I’d booked a premium economy flight back to London. The first time I flew back I’d gone total economy – where they make you sit on rocks and drink each other’s urine. The flight was packed and the reclining seat didn’t, and this was long before I’d discovered Valium, so I’d been awake the whole time. Thirteen hours, and I spent it all doing maths in my head.
The upgrade cost divided by the thirteen hour flight, came out at about £40 per flying hour. I figured that, since I only went back once a year, I should really amortise the cost over 365 days instead of 13 hours, which made it appear much more reasonable – a fart in the wind, really. It’s easy to justify that kind of spend when you’re leant forward trying to sleep on the back of the next guys seat.
When I flew out to Hong Kong I packed everything I owned – clothes, books, a computer – into two suitcases and a backpack. Four years later that’s exactly what I returned home with – a miracle of discarding and packing, but hardly the sign of a life fulfilled.
Coming home, I was massively over the 25kg weight limit. Like, over double. And at HKD300 per kilo the excess charge came to – well, it was a lot. Now look, my whole life is in these bags and none of it is going anywhere except back to London with me. So I swallowed hard, flashed a smile and handed over Mr Visa to Mr Cathay. He kindly knocked 4kg off the number and smiled as if to say “I’ve seen some dumb shit in my day fella, but wait until I tell the guys about you”.
I got to the gate and the lady scanned my boarding card with the laser thing and it made the bad noise, not the good noise.
Now here’s a funny thing. When I was in Laos I came across a small, sticky lump of hash – just a bit, about the size of a thumbnail. I’d been carrying it around in my back pocket, wrapped in a Vietnamese banknote. I guess you can get away with that kind of shit in Laos using Vietnamese money.
I can’t remember how I came to own it. I didn’t pay, I’m sure of that. At one point I’d picked up the cost of a tuktuk into town for a gang I’d gotten lost on a river with, so I suspect it was something to do with that. It’s a bit blurry. Sometimes the universe looks after you.
I’d been diligently trying to dispose of the horrid stuff, with friends, over the course of a couple of nights. One night I packed it in my bag and the next night I couldn’t find it. Christ knows where it went – normally drunken Sam is pretty responsible with those things but that night he really let the side down, the twat.
Two days later I crossed the border into Thailand and figured that if that lot didn’t find it, it had probably gone for good. No harm no foul, whatever that means.
Fast forward two weeks to the lady and the boarding card and the bad beep, and I’m wondering if perhaps those fearsome Thai border guards aren’t as vigilant as they make out, or they didn’t mind because it wasn’t wrapped in Thai money, or maybe I was just unlucky.
I had my case all figured out: “I’ve been backpacking in Asia for two months, of course there are drugs in my bag! And besides, it’s only a little bit. Do you want it? Let’s split it and be done with all this silliness” – you know, the kind of argument that can’t fail, as long as the investigating agent reads the guardian or the new statesman.
Instead, the lady reached under the counter and presented me with a brand new, business class boarding card, smiled, and welcomed me onto the flight. I guess she reads the guardian.