Profiles in Courage: The Saigon Slow-Night Hookers

Although sex trade never rests in Saigon, Sunday and Monday nights are slow to say the least from a hooker’s perspective. The ratios are through the roof with many sexy ladies for very few prospects.

At a bar like Apocalypse Now for instance, their odds of scoring a Western 2-million job are what? 15 to 1? And that’s not even discounting the fact that many guys are just out for drinks and won’t bring a girl home anyway. I would guess their probability of scoring is less than 5%. I may be talking out of my ass but I’m not sure I’m that far off.

Still, they stay on the job. And then they stay some more. After Apocalypse closes you’ll find them at Go2 until 6AM, where there are even fewer potential customers and the ones they’ll find will be very drunk.

From a business standpoint, basic maths would conclude that the probability of return is not worth the investment. Hours of hairdo and make-up followed by hours standing on high heels in wait of male gaze… We’re talking 10-12 hours in their day at a minimum. Add the taxi fare and the mandatory bottles and bribes, and it just doesn’t make any sense budget-wise to go out there on a Sunday or Monday night. And God knows Vietnamese women know maths. So why are they still here?

Several, separate sources interviewed by yours truly admitted that the best days are Wednesday to Saturday. Nevertheless, these women hit the bar on every single night.

They’re not having fun, and most of them don’t even touch the drinks they ordered. They just stand there, waiting for the obvious conclusion that they’ll come back empty-handed. I’m pretty sure nobody forces them to be here; they’re freelancers, not employees. They could be at home with their kids instead of enduring this pointlessness. Why not give up and come back on Friday when all the expat salarymen come in droves?

Some say hookers are lazy, because they don’t want to get a real job. I would agree in the case of indoor hookers, who stay in the comfort and safety of a karaoke or hotel room. But standing on heels for 8-10 hours in a bar, with less than 5% chance of scoring? I find that quite perseverant!

Is it really courage?

I’ve been tempted to compare them to the fabled Việt Công soldiers of Củ Chi, digging day and night by the teaspoon to achieve a tiny fraction of a colossal project with minuscule odds. This is the spirit that helped Vietnam humiliate the most powerful army on Earth. I see it everywhere in contemporary Saigon, from the grandmas pushing overloaded junk carts on the streets, to the sidewalk vendors hoping to sell a bunch of useless trickles. I’m not talking about working hard for little money; at least when you’re a rice farmer you’re pretty sure to get rice at the end of the season. I’m talking about working hard for a very high probability of no money.

Could we credit the slow-night hookers with the same kind of blind courage and determination? I think not – because they still have three to five perfectly lucrative nights coming up every week. So, why the hell are they working Sundays and Mondays?

Maybe I’m just missing the big picture because of my first-world lenses. Is it simply poverty that drives them out on slow nights? After all, isn’t a 5% chance of scoring a 2-million job pretty attractive for a poor, uneducated Vietnamese woman, when it would take her 2 weeks to earn that much working at the market?

Perhaps, but she could focus on the nights with double-digit probability and she wouldn’t exactly end up poor at the end of the month. And she could use the proceeds to invest in another, more sustainable business during her off days.

So what is it? Stupidity?

Not with that many girls doing it. For now the only diagnosis I can think of is pathologic gambling.

Gambling is actually a widespread issue in Vietnam, even if it’s illegal. Doesn’t it make sense to see the same pattern at work with slow-night hookers? Spending precious resources for a small chance of profit that won’t make up for their spend in the end anyway. The house always wins. In this case the house is a bar.

The good news for us Westerners is, we know which days to go out to get the best deals!

Pictured: Hopeful ladies at Apocalypse Now.

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