POSTCARD#92: Chiang Mai: Writing this on the iPhone keyboard, shadowy index finger blocks out the whole letter. The letters ‘O’ and ‘P’ are difficult, I try to type ‘M’ and hit the backspace instead. Requires a certain kind of patience… it’s amazing what you can do if you have to. My computer is with the technician — went there immediately after arriving in Chiang Mai Tuesday morning. A red-eye flight from Delhi, only three and a half hours, no time to sleep – watching videos all night. Arrive in Bangkok at 5.30 am, a huge commercial project, the bright lights and glitz of 24/7 enhanced shopping experience. Passengers from all parts of the world gather at the domestic terminal lounge — we all wear a yellow transit sticker on the lapel — everybody having spent the night in an aircraft, bleary-eyed and hypnotised by inflight videos.
Then dispersed on different domestic flights North, South, East, West, and I arrive in Chiang Mai at 9.15am, a bit bewildered in the daylight of the arrival hall. Waiting for my bag… waiting, and waiting, but it doesn’t come. All the other bags have gone and now there’s just the belt itself moving round. Where’s my bag? My small volume of clothes folded flat, papers, books, computer cables zipped up tight, X-rayed and pushed into its space in the aircraft baggage. WHERE is it? My bag is ‘me’ an assembled ID, a costumed and shoed, hair-combed identikit. This is who ‘I’ am!
Man in uniform comes along, competent, in-charge attitude; looks at me over his glasses and asks to see my luggage tag number. He takes it to his desk, studies his document for a moment and makes a call (I’m watching him at his desk), comes back and informs me my bag was not loaded on the plane and it’s still in transfer at Bangkok… pause, he looks me in the eye, assessing my capacity for patience. Please write your address here and we will deliver it later today. His demeanour tells me he knows about this problem; he also knows how to handle worn-out passengers living in a video world. There’s an empathy and ease about his movements. Maybe he used to be a monk, a Maha Thera, all men in Thailand become monks for a short time. Some for a long time.
Meanwhile, I’m standing there like a satellite dish antenna pointed at the sky, receiving the signal, interpreting data – how should I respond to this devastating news? Make a huge scene? No, let’s not do that, long inhalation of in-breath, relaxed release of the out-breath. Man in uniform still waiting for a reply… there’s something quiet and easy about him. Just looking at me… calm eyes, one eyebrow lifted slightly, as if to say, is that going to be okay with you sir? Inner well-being, and there’s a feeling that, yes, it could be okay. Even if I did get upset, it still means my bag is not here, and having to wait for it anyway.
He walks me over to his desk and holds the form in the centre of my vision, finger pointing at a space where I’m supposed to sign my name. Is this the no-responsibility waiver? Am I signing away all my rights? Everything written in Thai, do I have to get my dictionary out? Oh no, it’s in the bag. Sign it, sign it! Thank you very much, bye-bye, nice man. Walk away to the taxi area with no bag, no trolley, hands free, hands in pockets, hands swinging by my side as I walk. Get to the apartment, shower and dress up in a bizarre arrangement of light cotton beach-wear. Fall asleep on the sofa for two hours, then the doorbell goes ping-pong, it’s my bag delivered and rolling in on its wheels, just like the man said.
‘… have loving-kindness for your dislike of the way it is, so you are not even criticizing yourself for being critical… Even if you are sitting here hating yourself, thinking of yourself as selfish and critical and not a very nice person, you can have metta for that; you can have loving-kindness for the critical mind.” [Ajahn Sumedho, ‘ Liberating Emotions‘]