Davvy's Cart

Kevin O'Neill

© Copyright 2021 by Kevin O'Neill
Photo by the author.
                                             Photo by the author.
My wife Davvy used to have a sandwich cart on the corner of Street 26 and Wat Bo Road up until December 2020. The small yellow, orange, red and blue aluminum box on two wheels with a glass enclosed cooking counter topped by a cute triangle red roof was parked night and day at its spot near a French café there. It was securely chained to the stout trunk of a sidewalk tree. The cart was a joint investment by the two of us, and in the predawn dark hours I’d help her carry her sandwich makings on a two-minute motorbike trek from our apartment to the cart. During its two years of existence at that location, operating from dawn until noon, sometimes seven days a week, Davvy’s Chow Wagon probably sold thousands of Khmer style pork salad sandwiches to natives, expats and tourists. It was also rammed by a car, twice smashed up by raging drunks on a rampage and bashed in its front, back and metal sides repeatedly by mad passersby kicking it or clubbing it with unknown objects.

Yes, Davvy’s poor little cart suffered quite a lot of abuse in its off hours as a frequent late night or very early morning magnet for presumably drunken tantrums and other booze-fueled mayhem by bar patrons tipsily heading home. Have you ever had a really rotten day, followed it up with some very aggressive liquor chug-a-lugging and at night’s end shitfacedly thought, If only there was one of those little vendor food carts within pummeling range of my feet and fists, I’d really clobber the thing, smash it to smithereens, and then I’d feel better! No? Me neither. But I began to wonder if there was a strange human element about that got some kind of cathartic release out of inflicting abuse on the thing. Perhaps its bright, happy rainbowish colors, its adorable snack shack on wheels appearance violently provoked pissed-off inebriates sort of the way John Candy's Uncle Buck claimed his furry, flapped Canadian hoser hat “angers a lot of people, just the sight of it.” I’d black-humoredly joke along those lines with Davvy about these bizarre, outrageous outbursts of toxic jerkoid masculinity against her small, pretty cart but I did feel bad for her. There’re hours of salad making, seasoning, meat stewing and other preparatory work that go into making those Khmer sandwiches. This was work in addition to all the stuff she had to do in running her two other combination stores and snack stands. It was so much work for a very small profit margin, and then to have to put up with this costly hateful nonsense of drunkards so mindlessly, callously venting their destructive energies on her humble livelihood. Rather discouraging.
Only weeks after Davvy anchored her newly purchased food cart at that Street 26 corner in November 2018, we arrived early one morning with her cooler of bread rolls, pork and papaya salad to discover a gaping jagged, splintering hole in the cart’s front pane. There were sharp bloodied blades of glass lying about the ground and on the countertop interspersed with larger bloodstains. Some drunken idiot venting his frustrations sexual or otherwise had put his fist or perhaps his head, considering the bowling ball size of the hole, through the counter glass of my wife's sandwich cart in the predawn hours. A neighbor told Davvy she heard an English gibbering ape angrily bellowing about something, then a shattering sound, a bang of some sort (maybe he also kicked the cart or a fence busting his foot, too), followed by yowls of pain and obscenities. We never found the lout responsible so we could make him pay for his damages but we comforted ourselves with the karmic vengeance fantasy that there was an undoubtedly very sourpussed and hangdogged-looking barang sheepishly wandering about town for days, with a very sore bandaged hand or noggin and perhaps a painful limp as well. He’d remain a laughingstock among his fellow drinkers long after his injuries healed.

