Yeah, I did that again.
As I’ve mentioned, I’m trying this whole new Zen master go-with-the-flow thing where I just assume everything will work itself out and I refuse to worry and I try not to plan everything to within an inch of its life.
And you know, never a better time to test a new life philosophy than when you’re all alone 8,660 miles from home.
If the goal is balance, I let my pendulum swing a little too far toward the other extreme, past fast and loose and right into loosey goosey.
I arrived in Bangkok after 22 hours of travel. I did not have any cash, American or Thai (baht!). I’ve been told you get the best exchange rate by ATM-ing as soon as you arrive somewhere. It’s worked in Europe and New Zealand. My lack of American cash had more to do with the fact that I’m borderline broke than with a strategery-inspired refusal to exchange money.
I have a friend who warned me to call my bank before I left to tell them I’d be in Thailand. He’d had his card deactivated by overly zealous identity theft-sniffing bankers. It took him weeks to get it sorted out. A simple pre-emptive phone call…
I meant to call the bank, but…
Procrastination-face over here and just general busy-tude meant that phone call never quite happened.
Was I worried? No. I’d done this in other countries, and everything works out, and…
You know where this is going, right?
And of course, bad decisions immediately get compounded by bad luck or general stupidity.
So yes. I got to the Suvarnabhumi (say it 5 times fast) International Airport close to midnight, put my ATM card into the slot, tried to extract my hard earned cash, and was denied.
As the gods had foreseen. Or at least as Bret had foreseen.
But all I had to do was call the bank and say yes, I’m in Thailand, let me have my money.
Except somewhere along the way (30,000 feet over the Pacific) my beautiful new Blackberry had turned itself back on and was now bleeping its death bleeps at me.
It took a while to figure out what number combination I had to dial to call internationally. Battery life slowly leaking… I finally got through, got a customer service rep on the line – but they had to transfer me to another department. Something got lost in the transfer…namely, me. More battery juice dribbling away frivolously.
I call back, starting to lose it, explain my situation as quickly as possible, demand an actual transfer. Phew. Okay, I’m talking to a human being and there are just a few questions I need to answer and then my money will be-
Halfway through the third security question, my phone dies for good.
My Meg-luck is making it really hard to be a Zen master.
I wander aimlessly through baggage claim, panic rising, wishing I were at least in an English-speaking country so I could ask about my options. I stumble across some pay phones and try to use my other credit card, but because I’m dialing a free 800 number I can’t so much pay for it.
Defeated, I end up in a bathroom.
There’s a small fan on the floor…with a cord plugged into an electrical outlet.
Thus I ended up in a Thai bathroom flattened against a wall, holding the very heavy converter apparatus sideways in the socket as it breathed life into my phone, while dozens of tiny Asian woman cycle in and out, staring at the stupid farang (foreign) girl huddled in the corner, luggage strewn about haphazardly, blocking the fan’s breeze.
I finally call and get my card reactivated. I approach the ATM warily, but to my intense relief, it spits pretty baht at me. I follow my memorized Lonely Planet (the only thing I may be more in love with than my BlackBerry is Lonely Planet, my travel companion and unjudging, wisdom-divining muse) instructions out of the airport to the cab stand where I handed over the pre-printed map to my hotel.
Yes, at least I had booked a hotel ahead of time, my one capitulation to my once and future un-loosey goosey self. And thank whomever I did, because if after 2 hours (yes, all of that took two hours) of angsty airport nomad-ness I had to negotiate my way into an arbitrarily chosen guesthouse, I probably would have totally lost it and just gotten on a plane to come back home.
I think the lesson is clear.
I’m not meant to be a go-with-the-flow person. It’s a gene. I don’t have it.
Or maybe it’s just that you should never go anywhere without some walking around money.
My best friend and I used to admire a mutual friend who spent months bouncing around England, couch surfing, working in pubs, and networking while she made a documentary. We would laugh because we knew if we tried something so on-the-fly (both of us being slightly high-strung, anal-retentive organizers) we’d end up literally dead.
And then we’d sort of frown. Why do some people seem to live under a lucky star where things work out for them magically, where opportunities arise right when they’re needed, where you meet the right person at the right time to set up a perfect contact for the next thing you want to do. Why do others have to work for it?
And why do I have to be one of the ones who has to antithetically fight for Zen?
In the end, I made it to my lovely hotel, the cab driver did not try to rip me off as I vigilantly anticipated thanks to Lonely Planet (more on that later), the hotel had my reservation, and I spent my first night in Bangkok in a big clean bed.
So it did all work out.
I just had to take the scenic route to get there.
And learn a valuable life lesson in the process.
I’m a little tired of valuable life lessons. Especially when they cost me $1.99 a minute for 35 minutes.
Stupid Ben Franklin and his ounce of prevention…
So that’s the start of my trip. It started with a bang. Indeed.