A few years ago I observed the phenomenon of the empty deckchairs. This year I have discovered that the fight for the chairs has become more aggressive.
I am in Thailand, a wonderful country with friendly people, always with a smile on their faces. By the sea with mid-summer temperatures the spirit and body become sluggish, more leisured. It is New Year and the hotel, where I’m staying, is fully booked. The hotel also has a large swimming pool with numerous deckchairs. When I leave the hotel at 7.00 am to walk along the beach, every day I see how some individuals cover several deckchairs with towels and then creep away again. This arouses negative unpleasant feelings in me, but as I walk they fade away again. When I return between eight and nine, all the deckchairs are covered with towels, but not a person in sight.
I almost never use a deckchair beside the pool and therefore it doesn’t bother me. Yesterday I was on the water with a stand-up paddle and misjudged the wind. I paddled too far out and the way back to the beach against a strong wind more than overtaxed my strength. I arrived completely worn out.
A recovery break was called for. After showering by the pool, to my surprise I found an empty, still unoccupied deckchair. I pulled it closer to the hotel into the shade and watched the activity around the pool.
Then a thin, pale man with an apologetic smile came with a deckchair and placed it about two metres away from mine in the shade of the hotel. Scarcely had he succeeded in spreading out his towel on the deckchair, there came a muscular man running after him and shouting at this pale, thin man in English, what was he thinking of to take his chair. As I hadn’t seen the situation from the beginning, I could only assume how the story had begun. But the thin, pale man didn’t give the impression that he crept around and stole things. With his small round spectacles he looked more like an absent-minded professor. The muscleman grabbed the chair, threw everything on it on to the floor and made to leave with the deckchair.
But the thin man wasn’t ready to accept that. He grasped the other end of the chair and asked the muscleman how one could see that this was his chair. The muscleman shouted back that it was in front of his hotel room. That was a bit of an exaggeration, because there wasn’t a chair in front of any of the hotel rooms on the ground floor. The thin pale man felt that he was in the right and didn’t want to give in. I sat in my deckchair and watched the situation half a meter away full of astonishment. Without being asked, I was in the middle of the action. An escalation seemed unavoidable and feverishly I considered how I could prevent it, but I couldn’t think of anything useful.
Then the muscleman dropped the chair, raised both fists and adopted a fighting stance. I could see how his muscles tensed, the concentration, the fighting spirit. I just wished that the thin, pale man would give up, because a blow from these fists in his narrow face could not only end his holidays but cause immeasurable damage.
But he had no intention of giving up. And so they stood there, both with hatred in their faces, seperated by a few centimetres, ready to fight and risk health and freedom for nothing more than a deckchair that belonged to neither of them.
The muscleman wanted to strike, but he knew that he must not hit first. Repeatedly he shouted at the thin pale man he should hit him. But he just foul mouthed the muscleman, and let his hands hang by his body.
I was waiting for the muscleman to lose his patience and strike out. But the hotel staff came running up and threw themselves between the two men. The muscleman sniffed with contempt, grabbed the chair and carried it away. The hotel staff brought the thin man another chair.
The afternoon then passed peacefully. No, a deckchair is not worth fighting for.
Image source: Rolf Schlatter / pixelio.de