. Louis and drank himself to death in San Francisco.  He was not alone in this, for there were legions of men just like him in California’s coastal cities, using alcohol to dissolve the shackles that bound them back east.  In Thailand, these men are from all over the world, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Germany, Canada, Australia, the United States. They leave their third or fourth wife behind and come to the land of Rent-a-Wife.  If they have an addiction or two, they find to their surprise they have brought it with them. If the addiction itself isn’t their undoing, it does a bang-up job of demoralizing them along the way, and thinking with their wrong head, they make poor choices. Many a man with a substantial retirement account has limped back to the airport in Bangkok to head home, minus most of his savings. Those are the lucky ones, for they were spared the ten seconds of exhilaration their flying fellows knew as they soared off the balcony.

And then there are those of us who haven’t done that badly here, though it sometimes seems we are in the minority. I have met a few mentally healthy men who have taken an active interest in Thai culture, who have gone to the trouble to learn the language, and who seem to have meaningful relationships with their communities.

But these men don’t make the papers.  Mostly they gracefully age and die here, or scramble back to their home country before they become too infirm to fly.