When we left off, I was standing under a street light on an unfamiliar residential street, trying to glean information from an increasingly soggy map.
From behind me I hear a voice ask me if I need help, in English. I turn and there is a youngish woman standing next to a red car parked in front of one of the houses. I hold up the wad of map pulp, and tell her that I’m lost and that I’m trying to find the Mandarin Oriental. She nods and says she knows where it is and asks if I would like to come inside while she writes up the directions. It’s kind of cool to get to go inside a local’s house – it’s a nice place, that she appears to share with her mother and a couple of big-eared cats. We all make conversation while I try to befriend the cats and she scribbles away. As it turns out, I had turned two roads too soon. I thank her and her mother profusely and step back out into the rain and back onto my scooter. I have no idea what time it is. Finally I see the imposing gate of the hotel complex looming ahead. I turn in, and am immediately stopped by the same guard who was there when I left that morning. I think he wonders who this bedraggled, waterlogged character might be and why they’re trying to crash the hotel grounds. I pull off my helmet and the guard recognizes me and waves me on through.
I’m still holding out hope that I’m not that late, I hustle over to the scooter parking and peel off my helmet, then start across the courtyard when I spot the birthday boy accompanied by a few of our party, ascending the steps to what I now realize is the restaurant where the birthday dinner is to be held. Crap! I’m barely in time. I call out to BB, thinking that I’ll let him know that I’m running a few minutes late, and will then run back to my suite to change. As if in unison they all turn and relief breaks over the group. Uh oh. How late am I, exactly? Turns out that I was late enough for them to all start wondering how they would get my body back to the US, but not late enough to delay the dinner. I feel like an ass at this point and determine to get changed quickly so I can slide into my place at the table with minimal drama, which works, more or less once word gets around the group that I’m not dead or injured. BB forgives me and we all enjoy a lovely dinner, but I resolve to never again go abroad without a phone.