Friday, October 3, 2014
I was done packing by six in the evening and met my good friend Cha at Mom and Tina’s Café for my “travel allowance.” Thinking that I still had enough time for the 10:55-pm flight, I sat with her at the next-door Vietnamese restaurant, Ba Noi’s, as she ate dinner. As if our almost daily chat on Skype and Facebook was not enough, it felt like we had lots to catch up on.
By seven pm we were already waiting for a cab along Dela Rosa St., still a lot of time so I’d politely decline when scheming cab drivers ask for P250-500 fare to NAIA Terminal 3. It took about ten taxis with drivers of varying scheming levels before we decided to move to the nearest taxi stand. Rain started to pour a little as we made our way to Greenbelt 3 mall which is about 200 meters from where we first waited for a cab.
We got to Greenbelt 3’s taxi bay where quite a number of passengers appeared rather dismayed by the rain and the insufficient taxis in Greenbelt. We knew then that getting a cab here would be as hard as it was in Dela Rosa, if not harder. So we head to another taxi stand in the Greenbelt complex where cab drivers would likely be less choosy. Once there, worry flooded me as I took in the reality that I may not get a cab in the next 30 minutes and be at the airport by 9pm. The waiting line at the taxi stand was long.
You should never attempt to leave Makati CBD on a Friday after payday, on a rainy Friday after payday, Charlotte said. It was like telling me that leaving for the airport tonight was a bad idea. It really was. I did not anticipate the rush hour traffic, the night life in Makati and the Skyway 3 construction in Pasay City when I booked the outbound flight. Who would on a spur-of-the-moment booking during a two-day airline seat sale?
I told Cha I would walk back to Dela Rosa to try my luck with taxis again. I didn’t ask her to come with me anymore because she was meeting her friends in Greenbelt. But before doing so, I dropped by our apartment to regroup. It was almost eight pm and not one cab driver wanted to take me to the airport.
I wanted to cry because it felt like I was going to miss my flight. Cab drivers seemed to have a default head shake when I told them where my destination was. My thoughts meandered through rebooking my flight, cancelling my trip and asking myself over and over if Vietnam was worth all these annoying inconveniences.
I asked the guard to phone a taxi operator for me when I got to the apartment building. I was desperate, confused and hungry. I paced the lobby like a pregnant cat in labor. I didn’t know what to do next. I could go up to our unit, borrow an umbrella from my roommate and brave the rain or go up, stay there and forget about Vietnam. I could also wait on the guard until he got through one of the several numbers he had been dialing.
Anxiety was setting in. The guard regretfully told me all the numbers were busy. This could not be happening. I went out again and walked back to Dela Rosa St, stopping over a convenience store to buy an umbrella. As soon as I got to the street corner, a bolt of lightning tore the cloudy night sky producing a tremendous thunderclap instantly and halting pedestrians on their way home or to a night-out. My heart was in my throat. I feared for myself because of the lightning rod I was holding, the umbrella. Soon I realized there were taller buildings around me and chances of me being struck by a lightning was kind of absurd.
I had no inkling of the hardships one must endure to go to Vietnam. I began to pray not for a taxi but to pacify my overactive mind. I told God I certainly learned my lesson that I should not leisurely chat with friends when I had a plane to catch. My eyes started to well up as I told God I was ready to face the consequences of my foolish acts.
I stood on the sidewalk, feeling like a distressed Koreanovela protagonist with my umbrella under the falling rain beside a dim streetlight. Then I saw a cab approaching and hailed. The driver stopped the car in front of me and as he rolled down the window I asked, Terminal 3? No answer. I opened the rear passenger door and asked again. And he nodded! Hah, finally! A heaven-sent cab driver.
Contrary to the other drivers’ claim that traffic was heavy, driving out of the CBD and through Skyway to the airport was a breeze as I got there earlier than 9pm. My fare, according to the cab’s meter, was about P150 but I added a little extra because the driver was nice enough to take me to the airport on a rainy, “traffic” Friday night. I silently wished the driver got to pick up a passenger on his way out of the NAIA compound.
It was a different story inside Terminal 3. After all the necessary checks and paid all mandatory fees, I made my way to Gate 104 to wait for the 10:20-pm boarding. There was something odd with the number of passengers waiting in the pre-departure area, almost every seat was taken, and most had this bored look on their faces. I found myself a seat somewhere near Gate 105, browsed through Facebook news feed on my phone while eavesdropping on conversations of other passengers. There were indeed flight delays. The thunderstorm earlier in the evening temporarily stopped all evening departures and arrivals at NAIA. Or so what Cebu Pacific ground staff had been saying. But no matter what the reasons were, wherever the news came from, it could only mean one thing—my flight was delayed. For how long, I didn’t even want to think about it.