Friday, August 26, 2011

A Simple Task

Running an errand in Bangkok is a game of chance.  If the deck is in your favor, the waves of motorcycles part, the wind is at your back and your destination is always open.  The deck, however, is rarely in your favor.  Bangkok is one giant house of cards, teetering precariously, and one move can send the whole thing crashing down in spectacular fashion.  And that, my friends, is why I love this place.

Case in point.

I had but one simple errand to run today.  I needed to get a bank statement which is required to get a visa for China, where I will go for a conference in September.  The bank that my work uses has quite an obscure headquarters located in a mall on the outskirts of Bangkok.

Now mind you, I attempted to go on this errand yesterday but I ended up getting on the wrong city bus and traveled for 30 minutes in the wrong direction.  Clearly, the deck had already started to crumble.

I finally reached the mall today and she was not without her obstacles.

One need only sidestep tasty treats...

And shimmy confidently through this dance party...

To reach the destination, an empty room, where you will be asked to take a number.

Only for the number to be called right as you're sitting down*.

In all honesty, it was fine.  I got the paperwork.  I made my way out. I even bought a pretzel.

I got in a cab and we were cruisin'.  I was eating my pretzel.  I had a full deck in my hands.

It's rainy season in Bangkok and usually this amounts to your average afternoon thunderstorm.  I enjoy this because I tend to enjoy thunderstorms, particularly from the confines of my apartment and a big blanket and possibly a bowl of traditional pad thai**.  Today was no exception and the rain came down in droves.  Thunder tumbled through the streets and lightening lit up the sky, silhouetting crumbling storefronts and shabby fruit stalls.

It took us over an hour to get home and when we did, my cab driver decided to sit in the car park of my apartment and wait it out.  And that's when you know it's serious.  Because these public transport guys?  They're tough.

I, however, was home.

I got into the elevator and pressed 9.  On floor 5, the elevator stopped and the doors opened.  In hindsight, the deck was falling fast and this was my chance.  I ignored it however, as I often do my intuition.  I stayed aboard and somewhere between 7 and 8, the elevator ground to a halt.  The lights on the floor numbers dimmed, buzzed and went out.

Welcome to my worst nightmare.

I frantically pressed buttons, any button, every button, the doors-open button, the doors-close button(?).  My heart in my throat, anxiety surged through my body like an electric pulse.  My hands shook.  I pressed the emergency button.  I pressed it again.  I pressed and held down with all my might.  I took a deep breath and surveyed the scene.  I searched for any ventilation, any place that would allow me to breathe should I be stuck there for hours, days, the rest of my life.

Then everything went pitch black.

I could feel the elevator start to groan and lurch.  And to my horror, we started dropping.  Slowly.  Fitfully.  Floor by floor.  Further and further into the black pit of my eventual demise.

Would I die in an apartment named Happy Place?

Is that allowed?

In the end, I didn't die***.  The jaws of life, aka a nonchalant maintenance guy who'd seen it all before, pried open the doors and I came stumbling out in all my panic attacked glory.

I proceeded to walk up nine flights of stairs and write my memoirs by candlelight...

....and wait for the power to come back on.

A simple task complete.

*They even made me go back to the machine to get a number, though no one was there
**Kraft macaroni and cheese