What fresh hell is this? E@L asks once again.
In order to save a 60 minute traffic jam in the morning (so its seems now) E@L was uprooted from a perfectly nice hotel, guest friendly (wink), perfectly close to the Soi Nana go-go bar adults-only theme-park, convenient to restaurants, public transport, pirated DVD and software markets, uprooted and deposited in some police-general's tax-dodge (guessing as to the owner here) way out in the outskirts of this sprawling city. There are 13million people in Bangkok, most of them dirt poor. It's a freaking big city, more than half the population of Australia.
People. Hell is other. They even have their own toilet in the hospital E@L is working at these few days.
Sign on toilet entrance
E@L packed up yet again, sigh, checked out at 8am this morning and was driven for two and half hours (including those 60 minutes in said traffic jam) to a part of the "real" Thailand, semi-urban and non-trendy, an area not frequented by either backpackers or soul-searchers. Grimy concrete block buildings on the edge of an endless highway to somewhere else, falling signs, unkempt petrol stations, searing heat, fading paintwork, poverty.
The ramshackle hospital is of course too small and too crowded, its open-air corridors and waiting rooms are packed with resigned queue dwellers in splints and bandages. They look ahead, waiting, uninterested in the fat farang, arms akimbo, sunglassed, iPodded, as he slowly plods in the path towards the desperately underfunded radiology department. Or they take in his details, shirt front half out, collar worn and sweaty, but not his meaning.
The driver/salesguy looks around, smiles. Ah, the machine, it no here. Lucky we got up so fucking early, thinks E@L.
Please take rest. In the open-air corridor. It's already 36 degrees and humid. E@L has sweat spots on his shirt.
The machine arrives and is jigsaw-pieced together as E@L fights for self-esteem against the Sudoku puzzle of the IHT. He looks up and the machine is together and being moved into the scanning-room, which fortunately has air-conditioning, more for the vagaries of the electronics than for the patients and certainly not for him. Cases are finished for the morning, but they will be starting again at 1pm. It is now 11:30am. E@L has conquered the Sudoku and has most of the crossword done by now, and is also intermittently trying to de-anagram whatever the plumber had improved when he repaired the pipes... between the occasional crossword epiphanies and checking e-mail on his iPhone. A new comment from... Oh no, it's merely a Blogger confirmation of his own last comment.
He sits. He waits. This is his job. He reads some Anna Kavan. He takes in the details, but not the meaning.
Waiting for Dr Godot.
Lunch. Spicy rice-noodle soup. E@L made goo-goo eyes and funny faces at a baby across the table from him and was rewarded with a series of hilarious toothless grins which unfortunately distracted bubs from the rice gruel mum was trying to stuff into his face. Mai pen rai, mum smiles.
1pm back at the scanning room. Nothing. No-one. Eventually one patient comes. Then... the Doctor. E@L weaves his magic, makes the doctor happy. All is finished by 3pm, the Doctor wais and she heads off. See you tomollow.
The salesguy grins. An easy day. We go you hotel now. Not sure which hotel. The salesguy calls Bangkok and ascertains E@L's accommodation from the sales manager. It is back... in Bangkok...
E@L wonders out loud why the fuck he had to check-out from his Bangkok hotel if he is not staying here in Nakorn Pathong. Why is he going back to a Bangkok hotel? Does he (the driver/sales-guy) know how annoying and inconvenient it is to keep checking in and checking out?
Traffic jam very bad, he says. Hotel in Nakorn Pathong not good. Room is very terrible. We go your hotel in next province. Near Bangkok. But not Bangkok, traffic jam in morning very bad in Bangkok. We hab early start. I pick up you 7 am.
The hotel is modern, only 18 months old, but somehow dodgy, and slightly alien. It has a steep driveway that leads up to the entrance which is practically on the second floor relative to street level. A Thai architect obviously, thinking of the inevitable floods during monsoon season. The quartz and glass foyer is deserted. Tinkling water-fall somewhere hidden. Is E@L the only customer here? Typical for Asia, there are about eight people behind the counter (like in the bookshop last night) yet none of them seem to take note of his approach and check him in. They are all busy, but what can there possibly be for them to do?
