Dante was way off. 7 Circles of Hell? not even close. i went through at least 11 personally these past few days…
anyway, finally i am outside the Taiwan Cultural & Economic Office of Industrial & Weapons Grade Evil with my newly stamped, ink still fresh passport in my hand, all visa’d up and i’m striding off to the bus stop to get to the airport.
the bus arrived. a tire did not flat. a cargo plane did not land on the roof. i did not find a boa constrictor under my seat. i was not kidnapped and sold into slavery somewhere in the Niger. all of these i thought might happen, but, phew, thankfully they didn’t. such was the state of my bullet-riddled mind by this stage that i felt lucky as i stepped into the sub-zero temperatures of Hong Kong Airport.
the plane arrived and i got on, we set off, my TV worked, the food was ok,the stewardess was cute, the clouds were fluffy. when i closed my eyes i dreamed of bunny rabbits and bicycles, and in my slumber i reinvented the chainring and became very wealthy. all was good.
i got off the plane. i floated through the crowds like a Bodhisattva, dispensing well wishes and beatific smiles at all and sundry, even to the noisy little children who blocked my way on the walkway. even to them, the little angels, such was my mood of relief that my ordeal was very close to an end.
i walked up to the immigration desk. the officer there lifted her head, and i saw that it was the same immigration officer who’d rang that little bell just after her stamp had hovered perilously close to not sending me on my Hong Kongian Odyssey. was there a flicker of recognition, possibly even remorse in those coal black eyes?
just another travel droid passing through the Gates of Righteousness. on yer way, hu-muppet.
i scraped through. made my way down the escalator. realised i was smelling something like a gherkin, one that had been left on a windowsill for a few days. all my clothes were in my bike bag, my lovely bike bag, full of my bike! it was 9pm now, my better half was waiting in the car park and in 2 short hours i’d be at home, and to bed, to rest and then get up and ride and ride. had the route planned, my favorite, out on the 14, up the twisting 21, down the backside and finally up Squiggly Climb to the top of the ridge, a fantastic 100km loop that i’d ridden, happily, maybe a hundred times.
past the carousels to the China Air counter, where my bag had been stored when i’d been told i had to go to HK in the first place.
‘i’m here to collect my bag.’
‘flight number please,’ she said, without looking up.
‘well it was two, three days ago, i was turned back… here’s my passport. can you just use that?’
she takes the passport. she taps the keyboard. taps again. ‘hmmmmm’s. calls over colleague.
the Mist of Melifluosness (and Pickle Juice) that my head had been parked in for the past few hours suddenly began to clear. how hard can it be to locate a big bike bag?
‘can’t you just go in the back room and get it? it’s very large, black, has a bike in it.’
‘sir, your bag seems to be in Hong Kong.’
seems to be?
‘yes, Hong Kong.’
‘are you – i – how – but….’
yes. yes, yes and yes again. hallelujah, YES! they sent the bike to Hong Kong with me on the plane, and there i was, powering through the airport to the visa office as my bike forlornly traveled the carousel circuit. and it wasn’t even my bike! i’d borrowed it from a friend after last minute trouble with my team bike.
if a bike can cry, does it sound like a lonely Humpback?
i think i heard something, just a murmur, as i passed through HK customs with just my carry on…
that i didn’t destroy the China Air desk with my bare hands was a miracle. they send people to prison for doing bad things, the police should have arrived and awarded me a medal and a lifetime annuity for my vein-throbbing show of restraint.
‘yes we’ve had a report that someone here had a moral right to inflict some criminal damage yet did not. sir, we salute you.’
China Air male counter guy with the bad teeth, if you are reading this i want you to go look in the mirror and be thankful, in praise even,of the fact that you still have those gnashers. you and that smile would have been first to go down.
i had to wait an hour for them to fill out a form and to get my bag scheduled for a morning flight. i insisted it get a window seat and a double serving of breakfast, and a flirty air hostess. she said she’d see what she could do.
i went out to the car park. there was an attractive woman waiting for me with a lift home and a bottle of Chimay Blue. that almost brought the tears. she listened to the whole thing, from start to finish, and then, incredibly, i was home. the bike finally arrived last night at 5pm.
Bureaucracy, i have taken some of your best punches and i did not cry. you never got me down, baby, you never got me down. that, i tell you, feels like Victory.
now if you’ll excuse me, i am going to ride the crap out of a bicycle…
in this famous clip from my life story, Robert de Niro plays me, Johnny Barnes plays the Immigration Service, & China Air (a very versatile performer).