We arrived at the Singapore airport, going to Beijing. Marilyn and I have all our luggage in one cab. We got to the airport early, the airline says that Marilyn’s Chinese visa has expired. We thought it was handled when her Russian and Brazilian visas were handled - it wasn’t. They won't let her on the plane. We can’t go to Beijing.
They would let me on the plane, but I can’t teach Module III, to 25 Chinese people when I get there (at least not very well), so I cancel my flight too. We frantically call our heroine/organizer Susan Yeow. We find out that we must get to the Chinese passport office by 2 PM for a new visa. It was now 1:30 PM. Controlled Panic.
We went to get a cab (we were in departures) - "sorry", the cab driver said – "gotta go to arrivals one floor down, those are the rules". Off we go down to arrivals. Get to arrivals and find the cab station - its being run by two elderly men. They tell us we have too much luggage, got to get a "super-cab", and we would have to wait for it. We tell them we can’t wait for a "super-cab". We came in one cab, why can’t we leave in one cab. "So sorry, you need super-cab", he says. We decide okay, if that’s the way it has to be, two cabs it is. While we are loading the two cabs, I am yelling at the two cab access guys that this is a rip off! We came in one cab, why can’t we leave in one cab?
My cab driver understands the directions to the Chinese passport office, Marilyn's cab driver isn’t so sure – I tell Marilyn to take my cab and I'll take hers. I stop to “remonstrate loudly” at the two cab access guys again. Off we go in two cabs, they each take a different route to the Chinese embassy! Marilyn is scared of losing me because we only have one cell phone that works and I have it. We are rushing pell mell through a city-state of 8 million. I am in one cab with a nice man who thinks he speaks English but doesn’t. He does get that we have to be at the Embassy by 2PM so he steps on it. It starts to sprinkle rain a bit. Our Singaporean friend "super" Susan Yeow calls and says if Marilyn can't get to the Chinese passport office to issue visa by Wednesday morning, she has a friend in the travel business who can arrange a visa by Wednesday morning.
Uh – oh how do I get this message to Marilyn. Our cabs meet a couple of blocks from the Chinese Passport Office. It's raining harder now. Marilyn runs from her cab to my cab window at a red light. I give her the news, and she tells me that at the Passport office we can transfer the luggage to her cab. (We don’t have a place to stay the night, because the place we left is full). She is still going to try to get the visa at the Chinese embassy. We are both back in traffic, and I have to tell her something, her cab is beside mine, I get her to put her window down, we yell a sentence or two to confirm our understandings, then the cab is in motion and the rear door window comes up just about catching my nose.
We arrive at passport office, it is really pouring rain now. Marilyn runs in through sheets of rain. I pay the cab driver with soggy bills, unload luggage, give him a tip, he says something that I want to believe is "thank you", exit my cab driver into roaring downpour. It is raining so hard its unbelievable. The animals of all kinds are lining up two-by-two to enter this big wooden boat. What can this mean? Standing on the side walk with my luggage, rain pouring down, obstructing pedestrians, feet wet, soaked through and through, we manage to squeeze all the luggage in Marilyn’s cab. Now I am in Marilyn’s cab, the cab driver explains that it is against the law to have luggage on seats, that’s why the two old guys at the airport wanted me to take the "super-cab". Oohh! So they weren’t trying to rip me off.
It is after 2 pm. Marilyn re-appears through the pouring rain. She had raced up 5 escalators hunting for the Chinese Embassy. She was in the wrong building! Then she came out and went into another building – not there. Found out in was in another building on the other side of the building she had entered. But, it was too late for the Chinese passport office. Our friend "super" Susan has reserved a room for us at a hotel not far away. Shelter! We go there, unload luggage, exit Marilyn’s cab driver.
We go to the hotel reception, they have never heard of us, we wait in lobby. We wait, and we wait, the reservation was done online so we have to wait until the email pinballs around the globe a few times. I go and ask if I can just register, “no” says the young man behind the counter, the email registration might come in and he would have an extra reservation on his hands. I amuse myself with buying some sweetish coffee. Actually wasn’t bad.
Finally our reservation arrived, we gave them our passports to be copied, signed this and that, our luggage was taken by an old bell man up to our room. He hooked us up to the internet – ahhh, back in business. Exit bellman (tipped him too). Then our friend "fabulous, super" Susan showed up and took Marilyn to the travel agency for the passport. I sat down, quiet for three minutes, got hooked up to the internet, then started writing letters to our travel agent, our people in China, and our employee in China to explain our predicament.
All in a days work!
Lawrence McGinnis, LLB
Erickson Coaching International