Last Sunday was the last day of National Book Fair at the Queen Sirikit convention centre, where your beloved correspondent had a booth.
The bad news was that book customers are dwindling, and not just at my booth. The worldwide trend is away from physical books and towards e-books. Sadly in Thailand, the trend is simply away from physical books.
The good news? My booth wasn't so far from the centre's restaurant and bar, the latter of which I spent a lot of my time in between dwindling customers. The lesser degree of readers was thus more than made up for by the ever increasing degrees of the beverages.
It was while I was at my booth, contemplating popping into the bar, that I was approached by three immaculately dressed men with contented looks, albeit a little lean and hungry.
The oldest one wore trendy black-rimmed glasses with a skin glow that suggested he'd walked straight out of a Babyface Treatment at Nitipon; with him was a younger man whose chin was a little long, thus resembling a horse. The third one was so unremarkable and silent I can't even remember what he looked like.
''Khun Andrew! We are big fans of yours!'' the spectacled one said as he greeted me.
''Yes we are!'' said the horsey one. ''And we have something for you!''
He handed over a little black sachet.
''If this is cocaine I have to tell you I moved onto other things long ago,'' I said.
''No, no! It's coffee!'' the man in glasses said.
''Instant coffee!'' added the horse, as if that somehow was a good thing.
I thanked them and explained the cocaine comment was just a joke, but I was just being polite; I haven't willingly drunk, let alone purchased, instant coffee since the turn of the century.
It used to be the only form of coffee in this country, but 10 years ago Thais fell in love with real freshly ground coffee and now coffee shops are as ubiquitous as brothels used to be.
That's ironic, since when I first arrived in Thailand, ''coffee shops'' were everywhere. That's what they were called in Thai _ coffee chop _ but the truth is they were nightclubs-cum-brothels. And coffee was never on the menu.
So coffee shops died out, and coffee shops took their places. Thais discovered that there was indeed life after Nescafe, and the country now makes a sensational cup of coffee, often from locally grown beans.
Caffeine is a more reliable partner for me than any human being has been lately; at least when I get to the bottom of the cup it doesn't require a cab fare or money for an ailing buffalo. Such is my love of a good cup of coffee; full strength, caffeine-powered, with no milk or sugar.
''This is special coffee,'' added the horse. ''It has reduced caffeine!''
Kiss of death.
''Reduced caffeine!?'' I gasped, and the horse nodded triumphantly.
''Yet still retaining all the flavour!'' he added.
''Who drinks coffee for the flavour?'' I blurted out before I could stop myself.
''In fact, I am going to give you a whole box of the coffee,'' said the older one. ''What kind of coffee do you drink?''
''Black,'' I answered. ''Like my heart.'' It's a joke. I use it every time somebody asks me that question but it kind of went over the heads of these three. They were too busy shoving coffee into my hands, along with name cards.
Spectacles pointed towards the horse. ''My partner will contact you to find out how you enjoyed it.''
''Will he just?''
''Did you know Manny Pacquiao gave up boxing to sell this coffee?''
''No, I didn't know that,'' I replied, which was the truth.
The last I'd heard anything about Manny Pacquiao he was embroiled in a sex scandal, or was that Tiger Woods?
Before I knew it, the guy with the glasses had brought out a folder, within which were remarkable statistics which had to be reliable since it was printed on glossy paper.
''By selling this coffee, all your dreams can come true. Have a look at this figure, Khun Andrew!'' He pointed at 487,000,000. Was I supposed to invest that figure?
''That's how much you can earn at the very top of the ladder per month, Khun Andrew. Yes! Per month!''
Was that ladder I heard him just say, or pyramid? The pieces were falling into place. These three airbrushed young men weren't honest book fans of mine. They were trying to rope me into a pyramid scheme!
I needed an escape. I glanced over to my booth but to my chagrin there were no potential customers. Damn those e-books!
Such a quiet booth situation usually coincided with Messrs Absolut and Bombay calling my name from the QSNCC bar, but the spectacled man drowned out those calls with his babbling about the untold hundreds of millions within my reach every month. The gelding looked on with a happy disposition. The silent one; who cares about him?
Three minutes I stood listening, dear reader, until I finally had to break the hard sell.
''Listen I have to get back to my booth _''
''Oh but wait, we left the best thing till last,'' whinnied the horse. He pointed to a picture in the brochure of what I thought, for a split second, was a phallus. ''Look at the secret ingredient of our coffee!''
''Ganoderma lucidum!'' cried the spectacled one, sounding like Bob Barker revealing a brand new four-door sedan in the showcase playoff.
''Perhaps you know it better as the lingzhi mushroom,'' Horse added quickly. To my disgust I nodded back at him as if indeed, I did know that. ''Used in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. It protects you from cancer.''
I'd had enough. The coffee may protect me from cancer but it didn't do anything to dispel pyramid salesman. In the end I feigned diarrhoea from a bad plate of som tam and left.
Three days later the Horse had discovered me on Facebook.
''Did you enjoy the coffee? Please help me out by buying seven dozen boxes. You can give them to all your friends and those who love drinking coffee.''
Seven dozen boxes?
To give to all my friends?
I haven't had 96 friends since I was forced to go to religious camp when I was 15 years old! And what's this business about separating ''all my friends'' with ''those who love coffee''? What are you suggesting _ that we're green tea lovers? I've sued people for implying less!
I wrote back to him enclosing a few googled articles not so favourable to the coffee scheme in question. He hasn't replied.
Coincidentally, the day I received his message was the morning I read the news about a coffee company that was shut down by the cops.
This one was called One Fan Coffee out Min Buri way and their sachets were actually an illegal mix of coffee and Viagra. What a clever idea, and why weren't they selling it at my local Foodland?! I'd even consider going back to instant coffee knowing what else was in it. Certainly it renders lingzhi mushrooms a very poor and dare I say impotent second place.
This morning as I wrote this column I decided to forego my usual full-strength, caffeine-laced coffee, and instead boiled some hot water and opened a sachet of the coffee I'd been gifted by Horse, Glasses and Unremarkable earlier in the week.
''Lingzhi shmingzhi,'' I scoffed while I tasted it.
It wasn't half bad, dammit.