Sunday, February 2, 2014

85 Minutes

There are a lot of things that you can do in 85 minutes.  There was a time, not too terribly long ago when I could easily run13 miles with that amount of time.  Now I am not quite so ambitious in the sporting world but for sure you can play quite a few holes of golf.

On a more pedestrian level, when 85 minutes are lazily stretched out in front, most people can easily plow through great mounds of the NY times , even read a few op-ed pieces while having breakfast with a coffee. 

85 minutes is a remarkably generous amount of time in order to accomplish many things.  What I discovered today however is that those great big fat 85 minutes are though just not enough time to land in Bangkok, pick up your bags, clear immigration, and then check into a completely different airline.

I knew from the start thousands of miles earlier that this great crossroads of limited time and necessary motion were going to intersect in the crucial final stages of my journey.

Way back at JFK on Friday night I looked at my timetable and dark omens were already dancing with thudding steps somewhere in the back of my brain.  But back at the start in New York the journey was still young and I was clean shaven and had slept soundly the night before.

But then I headed out over the dark Atlantic. At some point my path intersected with day light, but since I was heading quickly east, the Spinning orbit of the earth quickly removed the sun out of view.  Then when I came back to earth, I found myself in a strange airline terminal in Doha in the Middle East.  It was night once again and I was puzzled at so what had happened to Saturday, for now it was nearly gone.

Knowing that the next stop was Bangkok I tried to put measures into motion that would at least give me some hope of chance of making the transition happen securely.  I talked to the airline, asked for guidance, said prayers, and generally began to see a scenario where I would be stuck in Bangkok with or without bags and trying to find a way to my final stop in Phuket.

Once more back in the air heading east.  Beneath me I crossed the gulf of Oman and saw the Himalayas just to the north.  The night was speeding past and the resolution or revealing of this dilemma was inevitably marching forward out of my imagination and into reality.

Because of strong tail winds we landed slightly earlier in Bangkok.  The door of the plane opened and thus I found myself bolting up the gateway towards the baggage area.  But what should I see at the top of the ramp was a small trim man with a bright red blazer and in his hand a large sign that said, “Mr. Marshall.”

Now it should be mentioned that I have a deep affection for Mr. Marshall signage wherever and whenever I come across it.  It has happened only a few times but it usually means that things are going to be okay or even better. 

The little Thai man holding this sign also had his own small name tag on his jacket.  It said ‘Sam.’  Now I didn’t ask him this, but I suspected as much that ‘Sam’ was short for a much longer Thai name that was nothing at all like Samuel.  But rather, one with lots of syllables and amusing combinations of vowels.

Once Sam had determined that I was Mr. Marshall he beckoned me to come with him immediately.  What I noticed straight away however what this his route  was in the complete opposite  direction of that of baggage claim. 

As I kept up to his pace of economic, but brisk skipping strides, he outlined all the dimensions of my dilemma.  Yes I could head over to the baggage area and retrieve my things but then I would be stuck in Bangkok, or, I could skip and puff the length of the vast terminal and get to the Thai airline counter and get my behind on my scheduled flight to Phuket.  He was much more polite and gracious in his description.

Since Sam had both, a large Mr. Marshall sign, and a Qatar name tag pinned to his chest I could see no other alternative than but to gamble along at his side.  Which, after some large chunk of those 85 minutes we cleared customs, was issued a new boarding pass,  and wiggled and stripped through another round of security clearance. 

His final words to me, as I drifted down another long que of exhausted travelers was, that eventually my bags and I would meet.  Though as I recall it now, the exact juncture of this meeting was still rather indefinite. 

So thus I found myself remarkably entering the Thai Airlines flight.  Which, quite frankly I really did not think I would make.  The successful flight to Phuket took something quite less than 85 minutes….in the air. 

However the stark reality, or perhaps the unenviable logistics of just how I and my bags would once again find ourselves in perfect harmony was brought to the fore the moment my behind landed.  I will not burden you with the details.  If you have read this far you have done well.

But I would note that the complicated chemistry of all this equation was thrown into even more disarray when I learned, that due to all my unpacking of documents and removing of shoes, and redistributing of personal paraphernalia that my luggage tags had gone missing. 

Now I am in a hot room in Phuket.  The air conditioner is valiantly attempting to knock some of the starch out of the humidity.  I have complete access to some key possessions.  Cash, keyboard, toiletries, and by just stupid good luck, a pair of shorts.

Some of the key required items of my holiday travel however are absent and are being missed greatly.  In particular my nike graphite 7 iron and all the little clubs that usually keep him company.

I have made, even now after a few hours on the ground, several trips to the front desk where excited phone calls have been made.  Promises though have been few and given reluctantly at that.  My feeling is that despite my own drama, and fretting, everything regarding my possessions will work themselves out in their own way. 

In addition I have now seen the limitations of just what can be accomplished in 85 minutes when trying to foray through the logistics and legalities of international travel.  But on the other hand, as I look up at my watch, I was able to tell this story, in all its rambling detail, in less than 85 minutes.

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