I was in H'wood on business a few months back, and based on some reading here and posting a question or two, headed out to Thaitown one evening for dinner, ending up at Palms Thai. Now I regularly eat and enjoy spicy or very spicy food of various kinds, in various (US) locales, whether it's Suicide wings at the Anchor Bar, or Indian food in NYC, or Hunan food in S.F., Tex-Mex in Austin, you get the picture. Never had anything I couldn't handle, and most of the time have found that saying "yes, I really mean spicy" still produces pretty mild stuff.
At Palms I had as an entree seafood with chili paste (I'm approximating the name), though, which was so d**n hot I swore I could feel it burning holes in my esophagus on the way down. I did what I could to manage the situation, between rice and a couple bottles of Thai beer (which is unfortunately both bad and 6%, so you get hammered without enjoying it) but in the end finished barely half the dish. It's a shame, because the seafood was excellent, and the dish was otherwise very well-prepared, but it just proved inedible. On the bus ride back to the hotel I really thought for a while that I might need medical attention. It passed, eventually, but the real question here is, is this normal, or were they having fun with the round-eyes tourist (of which I was just about the only one in the place)? Do people actually get accustomed to this sort of heat level? To the point that they can enjoy it, as opposed to enduring it?