Monday, October 24, 2011

Pretending En Masse

After the flurry of news and if-it-bleed-it-leads sensational flood coverage, I had tried to make some sort of flood preparations. But how do you prepare for a possible flood of water when you live on the fourth story of a hotel? The supermarkets were bare of bottled water, so I hoarded the water the hotel left me every day. I have a mini-fridge in my room, but if we were inundated with water, wouldn't the electricity be out? I bought some Oreos and peanuts, but they looked good so I ate them. I put credit on my iPhone, but I then used it up SMS messaging with Stephanie from Singapore when she was in the Bangkok airport en route home from Bhutan.

I did keep my laptop, phone, and camera charged.

"Why didn't you leave," asked Toby up in Chiang Mai, once the buses were full and it was too late to evacuate. He'd been following the news, and the stories of people who lost everything didn't jive with my personal accounts that the only water we had on the streets in Bangkok's center was from a leaky food cart.

Why indeed?

It didn't seem like I'd gain much by leaving. My flight to Sydney, which would connect me on a Virgin Blue flight to Perth, is on November 1. And the big airport isn't going underwater, barring something catastrophic like an unexpected zombie invasion or the moon crashing into the earth. What if I evacuated and then in the madness of people returning to Bangkok, I couldn't get back in time for my plane?

In the end, I decided that the hotel would take care of me and that anyway, it's a meter or two of water, not a tsunami, fire, or earthquake.

"It's just water," said the travel agent where I had bought my bus ticket to Chiang Mai in July. She rolled her eyes. "We moved everything off the floor and up near the ceiling."

I wasn't that cavalier about it, but I was willing to take the gamble. Or maybe I was just lazy. Or more likely, curious.

And so I tempted fate with the remaining citizens of Bangkok. The gamblers and the skeptics, and those who couldn't leave for reasons of money or responsibility or business. They went about their business, and so I did too.

I tried not to think about the friend in Vermont who had made it out of her house with her family just in the nick of time before it filled up with 20 feet of water from the recent hurricane.

I headed out to go to the dentist. I had learned my lesson on Saturday to avoid the river taxi, but maybe the canal taxi would be all right. I walked to Wat Sukhet in the morning, but the lottery ticket sellers outside the pier shook their heads.

"No boat."

A tuk-tuk driver tried to convince me to go with him.

"If you go with me to a shop, I get a coupon, even if you don't buy anything."

I was sympathetic, but I wanted to go to the dentist, not to a shop. I left him and caught the #15 bus that goes straight to MBK before heading on into Silom.

The teeth-cleaning went quickly and set me back $28 before I headed to MBK to buy shoes at the Tokyu Department Store.

"We don't have them, but let me see in the computer...yes, they have them at Isetan in Central World."

What a sweetheart! The salesman got no commission for sending me up the street to Central World, where kids ice skated and parents shopped.

The canal taxi is right there, above Central World at Pratunam. But not today. I caught the #15 bus back to Banglamphu.

Which was still dry.

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