The Sister in Sydney: Week 141

My sisters first day in Sydney, robust eye infection and all.

“Steph.”

“Yeah?”

“Why does that clock say 1:45?” My sister Nan asked me.

“I don’t know,” I shrugged. “Maybe it’s the time zone for another city.”

“But it’s the only clock in here.”

“It must be wrong.” I decided. I don’t know why I felt so sure about that, but I did. Not only was our clock set to local time, but the alarm had gone off that morning and the batteries were brand new.

“Fine,” I conceded, “let’s ask that guy for the time when he walks by.”

***

Chanakan Mansion is a three-story red building on a quiet road about 20 minutes outside old Chiang Mai. It’s surrounded by an empty green field dotted with burnt paper lanterns, leftovers from the Yee Peng Festival. The airport borders the property to the east, but there is no direct access. It’s a horseshoe-shaped drive from the mansion to reach the airport.

Our flight to Sydney was at 3:15pm, but before we checked out we had a few errands to run. Around 11am we left for the post office in the old city. The ground floor had cool stamps of the King and Queen- the kind of glittery heart-shaped creations that scrapbookers dream about.

Upstairs was the mail counter and a lobby filled with brown plastic chairs and postcard racks. When Nan finished packing her Thailand Post box she pulled a queue number and sat down next to me. Aside from a few posters, the only decorations on the wall were a digital queue display and a clock.

***

“Excuse me sir,” my sister asked a blond guy in loose shorts and a T-shirt. “What time is it?”

“It is…” he began as he looked down at his watch, “a quarter to two.”

“Thanks.” We calmly replied in unison as our eyes met. Oh. My. God.

The gate for our flight was closing in 45 minutes. “What should we do?” Nan asked me. “Should I still mail this package?”

“No,” I snapped. “We gotta go RIGHT NOW.”

Clutching the parcel, we ran downstairs and jumped on the moped. Under pressure it was suddenly a lot harder to remember where to go.

“That was the street right THERE!”

Nan quickly made a U-turn and was about to drive past the rental office when I yelled, “STOP.” She swung right, the weight of the box throwing her off balance, and knocked me right off. I landed on my feet just past the periphery of the people lounging in the rental office.

“Sorry,” she mouthed.

While Nan filled out paperwork, I flagged down a taxi and showed him how to get to get back to our hotel. He couldn’t understand the English map so I sat in front to direct him with frantic hand gestures that did nothing to pick up the pace. When we finally pulled up to our hotel, the owner glared us down and tapped her watch. It was 2:25pm.

We ran upstairs to get our luggage. While Nan packed up the last of her things I went to settle the bill for the soda we drank from the minibar.

On the way down I found a woman I had talked to that morning. “Very sorry! Bad clock!!!” I gasped as I opened my wallet. The soda had cost 20 baht, but I gave her a 50 baht. I wasn’t quite sure how much she understood, so I tapped my wrist and repeated, “Bad clock- wrong time!” I felt guilty that we were checking out so late so I added 40 baht more to her open hand. For some reason this made her laugh and she laughed even more when I turned to run downstairs.

Nan and I jumped in the back of the taxi and waited while the driver made a painstakingly slow three point U-turn. “Airport?” He asked with a smile on his face.

The only thing on my mind beside missing the flight was how our clock could have jumped two hours ahead. It must have happened when Nan reset the alarm that morning; there was no snooze button. “This really sucks. We’re not going to make it.”

“We’ll be fine.” Nan replied. “I gave a lot of money to Buddha, he’s got our back.”

I wasn’t so sure. It was about 2:50 when the taxi driver dropped us outside the domestic terminal. Thankfully it was only a short run back to the international terminal. Our check-in counter was deserted except for two employees. The guy behind the counter sighed when he saw me running. “Am I too late?” I asked without really wanting the answer.

Tap tap tap tap tap. He spoke into his walkie talkie a few times and paused to type in more information. When he asked me for my passport, I began to feel like we would actually make it. With fifteen minutes remaining, Nan and I had our tickets in hand and we were running towards an empty security line.

Success!!! I had never felt so relieved to be standing in line. Nothing could ruin this trip now.

“Steph?” My sister gently queried. “I think I’m getting pink eye.”

And I had been so excited that she didn’t snore like our brother. My eyes suddenly felt very itchy.

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