Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I am a tired, wet, dirty, bedraggled American

When we passed a crowd of small Malaysian children as we walked down a small residential street, desperately trying to reach our hotel in time to check out and catch a cab to the airport for our flight back to Hong Kong, they excitedly waved and yelled "Hi!" Twenty minutes later, as we passed the same crowd of Malaysia children after discovering that our 1-mile walk through the rain had reached a dead end and that the best place to catch a cab was back where we started, they excitedly waived and yelled "Bye!"

It's like they knew.

Our last day in Kuala Lumpur, we decided to stop in the Malaysian Market for a quick lunch. Thirty minutes and $1.80 per person later, we were full of delicious curries and ready to start back to the hotel. Our group of five walked through the market, hoping to catch a cab at the other end. When we reached the end and saw a snarled mass of traffic and market stalls, a fateful choice was made. Two of our company decided to walk back to the other end of the marketplace and take a cab back to the hotel. The remaining three (myself included) looked toward the landmark Petronas and TM Towers and thought, we can walk. It's just this kind of wide-eyed idealism that makes travel adventurous and fun.

In this case, however, our wide-eyed idealism made travel rainy, wet, and late. Our route toward the hotel was blocked by a highway with a tall dividing wall that never opened up to allow a crossing. We followed it for about a mile, well out of the way of where we were going anyhow, before hitting a dead end that forced us to return to the marketplace where we started, pick up a cab just like our two friends had, like, 45 minutes earlier, and drive for 3 minutes in a straight freaking line right back to our hotel. Oops.

Every traveler has a moment when they're at their worst. For some, it's when they're tired in the morning. For others, when they're hungry and their blood sugar is low. Some people get frustrated when waiting for others to make decisions, and others respond very poorly when they learn that an attraction they're interested in is closed. For me, the feeling that I am going to be late for a flight, train, or bus is when I'm at my worst. I realize this, and I just shut my mouth to make sure I don't say something so snarky that I have to spend the next three days apologizing. I just walk fast, get a grim look in my face, and wait for the crisis to pass.

Of course, not everyone has this particular neurosis. As I was peeling the wet hair off my forehead and consoling myself with the thought, "At least I'll get a good story out of this," the better-prepared and unfazed Marie walked under her umbrella 20 yards behind, smiling beatifically as she paused to pet every stray cat she encountered along the way and exchange pleasantries with locals.

Of course, as always, I stressed for nothing. Our cab driver was a master behind the wheel and got us to the airport before a group of our friends who left nearly 10 minutes before we did. The airport was a model of efficiency, and we were checked in for the flight so far ahead of time, we made stops at the duty free just to pass the time.

But I did get one glorious, miserable picture out of it. In my warped value system, that makes it all worthwhile:

1 comment:

smc said...

we share a neurosis! I cannot stand to be late anywhere, either. I might have thrown Marie AND the stray cat she was petting over my shoulder and physically put them in the cab to get there on time.