Sunday, February 9, 2014

Are You Alone?

I didn’t pay much attention at first when the slender girl in blue stepped up close beside me and asked.   I was wearing my noise cancelling headphones and was temporarily adrift on the lightly rolling tide of spiritual music playing on my ipod.

For about 20 minutes I had been slowly moving through the long digestive track of airport check in Phuket.  Arriving with what I thought was plenty of time to kill, this ordeal had not bothered me much. 

It is just part of trying to move through hot crowded Asian airports.  The warm mass of sweating bodies, excited jumping kids, mountains of plastic wrapped luggage, and the orchestra of foreign languages.  You get accustomed to such scenes and try and prepare as best you can.  My antidote to the cacophony was the recent addition of noise canceling headphones securely clamped around my ears about the instant I was jettisoned from my taxi.

I looked more closely at the woman as she once more repeated her simple request.  “Are you alone.”


One learns quickly to ignore requests from slender ladies in Thailand but this young woman was not of that sort.  She was wearing a professional Bangkok airways uniform.  The name ‘Ming’ clearly printed on her badge, so I showed her my papers.   My index finger jabbing at the triangle of flights scheduled ahead of me on my travel papers.  Which I calculated, I was about two hours from stepping into the full frontal abyss of miserly travel connections.  The first being the 12:15 to Bangkok.

The great snake of people then lunged forward carrying me along with them and she disappeared.  Perhaps just a mirage, her with her official looking clip board, professional black glasses, and the obvious air of someone who could work a little airport magic.

I tried to keep my eye on her but she got lost somewhere behind the mob.  About 10 minutes lapsed before she once more caught up with me again and asked, to the point, if I would like to take the early flight to Bangkok.   One, that was leaving almost 2 hours before my own.  

This seemed like a really good idea, particularly after the white knuckle connection I had endured trying to get here.  I knew that my transit time in Bangkok was just 80 minutes.  It was clearly a nothing to lose situation. 

Following in her brisk wake we slalomed around the slowly writhing snake of humanity.   Ropes lowered comfortably before my hiking boots, together we confidently maneuvered in front of the sweating, much too blonde couple at the head of the queue.  Their mouths in unison puckered at the obvious challenge to their hard earned supreme position. 

 Then I found myself before another efficient young Bangkok airway employee who with a few strokes of a keyboard gave me a fresh boarding pass for Bangkok.  One, that was to leave at 10:20.  In Just 10 minutes.

With slivers of time remaining I dashed across the airport, slipped through security (well not exactly but it was quick)  Stomped to the gate and down the ramp to join the meager number of folk making the final entrance into the aircraft.

I was the last person to get on.  Made my way to the final seat, and also, which is another kind of miracle found a overhead luggage bin that was not full.

Once I had settled back in 25D a soothing sense of calm swept over me.  A sensation that I unequivocally identified as pure sweet grace.  Occasionally we can call such occurrences good luck or even magic.  But I saw and felt something more profound.

With this came the realization at the awful futility we go through when we fret and worry about things that we cannot change or an outcome we have no capacity to influence.  How really easy and difficult it is to accept the moment for all it has to offer.  Whether it be rewards or whether it be some form of suffering. 

Regardless of how we view long lines and short connections in the great scheme of things everything just works out.  The best we can do is button up our shirts and tie our shoes and observe our chaos and our joy correctly we will be o’kay.  For I know most certainly that I am not alone.

Made it to Bangkok

In the belly of the snake

Going Gone

Home work

Monks in Bangkok

2nd leg to Kolkata

Baby on Board

Check in for Chennai

Bags and me in Chennai