Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Skipping Steps (leaving Macau)

“Winter schedule!”

So said the older of the two women at the United desk in Hong Kong, the tone of admonishment weirdly sending me back to kindergarten and a teacher’s reprimand after I’d thoughtlessly skipped a step while marching in line down a staircase with the class.

It was a little after 10 a.m. on Monday, and after waiting several minutes I’d finally reached the front of the line. The morning hadn’t gone as smoothly as anticipated. Getting to Macau had been relatively simple, aside from that extra night spent in Chicago after my original flight had been canceled. When I’d arrived in Hong Kong before, I had gone straight to a ferry counter, bought a ticket, and after a short wait was in Macau an hour later. Took a little longer after that to get to my hotel, but it was all fairly simple to negotiate.

Here, though, I found myself in a more complicated spot. As it happened, the last night of the APPT Macau Asia Championship of Poker Main Event had lasted until nearly 3 a.m., and I’d been up two more hours completing my work reporting on it. Got back to my room, and by the time I showered and packed it was already after six, which meant I really had no time to sleep. I did sit in a chair and close my eyes for about 20 minutes, sort of pseudo-sleeping, but was too restless and worried about missing my flight really to relax.

It was a little after seven when I had gone downstairs to checkout. That took longer than expected, too, in part because they initially were asking me to pay for a room that had already been paid for prior to the trip. Then I was about to get a taxi to the ferry station, but was told “free limo service” came with my room. Free is good, I thought, and said okay, but it would take an extra 15 minutes to get the “limo” ready (in fact, a van).

Anyhow, I arrived at the ferry station a little after 8 a.m. My flight wasn’t until 11:10 a.m., so I wasn’t too worried. But after waiting to get to the front of the ticket line there, I was told I’d arrived too late to get the next scheduled ferry going directly to the airport. I’m still not sure what the deal was, but I’d just missed the cutoff time for checking in for my flight and so they weren’t allowing me to take that next airport-bound ferry.

The only way to make my flight, then, would be to ferry to Hong Kong, then get a train or taxi over to the airport. I went over to that line, waited a bit, got my ticket, then waited a little longer for the ferry to leave.

Thankfully that was when I reunited with one of the tournament directors, Chris, who’d been working APPT Macau and who happened to be taking the same ferry as a first step on his journey back home to Australia. He set my mind at ease about getting the train to the airport once our ferry landed, and as it happened would help me find my way to the counter.

The ferry took about an hour. That picture up above is from us leaving Macau, the surrounding fog reflecting my own tired state. I did involuntarily doze a little in my seat. Then once we arrived I hustled off the ferry with everyone else, went through customs, and eventually made it over to the train station with Chris, a walk of probably 20 minutes or so. Finally I was in the line for United, bidding Chris adieu and thanking him, very glad to have made it to that point.

That’s I noticed the sheet of paper hanging behind the desk listing 9:40 a.m. as the latest time for those on the Chicago flight to be able to get a train to the airport. The train only took a half-hour, and we were still more than an hour from the departure time, but I already saw them refusing one Chicago-bound passenger, and so knew by the time I got up there it probably wasn’t going to be good news for me, either.

But after a few minutes with the United ladies, I was relieved to know the news was going to be good, after all.

“It’s your lucky day,” said the younger of the two women behind the desk, as she’d found a seat on a later flight to San Francisco for me, and then another seat on a flight from S.F. to my final destination of Charlotte. It would get me home a few hours later than planned, and in fact she ended up having to be creative and tic a box somewhere -- i.e., something absolving me from fault in the matter, like declaring some sort of hardship or the like -- in order to prevent my having to pay a couple of hundred dollars to make the switch.

I was most grateful, thanking the two women (and thinking how much better the experience was with United than with American Airlines last May). That’s when the older one began lecturing to me about the winter schedule.

I was still sweating from hustling around carrying two heavy bags in the Hong Kong humidity. It didn’t seem like winter. Of course, with my lack of sleep and general disorientation from living half a day ahead of where I usually live, all temporal distinctions -- day, night, seasons -- had become increasingly fuzzy and unreliable.

I just nodded, happily accepting the criticisms for not being adequately informed for my traveling. I should’ve gone over getting back before the time came to do so, but was too busy and distracted to do so. In other words, I had skipped a step, not even really conscious of the fact that I had.

We’d cross the international date line flying to S.F., which meant Monday ended up lasting 36-plus hours for me, a lot of it taken up with the traveling. Actually ended up catching an earlier flight home from S.F. when a seat opened up, and so really didn’t add too much to the overall trip, all told. (Again, big thanks to United.)

Still kind of marveling at how the sucker ended, with the final two players deciding not to play it out and instead to chop the remaining prize pool evenly and have an all-in-blind hand to decide a winner.

Talk about skipping a step!

That to the left is a photo I snapped just as the community cards for the final hand were about to be dealt. For more on what happened, see my post here as well as the one on the PokerStars blog spelling out what occurred.

Thinking about what would’ve happened at the WSOP if something like that arose. Or if they had simply played heads-up out and the tourney had lasted another couple of hours, how it’s possible I wouldn’t have gotten home until today.

But that’s not how it happened. There’s the sequence of episodes that make up our lives, then there are others we imagine happening for ourselves, where we set aside the actual and in our minds skip over to other, possible futures, destinies... selves.

In any case, as great as the trip was, I’m glad to be home. To have made all of those steps that took me more than eight thousand miles away and back, in whatever order.

Traveling Travails: Macau Awaits
APPT Macau, ACOP Warm-Up, Day 1a
APPT Macau, ACOP Warm-Up, Day 1b
APPT Macau, ACOP Warm-Up, Day 2
APPT Macau, ACOP Warm-Up, Day 3
APPT Macau, ACOP Main Event, Day 1
APPT Macau, ACOP Main Event, Day 2
APPT Macau, ACOP Main Event, Day 3
APPT Macau, ACOP Main Event, Day 4
APPT Macau, ACOP Main Event, Day 5

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