The Best Laid Plans

Indonesia has many things—some which can be found no where else in the world. Other things, which may be available every where else in the world, can not be found in Indonesia… As it happens this is the case with the one mandatory medication on my list. And, because my doctor is in Singapore, this also means that I have to go to Singapore to get my medications. This isn’t such a problem—especially as I fly back and forth to the US fairly often. There are several pharmacies in the Singapore airport and they are happy to refill prescriptions—without a prescription—as long as you show your passport and a ticket on a flight departing in less than 24 hours. It’s common practice among expats in Indonesia to ask friends to bring back med—not always comfortable being the one doing the asking (especially when the meds you’re asked to “pick up” are for man/woman issues)…but that’s another story. Unfortunately, this time around, I didn’t have a friend conveniently stopping in Singapore and my medication isn’t readily available. And so I fretted about having enough to last until my next scheduled trip to Singapore in March.

One night, the solution to my medication lack woke me. Duh…..I had booked a late flight to Singapore so I would spend as little time in transit as possible before catching the 2 am flight on to Houston. Why not just schedule an earlier flight? Singapore is an easy country to enter and exit, my bags would be checked all the way through, so all I’d have to do is rebook onto an earlier flight,  catch a cab to the doctor, pick up my prescription, have it filled right there at the hospital, cab it back to the airport and wait around in the lounge with my computer, drinks and eats for a few extra hours….problem solved! I called the doctor, organized the prescriptions, called the airline and rebooked my flights, packed my bags and flew off to Singapore.

The problem with tight schedules—even not so tight schedules—is that delays happen, and did happen today. For undisclosed reasons, my flight from Jakarta left late, which got me to Singapore late. As preplanned, I called the Doctor’s office when I got of the plane. However, instead of the usually harried receptionist voice answering, I got a message saying the office was closed. That’s when I looked for a clock and saw that it was past 5—closing time. Remaining calm, I assured myself that my doctor is always at the office late. I have been there much later than 5 pm, 7 pm even and still waited. So, I pressed on—on past baggage claim (because I didn’t have to worry about bags) on to the Immigration (with no lines I whizzed through) on to the Taxi queue (which meant one other man and me) and onto the highway, all the while reassuring myself that the doctor would be in his office and I would get my prescriptions, or if worst came to it, I’d take my almost empty box to the hospital pharmacy and beg them to call the doctor for a refill. But somewhere in the back of my mind, even while reasurring, I was worrying. That’s the only reason I can find for what happened next.

I had the nicest cab ride ever. My driver, Kao, a nice-looking chatty Singaporean in what I thought was his mid-30s but was actually his 40’s, with 2 daughters and a wife, dropped me at Mount Elizabeth hospital. I rushed inside, attacked the elevator button and it uncharacteristically responded by delivering an Up elevator immediately. I speed walked down the deserted hallways to my doctor’s office—which was, thankfully, relievedly open! I rushed in, said “hi.” The receptionist said “hi.” The nurse said, “her prescription is in the box.” The receptionist fished it out. Wee exchanged “See you in March! Happy New Years!” and I started for the door. That’s when then the other nurse, Betty, came out pushing a wheelchair in which a woman about my age, with bed flattened hair and an anguished face sat. The woman didn’t look up, just rode past clutching her plastic bag of medications. The woman’s husband followed behind. And behind him wheeled a computer bag that looked exactly like my computer bag….My Computer Bag!!!

My Computer bag, packed to bursting with make up and medications and jewelry and camera and my computer and my files and my books and my presentation materials had been with me throughout the flight, the airport, immigration, taxi queue. I distinctly remember my delightful cab driver—whose name I wish so desperately I had asked, whose receipt I wish fervently I had taken—deposited in the boot of the taxi…

Heart racing, blood pounding out Morse code “idiot idiot idiot….” I hurried back downstairs hoping my driver was stuck in the taxi line waiting for a fare…after all, it had only been a 15 minutes at the most. He wasn’t.

I rushed to the first blue cab I saw and motioned for him to roll down the window. I explained what had happened and asked if he could call the dispatcher as quickly as possible because the cab driver couldn’t have gotten far. The cabbie did not look at me—refused to turn his head, but did shake it. No he couldn’t/wouldn’t help me.

“But, do you have the dispatch number?” I asked.

“No,” he said, motioning me away.

“Can’t you call them?” I asked.

“No,” he waved me away.

