In Which We Finally Arrive in Bangkok
I realize I haven’t posted about my surgery or my time in Thailand whatsoever. I can’t really divine I reason for this, perhaps as everything started to get real, the importance of me keeping up with this blog has waned. I don’t know. However, as a retrospective, I will try to give you a window into the events that have transpired over the last month or so and I hope it will not be too skewed by present circumstances.
The route of the four legs of our trip by commercial carriers in a word was: grueling. In a quick jump of 50 minutes, we scooted over the Dallas. After an hour layover, we caught our next flight, a three hour jump to LAX. I don’t recommend this airport unless absolutely necessary. I’ve been in some of the busiest and most difficult airports to manage on the planet: O’Hare, ATL, Denver. Going from a domestic terminal to an international terminal in this airport is completely and totally Mickey Mouse. For some reason, the construction and makeup of the international terminal forces you to physically exit the terminal and re-enter into the international terminal. This means, you are forced to go through TSA screening once again.
And now, a short word about the TSA screening. As I said, I went through TSA screening twice, in Tulsa and in L.A. In February, I made a trip to Harrisburg, PA, where I encountered the TSA leaving and coming back. In all four of these TSA experiences, I was “randomly selected” for additional screening. Really? Random? I truly would have had more respect for this process if they would have said “The sex on your driver’s license doesn’t match your presentation.” Or something equally honest and revealing. But to say I’ve been “randomly selected” (my girlfriend/traveling companion was also selected) smacks of profiling to me. As I watched the rest of the people going through the basic screening, the only other person selected was an Hispanic man, who might have been Middle Eastern. Randomly selected, my ass.
After the bull-puckey at the TSA, we found our next plane. This was one of the large 757’s built with a first class compartment about all of us untouchables in economy. To say there was an airline culture shock is putting it mildly. China Air handled the very long leg between L.A., and Taipei, Taiwan. The flight was thirteen hours. The plane was newer and it showed. The chairs were more comfortable and I was luckily seated in a bulkhead row, and so I had plenty of leg room, a simple gift for which I was instantly thankful. We each had our own personal TV screen and an interactive remote control, where we could choose from over twenty movies. One of the first things I noticed was the absolute drop-dead beauty of the female flight staff. I haven’t seen such attractiveness in a flight crew ever, not even in the early ’70’s, when being a flight attendant was still a decent career in the U.S. Without exception, the crew was beautiful, friendly and attentive. After watching “The Hunger Games” for the second time, enjoying a decent meal on board (a miracle in and of itself) and then watching a Bollywood selection, whose names escapes me, I grabbed a few hours of sleep before we descended into China.
We had a two hour layover in Taipei and then we switched planes for the final time and entered the jet that would take us to Bangkok at long last. The ride to Bangkok from here was a blur. My mind was swimming, trying, unsuccessfully to imagine what Thailand would be like. Finally, we touched down, but to our horror, my girlfriend’s large suitcase was not among the baggage going round and round on the carousel. This was a serious concern. We decided to pack quite light and hers was the only checked bag we had. A majority of both of our clothes and many other important items were in her bag and we were snapping at each other and really upset.
It was 3:30 AM local time and suddenly another concern loomed large; We couldn’t find our driver, sent by the surgeon to collect us and take us to the hotel. I turned left and walked as far as I could down the hallway next to the exits where the drivers congregated. At each cluster of drivers, I smiled a helpless grin and implored, “Zoey Sloane? Is anyone here for Zoey Sloane?” No luck. At the end of the row, I turned around, absolutely drained physically and emotionally and began walking back toward my starting point. I walked past my sitting girlfriend who looked positively deflated and kept walking, this time in the other direction and continued imploring groups of drivers with my name. “Zoey Sloane? Are any of you guys here for Zoey Sloane?” After passing three sets of double doors, I began closing in on another group of drivers. Then I finally saw it, a Thai man who began smiling broadly when he saw me. I had sent the doctor a photo of myself so the driver would recognize me. He carried a sign that read: “Miss Zoey Sloane.” My shoulders slumped in relief and I waved to him. At the same time I whispered, “Oh, thank the Goddess.” I shouted down the hallway, more than 100 feet away, “Lexi!! Our driver’s here!! Let’s get out of here!!” She quickly gathered her carry on and pounded toward us and we finally made our way toward his waiting sedan.
As you might expect, the streets were virtually deserted. The drive seemed long and the driver spoke nearly no English, which only served to make the drive appear even longer than it was. Yet, after twenty minutes, we arrived at our hotel: The Dusit Princess. We checked in with the smiling Thai staff who all flattened their hands together as if praying and bowed slightly toward us. A Thai gesture called whying. We went up to our room, which turned out to be 436 and collapsed on our beds.