I am stood on the pavement outside the hotel guzzling the cold water I panic bought at the 7-11 to break a 1,000 baht note.
I have come to hate the rucksack at my feet with a fiery passion. It is causing red friction burns on my useless bony shoulders. They were not made for carrying two weeks’ worth of dresses. It’s 7.30am and there’s already a trickle of sweat making a slow descent down my spine. Its mere existence adds to the overall feeling of damp I’ve come to accept as normal as I stand under the heavy blanket of humidity suffocating Bangkok.
A minor episode of drizzle has caused the city’s taxi drivers to come to a standstill. This is in itself would not be noteworthy except that not a single fuchsia car has pulled up to reception in the last half hour.
I grit my teeth as my friend explains to the concierge that we have a plane to catch. I counsel myself silently, preparing for the worst.
Another ten minutes crawls by and in a desperate bid to feel like we are doing something to improve the situation, we walk to the roadside, because movement of any kind means closing the distance between the hotel and the airport.
We peer into taxis. The drivers don’t even look at us. We climb onto the only bus whose fans don’t work and sit on the back row. We have no idea where it’s going but we’re sat in a form of transport so that feels like progress.
After five minutes staring out the window one of us says: “This isn’t going anywhere, is it?” We get off.
Jen has a better idea. We dash back across the hotel courtyard and hop on the next boat across the river. I seethe with disproportionate anger about the fact I’m sat in a shaft of sunlight for which my naked skin is unprepared. I feel it start to burn. Possibly. It could be my imagination.
We haul our bags off the boat and lug them across a car park which seems to be moonlighting as a graveyard for taxis with flat tyres. The irony is not lost on us.
We find another gridlocked main road and Jen walks fearlessly up its centre, waving her arms at vehicles. We finally find one that will take us and collapse in the air conditioned interior with gratitude.
There’s a grim silence in the taxi. There’s less than an hour before our flight takes off and we’re 40 minutes away at best. Despite the lack of seatbelts in the backseat we encourage the driver to speed at 120kph. Bangkok recedes and we prepare to launch ourselves out of the car and onto the mercy of the nearest airline representative.
Thirty seconds away from the terminal we hear a crunch and the driver slams on the brakes. The driver mutters something and gets out to inspect the damage, and that is when I finally lose my shit.
“NO!!!” I thunder, punching the driver’s seat. My voice takes on some sort of unearthly growl. “GET BACK IN THE CAR.”
The next 15 minutes are like that scene in a film where, from the comfort of your sofa, you scoff “would never happen in real life”.
We abandon our bags on the check-in desk, wave our passports and boarding passes around frantically and race towards security, where we accidentally brush past a monk and are sent to the back of the queue for our sins. When we reach the front, the steward raises her eyebrows and slowly points at her watch.
With eight minutes to spare we sprint towards our gate. It also happens to be at the end of an impossibly long corridor. I stop to remove my flip-flops and someone cheers me on. My lungs are burning with inefficiently used oxygen and I gasp, “I can’t… WHEEZE”.
Turning the corner, I see Ruth’s arms waving at a gate still a good 30 seconds away. The queue is long. Thank God. I limp to greet her, frazzled and slightly sweaty.
I cry for exactly five seconds – one extended sob and a couple of adrenaline induced tears – and board the plane.
This was written for the #30days30stories challenge. I’m late to the game but a willing participant.