Only a few months later, Davvy herself this time and her cart again got brutally whacked by the alcoholically shellacked. One early morning, just minutes after she had opened for business, a drunk driver grazed the corner of her cart as he suddenly swerved in the direction of the patio seating of the French café, like he intended to do a drive-through breakfast order. He weaved up the sidewalk, sideswiping the café’s rear kitchen yard wall, taking out a bunch of bricks, and then veered out onto road again. He continued on his drunken terrifying way, hit a tree several blocks away, stalled, got out and kind of stumblingly ran away in staggering Frankenstein monster style never to be seen again. Davvy's cart was left with a flat tire and twisted axle when the car's impact smushed it against the sidewalk curb. Davvy herself suffered nasty bruises on one leg and a hip as the cart with drawers and doors flying open banged into her. The cart and Davvy both recovered from their damages and cheerily continued on at that location as if in cool defiance of the area’s savage, rampaging inebriates.

But the vicious battering of the cart also continued. Every few mornings, we’d spot another new, mysterious dent in the cart’s sheet metal body – made we assumed by a peeved kick or clout with a heavy stick or rock. Then, in March 2020, the glass panes of the countertop were once again shattered by an enraged drunk’s fists and feet of lunatic fury. This time, though, we were able to find the culprit as he dripped blood all the way back to his guesthouse, The White Rabbit. A nearby tuktuk driver also remembered hearing a young man and woman screaming at each other in French, followed by repeated bangs, shattering glass and then a howl of male agony and some more high-volume French, perhaps some self- cursing. I talked to and gave what details I knew of the vandal to a very courteous, sympathetic woman at the White Rabbit bar who said she was an assistant manager there. I emphasized the fact that he'd probably be easy to spot as the very pale-faced from loss of blood guest with a fist either heavily bandaged or looking like a bloody raw piece of sandwich beef attached to his wrist. Davvy's cart was so smeared, stained and blotched with spurted blood that she could have had a transfusions sale that morning if she had been able to reliquify it all. Unable to make such use, she had to scrub down her salad and sandwich cart before opening, as the blood-drenched thing presented a rather unappetising sight to regular customers and most other potential ones, except perhaps cannibals or vampires. Anyway, the White Rabbit lady profusely apologized for the vandalism, promising to find the one responsible and make restitution for the damage.

A few hours later, this very shame-faced Mr. Anger Mismanagement showed up at Davvy's store to pay for the glass repair and express very sincere contrition in a mix of French, English and newly learned Khmer for going Hulk on Davvy's little breakfast stand. He clasped his hands prayerlike and bowed repeatedly in the traditional Cambodian sampeah. He was bandaged on one hand and a foot as he had also apparently karate kicked Davvy's cart. Davvy was stunned not by the words and gesture, but the fact that she knew him. The young man was a customer whom she had undoubtedly treated not just as a customer, but as a son or nephew in her motherly auntie fashion. In classic Srey Khminglish, Davvy sorrowfully asked him, "Why you do me like this?!" He had no explanation beyond being crazy with anger and alcohol. Davvy being Davvy forgave him.

Ultimately, though, Davvy's Khmer sandwich cart fell victim not to an intoxicated King Kong, but to a major road reconstruction project that began in Siem Reap in mid-2020. In early December 2020, she was ordered to relocate her cart because public works was about to dig up the sidewalk. We dragged it up to her other store and cafe on Wat Bo Road a half block up from the Paris Bakery. Davvy's mobile sandwich cart is now temporarily parked at the Davvy Pi Ya Love VIP Eatery on Wat Bo Road, which is also our residence. It’s relatively secure from vandalism now because in its shuttered hours the property is enclosed by tall, metal fences with sharp pointy barbs along their tops. However, she hopes to someday bring her sandwich cart business back to the Street 29 site, or maybe a more lucrative Riverside spot – but I’ve so far balked at assisting her with the substantially higher rent much to her chagrin.

On the day we moved the cart, Davvy posted a sign in Khmer script on the tree the cart had been chained to notifying her customers of the change in location. Or at least that’s what I thought it stated. For all I know of Khmer script, it could have also informed the neighborhood that "My husband Kevin is a big fat Cheap Charlie poopyhead.”

I am an American who has been living in Cambodia for about seven years. This story is based on my wife's experiences selling sandwiches from a small cart in Siem Reap. 

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