Photos below must be worth worth 1,000 words each

rollsIn keeping with normal practice, the sidewalk along Monivong Boulevard, a major thoroughfare, was cluttered with parked vehicles a few months ago and thus was impassable.  As usual, I found myself walking in the gutter.

It was then that I noticed a Rolls-Royce behind me edging toward the sidewalk.  It is the Rolls in the photo.  I was struck by the contrast between it and other vehicles on the road and suspect you will have the same reaction.

Even my modest condominium building, where I rent a furnished two-bedroom unit for $1,000 a month — relatively low in a prime area where new two-bedroom units run close to $2,000 and rarely much more — has a Rolls owner in residence.

I am dumbfounded by its presence, though there are a couple of neighbors from overseas whose arrogance may offer a clue.  (They think so highly of themselves that they push into the sole elevator in my 15-story building without so much as a by-your-leave as I try to exit.)   Their demeanor suggests to me that the Rolls might be theirs and reinforces negative stereotypes about their country.

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A Lamborghini Aventador (probably way more here than the $400,000 manufacturer’s starting price) photographed through a moving tuk-tuk.  It is on the corner of a street lined with fast-food restaurants and mostly traversed by tuk-tuks as well as motorcycles near my apartment.

Those likely owners of the Rolls are neither representative of my neighbors or alone in their carriage of entitlement.  For example, I recently protested to an elegantly dressed mother and her two daughters that I had been waiting a long time for them to stop holding the elevator one floor above mine.  Her reply was this: “That’s okay.”  Nothing more.  Maybe it is her family that owns the Rolls.  It wouldn’t surprise me.

My condominium is not unusual in providing garage space to a variety of expensive motor vehicles.  A friend lives in a handsome new rental building that charges a minimum of just $800 for a furnished one-bedroom apartment.  He has noted that there rest in the garage a Lamborghini, a Ferrari and a Rolls.  The Ferrari probably is the one shown below.

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I believe this Ferrari belongs to the same young man or his father who owns the minimally patronized Indonesian restaurant (not visible) where the car is parked.  He likely owns as well as the new rental building where a friend sees the vehicle in the garage along with other luxury autos.

Outside my upscale gym are clusters of high-end SUVs and other behemoths.  Try as I may to ignore them and even perhaps to put them in a rational perspective, I find such excess galling in view of the chasm between their Cambodian and foreign owners and the overwhelming majority of other Cambodians.

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Collection of behemoths parked outside my gym.  On occasion, I have seen Porches, Land Rovers and, once, a Rolls here.  Many gym members retain drivers, some of them armed, for these vehicles and do not deign to carry their belongings themselves into a facility where they aim to exercise.

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There is no need to go far to purchase a luxury car.  Vehicles such as these in a showroom are available for sale (and envy) in Phnom Penh’s better neighborhoods.

A Rolls these days goes for something between $304,000 to $492,000.  And those sums exclude shipping in addition to a punishing amount of customs duty, which probably is substantially reduced with bribes anyway.  Whatever the sums, it may be farfetched to believe that those add-ons matter much to the owners.

Incidentally, a Rolls nearly did in a bicycling friend of mine in January when the vehicle barreled into a turn with the driver not bothering to look anywhere but straight ahead.  It bore police plates.  Now please stop and think: Not only is disregard of the law and safety appalling, but how could a poorly compensated (well, legally compensated) member of the police department afford such an automobile?

My friend recounted having told someone who lives in her neighborhood about nearly losing her life to a Rolls with those plates.  “Was it the black one or the black and grey one?” he asked. Two of them!

Thorstein Veblen coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption” on the verge of the 20th century.  Still apt.

e-mail: malcolmncarter@gmail.com

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