There is a pool down on the 5th floor, on the roof of the entrance foyer and mezzanine. E@L needs exercise. Laps, best thing. Non-impact, deeply-held breath inducing, zen-like laps.
He walks past the Spa area where the massage girls smiles at him from behind her desk. She keeps eye contact as he walks past, subtly raising her eyebrows and her smile drifts into one of those knowing grins. "I'll be sucking your cock in an hour or two," it seems to be saying. Or is E@L projecting?
The pool is nice if cool, and he only manages 15 minutes of zen. The gym looks good too. Deserted of course, but well configured. He'll go there when his shorts dry. Maybe.
There is no Wi-Fi in the hotel. Did E@L say modern, yet alien? He must take a pre-paid card and a cable from the front desk. Ever notice how network cables are all twisted inside and how they always want to be upside down from whatever hole you want to plug them into? Is that a metaphor for E@L's life or what?
After wrestling with the cable, clicking it in with some difficulty to the wall socket which is slightly recessed, he still has no connection.
Sigh. Reboot. Nothing. Phone call. The IT guy comes, changes cables. Nothing. Reboot. Nothing. He goes to walk away when the little computer network icon shows its hazard triangle. Aha! Patience. Waiting!
WTF? Even computers take it easy on their appointments up here, the electrons having a lazy day: it's too freaking hot to rush about at the speed of light!
Of course breakfast tomorrow will be the real test. A range of high-fibre cereals, gas-making fruit, yoghurt and some skim milk are E@L's staples these days. Will that be what's on offer, like at the perfectly good hotel he was dragged away from this morning, or will it be Corn-Flakes in an individual packet?
And of course... the toast. What will the bread and the toaster be like? What will the other barbarians be doing in the vicinity of the toaster? Should he bring a broad-sword (available in many stalls along Sukhomvit) in order to cleave their toast-thieving, toaster-hugging bodies?
Will the butter curls soaking in ice-water be frozen or soggy, the marmalade and jams watery or less watery?
By the jars of jumbo, E@L's nerves are frazzled when it comes to public toasters in the breakfast buffets these days. Hyperaesthete, E@L! He's had 11 years of putting up with the conspiracy of buffet-illiterate morons and E@L is not going to take their shit anymore. No more Mr Nice Guy, that was for the first five or six years, not now.
A Russian girl in Pattaya yesterday morning made the mistake of going for one of E@L's multi-grain slices as it slid from the rear exit to the front dispensing tray. "That's mine!" he barked, grabbing the slice with his fingers, scalding hot - ow!, while she fumbled at it with the only available tongs. She had been holding the tongs since she had put her two white slices in, when was that, ages ago, like they were hers alone. Meanwhile other people, all these Russians, the crowd around the toaster is anxiety inducing, looked about for tongs, but had to insert their bread manually… She failed to appreciate her lack of toast-etiquette. Plus she was clumsy, slow and inept with the fucking things. Stupid babushka bitch.
Awaken Stormbringer! There are souls to steal!
The driver will be picking E@L up at 7am. He has to check-out again. Suitcase. Suit-folder. Half-set of golf-clubs. Back-back. Pack, unpack. Again. His luggage will sit in the boot of the car all day, stewing in the sun that pours down onto the car-park. A tube of ointment boiled out today, spewing anti-inflammatory goo through his toiletries. It will be 36 degrees again tomorrow.
He will be back in the heart of Bangkok, at his preferred hotel in the evening. Not too late he hopes, as if there is a "too late" in Bangkok.
Meanwhile, during the day, E@L will wait in the corridor between patients. He'll read some more Anna Kavan. He'll make goo-goo eyes at the babies in the waiting room. Do the crossword, the Sudoku, the anagram puzzle.
Provided the hotel provides a copy of the IHT. Or will he have to wait to get back to Bangkok?
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