Getting out of Manila

I have a 10:30pm flight. I finished my presentations at 5, and at 5:30 we went out for a quick spot of dinner.

Today is a Friday, and it’s also pay day in Manila, and it’s raining. So when I try to get a Grab to the airport at 6:30, I don’t have any success. I have a 10:30pm flight.

Rejoicing that I only brought a backpack and not more sizeable luggage, I yomp back to the hotel (three city blocks) and get them to find a hotel car to take me to the airport in. "Will a BMW X3 do?" the man on reception asks. Anything, I say, that will get me to the airport on time. He takes me at my word, takes my money, and gets me a ride in a clapped-out old Kia. Is this my first encounter with Filipino humour? Will it be my last?

It’s not my last. It’s almost 7pm, and the driver tells me it will take two hours to get to the airport. I have a 10:30pm flight.

Traffic is idiotically slow. It takes us half an hour to go two blocks from the hotel. I begin to panic that I will not see my wife again. I only have 30 days’ grace in the Philippines and this car is moving so slowly I don’t think that will be enough. I have a 10:30pm flight.

Stationary in traffic, I watch as an apparently drunk man, half wearing a green singlet, runs down between the cars, against the flow of the traffic. No sign of where he’s going. No indication of where he’s been. I have a 10:30pm flight and it feels like I’m on set in a particularly low budget zombie film. I guess I made it to Netflix.

We speed up again. We slow again. My only solace is to watch stationary lines of traffic pointed in the opposite direction on parallel roads. My driver says nothing. For a while, there is a stabbing pain in my chest. My body is revolting against me. I have a 10:30pm flight.

After an hour, Google Maps reports we have only 30 minutes left to travel. I don’t trust it much because an hour ago, it told me we only needed an hour to get to the airport. I have a 10:30pm flight.

We drive down darkened backstreets. We go past what appears to be a group do schoolchildren, just leaving their school. We go past some metal cages. We don’t pass the Notary Public with a roll-down aluminium door I saw the other day. Oh well. I have a 10:30pm flight.

It’s 8:30pm and I arrive at the airport. We’ve travelled 14 km in 90 minutes and yet I’m jubilant that we’ve been so efficient. I almost hug my taciturn driver, then stumble into the night, off to locate my flight. Did I mention what time it departs? Home again, home again…

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