“What do I call?” I pleaded. “I need help.”

“Call 8-0-0” he instructed.

I backed away, pulled out my phone and dialed 8-0-0. I got one of those beepy, your call can not be completed signals…. I tried again. Same thing.

My computer, my jewelry, my books, my presentation were in the cab that left. And it had been blue….the same blue… I raced forward and planted myself in front of the shotgun window. I tapped and motioned for him to roll it down. He did. I explained that 8-0-0 had not done anything and I needed a number to call. He motioned for me to leave him alone. I repeated that I needed a number. He waved me aside, motioning that there were people the queue behind me who wanted a ride…

That was exactly what I needed to know.

I moved in closer to his window. “I am not moving,” I said. “I am going to stand here until you give me a card, a number, something, some place I can call to get my bag back…”

He motioned me away again.

I told him I wasn’t moving again.

He looked past me as a woman got into the cab behind him.

I repeated, “Give me your dispatcher number.”

He said, “It’s on the side of the cab.”

I looked. It was. If only he had said that to begin with.

So I let him go and went inside to the relative quiet and dialed the number. I was anything but calm as I punched buttons—and then repunched the buttons after having selected the wrong options. But finally, the operator came on the line. And I told him that I had left my computer bag on the cab. And he put me on hold and left me listening to music through one ear, with the other ear plugged because I wasn’t hearing very well—especially not over my thumping, pounding heart. And then the operator returned and asked my information, and asked me for a local number, which “I don’t have,” I explained, because I am a tourist in Singapore with only my Jakarta number, and only a few hours before my flight leaves (while I said this, I thanked, for the first time, rather than cursed the 2 am departure time of my Houston flight.)…Then the operator asked—in the slowest possible speak ever---what my bag looked like and what was in it?

And I considered understating the contents. But then thought, shoot, this is my bag filled with lots of really valuable stuff, which I could live without, and I could replace (as I had, thank you, Curtis, backed up my files before I left) but replacing anything/everything or going without to the States would be a hassle, to put it mildly, so why minimize this sitation?  I spelled out exactly how important this bag was to me. And then asked why was he wasting time asking all this information—just put out the dang call to the Taxi cabs…now….pronto…. ahora-tita… before I lose it and start crying.

And he asked if there was a number where I could be called back and I repeated that I was a tourist, with no place to go and no number other than the Jakarta number…And he put me on hold.

I prayed as I listened to the hold music. Prayed for help. Prayed for strength. Reasoned with myself reassuringly, reminding myself of all I had, and that I could live without anything, everything in that bag if need be…but please don’t make me…..

And then another dispatcher clicked in. And I told her about my drive: that I caught the cab at Terminal 2 at about 5:05 exactly (because Singaporeans are exact) and all I could rememember about the driver: that he has with a wife and 2 daughters, is tall and thin with very close cropped hair, looks to be in his mid-30s and used to live in Ocean Beach, San Diego and work in the food and beverage industry, but returned to Singapore because his mother wanted him home and had been driving a cab for 6 years—and had dropped me off at Mount Elizabeth hospital about 5:20 and had not given me a receipt (although he had asked, and I, for the first time in my life, had refused—stupid, stupid) and I did not know the cab number… it was blue….

I think...

And she put me on hold.

And the hold music changed to an admonition “please wait for the operator…but if you would prefer immediate service visit our website. You can book a taxi on line…” And I waited, and fretted, and paced, and wished I could straighten this out on line, and watched out the window in hopes that the cab driver had noticed my bag and returned to return it…and waited…and prayed….

Then the music stopped and the operator voice told me they had, in fact,  located my cab driver...Kao, and gave me his number.

Kao laughed when he answered and said we had “both forgotten my bag and he would return in 10-15 minutes.”

And I waited and watched. And he did. And I took my bag and thanked him. And gave him some money to compensate him for the trip back and his honesty. And then we said goodbye and I went inside to finish my business with the doctor, which had in fact been finished while I was waiting for him to come back with my bag.

So all I did was go inside to use the restroom in hopes that he ( the cab driver, Kao) would leave while I was gone, because I was suddenly very embarrassed.

But he was still there—first in the queue. So I climbed back in his cab. And we laughed and chatted. And when I left, he reminded me to “keep a watch on my bag” and I replied “I’m buying handcuffs.”

And so it goes with the best laid plans: they can sometimes are waylaid…