A conversation about H1N1 with a Bangkok taxi driver

I got into a taxi here in Bangkok on Sunday. When I looked at the driver’s face in the rear view mirror, I noticed he was wearing a protective facial mask. I didn’t think much of it.

I told him where I was going, and then he turned around and looked at me.

“Where are you from?” he said.

“I’m from America,” I said.

“Not Mexico?” he said.

“No,” I said. “I’m from America. But I live here in Bangkok.”

“Okay,” he said. ((We spoke in Thai, in case you’re wondering, though this was a very simple conversation.))

Then he took off his mask and explained that he was afraid of catching swine flu. And that he was glad I wasn’t a Mexican. He said he’d been asking all of the foreigners who got into his taxi if they were from Mexico.

I assured him that I was not Mexican, that I had not been infected with H1N1, and — despite the fact that it has nothing to do with swine flu — that I don’t eat pork. ((I do, in fact, eat pork, but he was quite nervous, and I wanted to put him at ease.))

He smiled and seemed relieved. ((The latest news on H1N1 and Thailand, for the record: There have still been no confirmed cases. A suspected case recently turned out to be the common flu.))

(Related post: “Thailand swine flu nomenclature update.”)

By Newley

Hi. I'm Newley Purnell. I cover technology and business for The Wall Street Journal. I use this site to share my stories and often blog about the books I'm reading, tech trends, sports, travel, and our dog Ginger. For updates, get my weekly email newsletter.

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