There is a song on one of the Beastie Boys albums where they yell city names and apply reverb to the last syllable of each place name: “Lon Don, Don, Don, New York, York, York. Bang Kok, Kok, Kok . . . And its funny. (I’m not really sure about the first two cities, but Thailand’s capital is what’s memorable.) I am now many mile up over Bengal en route to Bangkok. And it’s not funny at all.
Getting from the hotel to airport was a solemn grey procession through the canals, across the lagoon, savouring the last glimpse at Venice. Running; “Scuzzie Mr. Water taxi man, would you be willing to take this lovely key of theirs, back to the hotel for us?” "Of course, Signore" We killed an hour in the Marco Polo airport lounge where finally, we found some peach juice in fridge. Take as much as you like. How else are going to be able to illustrate Bellini making? Soon we were once again soaring up over the Alps, considering snow capped peaks and preparing to reacquaint myself with the Vienna airport. The juice, however, shall not pass! Another lounge, another adaptor and this time a couple of hours to kill.
At 5:00PM I first heard the dread phrase: “mechanical trouble.” No. We wouldn’t be boarding on time. They’ll be another update in forty-five minutes, at which time we were told to move quickly to the service counter. The flight was cancelled. And just as jet lag’s cruel grasp began to tighten, entwined with the realization that I would not be going home tonight, a frothy bubble of hatred rose up cloud-like over my head.
I took my place in the business class line. This was regrettable. It did not move for the first twenty-five minutes as a tall guy, fifteen people ahead of me, no doubt repeated many, many times: “No. That won’t work either.” I thought over and over in an interminable loop: this Austrian kid handling the man must be incompetent and I glared at him and anyone else in a red Austrian Airlines uniform, as if it were a psychic lubricant that would somehow compel them to handle these cases quicker, dispose of them if necessary, so they could address my needs, now.
An hour or later I came to learn that, no, I wouldn’t be able to spend the night in a hotel and take the Frankfurt flight on to Beijing in the morning, that was only for people with business class tickets. You are welcome to use this line as a platinum member, of this you are correct, but no, that flight will not be available, rather we will fly you to Bangkok tonight, in about five hours and from there you will change planes and return to Beijing. I pointed out that Bangkok was still ten thousand miles from my home. “It only sounds close Madame.” I had grown fond of the idea reclining horizontal, of sleeping in a bed. In thirty minutes or so I will make my way to the third lounge of this journey. The Bangkok international airport is enormous. There are lovely pictures of Dusit Kingdom triumphs along the corridors and there will be an odd mix of humanity to consider, quite different from Vienna or Beijing or anywhere, I suppose. This lounge will no doubt have spicy green curry in a big vat and my ear will attune itself for the first time in ten years or so to the Thai pronunciation of things, with the tongue in the back of the mouth. But I really just want to be home. And we still have many, many hours to go.