Starting home

I’m staring at the clock on my cell phone on a street populated with nothing but black storefronts and groaning garbage trucks, and I’m starting to panic. I’ve been waiting for 20 minutes for my taxi to the airport. It’s only five minutes late, but I haven’t scheduled much leeway into my pickup, booked the day before with my visa card at a taxi stand. I’m studying the Thai receipt by light of my cell phone, making sure it says 5 am. I’m gazing up and down the street, straining to see headlights. At 5:07 I wheel my suitcase to a 24-hour minimart and beg the clerk to call the number on the receipt to check. He does. “You wait, car coming,” he says. So I strain in the street for ten more minutes, until I’ve worked myself into a frenzy thinking that I’ve been duped by a fake taxi stand or ineptitude, and that I’m going to miss my commuter flight to Bangkok and hence the other three flights back home.

I make another trip to the minimart and this time the clerk hands me the phone. “We come, two minutes,” a woman’s voice tells me. Three minutes later, a van pulls up driven by a man and also containing the woman I’d talked to earlier. “But it was for 5,” I say anxiously, waving my receipt and noting the time of 5:20. “Sorry, sorry,” says the woman “no cars, Ok.” She has a point: traffic is nonexistent.

However, this van takes me to a strange little bamboo stand in the middle of nowhere and stops. The man points to the bamboo stand. I make a shocked noise that translates easily as horror: I’m not about to get out and wait some more. But no, the man was pointing to a car parked behind the stand, and he helps me run my suitcase to this new taxi, which the woman is revving up.

Once we’re on the road, I am comforted to see that she appears to be speeding, although I can’t be sure. I do the math. I can make it either way: I don’t have any checked luggage, and I tell myself I’ll use the priority line to get my boarding pass. My taxi driver gets me there in half the time I was quoted, and I thank her profusely and then hurry away to find Bangkok Airways. The check-in line contains one other customer and three staff people, so I’m served immediately. This is good because it takes them awhile to figure out what to do with my luggage. They have me weigh my little rolling suitcase and tell me it’s too heavy to take on board. This mean they have to figure out how to check it since I’ll be transferring to another itinerary once I hit Bangkok, and I don’t have time to go out, get it, and go back through security. I remove my computer, since I’m not about to let them check that, and put the bag back on the scale. The staff point and gasp: the bag is magically light enough to take on board. I hold up my computer to show them. “Ok, ok,” they say, “you can take bag on plane.” With my thus disassembled bags I make my way to security: no line there either. I have just enough time to have a cup of cocoa at the boarding gate courtesy of Bangkok Air and then I board.

It’s going to be a really long day. 39 hours, to be exact. I hope I can get a few naps in. I’m so amped up, I have a feeling it will be difficult.

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