Sunday, November 20, 2011

5-Star Bathroom Sex: Grindr and the Meat-Market Workplace

Sex and sin city doesn't get more decadent than this.

Well, sure it does, but if you don't feel like putting on your dancing shoes, you can indulge in Bangkok's debauchery without leaving the comfort of your 5-star hotel room -- or with a quick elevator trip down to those spotless bathrooms in the lobby. Just leave your inhibitions in the taxi that drops you off at the front door, and let the fun and games begin!

Oh, and if you happen to be gay, you'll need your iPhone and a profile on Grindr, that boy-meets-boy application that's revolutionized -- though some might say ruined -- the international gay dating scene and is putting even more bang and cock in Bangkok. If you're looking for fastlove, it's the next best thing to just walking around with your junk hanging out.

Last night I learned a little more about the power of Grindr and the insatiable male sex drive when I went out for drinks with one of the guys who works at the front desk of the 5-star hotel I've called my home in Bangkok for the last six weeks. He told me some of the funniest, most horrifying stories I've ever heard. The term "guest relations" will never again have quite the same meaning for me.

So what's all in a day's work for this front-desk employee? Checking in guests, checking out guests, luring guests into the bathroom for clandestine on-the-clock trysts. Think Hotel and Fantasy Island crossed with Queer As Folk. I was going to include The Love Boat, but really, what's love got to do with it?

Thanks to Grindr, there's rarely a dull day at work. My friend is almost always logged on, even as he was telling me his stories, and when he's checking in guests, it's with his attention divided between the job at hand and on a hand job, which he will likely score on his next break, courtesy of the iPhone perched conveniently by the keyboard. As he's checking out incoming guests, he's checking out Grindr to see who's online.

Some of the guys check in solo, some with friends, some with lovers and others with their girlfriends, deepening their voices and putting on their best hetero act. So many of them, it seems, have profiles on Grindr. Minutes after sending another new guest off to his room, he glances down at Grindr to see who's around. Hot guy alert! "7 metres away." He starts typing.

"Hi. How's it going?"

"Pretty good. Didn't you just check me in?"

"Yes, that was me."

"I had no idea you were gay."

"Neither did I -- that you were gay."

"Meet me in the bathroom in 15?"

"Sure thing!"

Though I suppose he's only honoring the ultimate goal of his job, which is to make guests happy, I still couldn't believe what I was hearing. Sometimes he has this exchange several times a day, the record being, he told me, five in one shift. Apparently, he's not the only worker who's fooling around on the job. Everyone does it at all of the hotels in Bangkok, he said, and not just the gay men with Grindr accounts. The female employees, who are all so beautiful and elegant, often go out to dinner with hotel guests before getting more intimate behind closed doors -- though most likely not the one on a bathroom stall. It might be more Carrie Bradshaw than Samantha Jones, but the endgame is the same.

In Bangkok, it seems, its always about sex (and food, but I'll get to that in another post). The two are impossible to separate. I'm reminded every time I step into a bar, gay or straight, or pass by a massage parlor where employees are too eager to do more than loosen up tight muscles. In DJ Station, I see people kissing with their eyes open, darting around the room to see who else might be available or interested. Quantity over quality. People kiss first and ask questions later. There's so much partner swapping in the space of one song, sometimes it feels like watching a public orgy. It's a wonder anyone ends up leaving together!

As my friend was showing me his Grindr scores, he told me a story of lust and Grindr on Soi 4 in Silom. He was sitting on the terrace of Telephone Bar watching boys go by in real life and ogling them on Grindr, too. Hot guy "2 metres away." Their eyes met. Incoming message: "Meet me in the bathroom now." It's hardly true romance, but this is Bangkok, not Paris.

Though the idea of negotiating two meat markets at once, one live and the other virtual, kind of makes my head spin, I can't claim total innocence when it comes to toying with beautiful strangers. My friends in Buenos Aires have spent many a Saturday night laughing in disbelief as I worked the dance floor at Ambar la Fox, tossing one partner aside for another, rinsing and repeating. I once went out with a guy who couldn't believe he was on a date with me after having watched me sandwich him between two other conquests months earlier. No, I'm no angel.

My friend Dave used to say that anyone in my path after a few drinks in a New York City watering hole became a human prop. Yes, I can be the king of the short attention span. My misbehavior has brought me some good times, but it can be equally entertaining to watch -- or listen to -- the action unfold from the sidelines as a paying spectator. Another Jack and coke, please!

I thought I'd seen, and possibly done, just about everything. But I've yet to disrobe on the job or enter a workplace bathroom for any purpose other than its intended use. I doubt I ever will, but then, the possibility of getting caught has never given me much of a thrill. It seems I might be in the minority around here, though. Little did I know what goes on in the middle of the day some 10 stories down from where I go to sleep at night. Apparently, the bathroom next to the business center on the second floor can see as much action at 2pm on a Monday afternoon as DJ Station on a Saturday night. And there's no cover charge!

I'm not on Grindr, so I won't be meeting up with any of my fellow residents unless it's purely by accident -- and aside from a hottie sighting or two in the gym, I haven't spotted anyone worth making a special trip to the loo for. Still, perhaps I shouldn't have been so quick to send away that cute hotel employee who delivered the bottled water to my room a couple of weeks ago. But who am I kidding? I'm much too shy to ever go there. I'll be picking up my next stranger with a Jack and coke in one hand and a lame Rihanna remix pounding in my ear.

And if I end up doing the walk of shame through the lobby the next morning, I'll have to remember to hold my head higher. Everyone watching me has probably walked in my scuffed John Varvatos boots -- sometimes more than once a shift!
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