The King of Carry On
I push through a queue stretching all the way around the check-in hall and straight across the main entrances of Kaohsiung International Airport. Today, Southern Taiwan is humming in 27-degree smog. It’s warm, but not that hot – unless you’re under four layers of clothing.
From the check-in screens, I find that the line for the Vietjet flight to Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City is, in fact, the one I just pushed through. This is not a problem: the line extends beyond the sight of the Vietjet staff, so I take the opportunity to subtly add a few more items from my bag to my pockets.
When I finally reach the counter, I cross my fingers and hope they don’t weigh my bag.
“Are you checking a bag in today, sir?”
“May you please place your bag on the scales here?”
The red digital screen lights up as my bag rests on the conveyor. The numbers initially jump around a bit before quickly settling on 9.9.
I stare straight ahead.
“Sir, your bag is overweight. You’ll have to check it in.”
“How much will that cost?” The answer is irrelevant. I’m not paying it.
“900 New Taiwan Dollars”
Roughly 45 New Zealand Dollars. I actually thought it would be more. But still, fuck that. It’s half the original cost of the ticket!
“How much do I have to take out?”
“The limit is seven kilograms.”
“So how much do I have to take out?”
“You must remove two kilograms.”
Progress. I feel like I have just made 900 grams.
“Are there scales somewhere I can use?”
“You can bring it here once you have removed two kilograms.”
“But are there scales I can use myself? So I can check it before I bring it back.”
She stares blankly.
I elaborate. “So I know how much I’ve taken out.”
She tilts her head and smiles a cute smile and says, “I think you should check it in now. 900NTD.”
Bitch, please. Where I’m going I could buy four dozen Saigon Lagers and a bowl of pho for that amount of money.
I tell her to give me a few minutes to sort it out and I’ll come back. She confirms I can return to her counter without getting back in line. How nice.
I scurry off to find a bathroom; it’s time to get aggressive.
The flight takes four hours. It’s not thaaaat long. I can do this.
I drop my cargo pants, grab all three pairs of shorts and put them on over the top of the two pairs of underwear I am already wearing. Pants back on, I clip the built-in waist belt and fasten my leather belt as well. Next I put on a singlet and another T-shirt to add to my two other T-shirts, jumper and raincoat. I switch out my trail shoes with my leather ones because they seem a bit heavier and put on another pair of thick hiking socks. Leather does not stretch. It’s a tight fit.
Now, anything else that fits in my pockets will go in my pockets. Cargo pants were a great travel purchase. Head-torch. Padlocks. Duffel bag. Travel pouch. First aid kit. Passport. Phone. Wallet. Half a packet of mixed nuts.
What else can I do? The dentist says you should replace your toothbrush every three months. It must have been about that long since I bought this one. It’s made of bamboo and weighs two-fifths of bugger all, but it still weighs something. There’s still quite a bit of toothpaste left, but I can get more.
This comb? Who was I kidding? I’ve never even used it! This pack of classic branding Air New Zealand playing cards? Everyone else in hostels has playing cards. And the box is coming apart anyway. This cake of soap? These four 27g sachets of washing powder? This shirt I haven’t worn in three months of travel? This tennis ball I found in the Fukuoka Castle ruins? Great travel toy. Hours of entertainment. I shed a small tear. I use the toothbrush and toothpaste and deodorant one last time before I drop it all in the trash, slap on my cap and return to the check-in hall.
I have no idea if this is enough. I don’t know if I could do more. I hope I haven’t done too much.
I feel like an American football player draped in a ridiculous amount of protection gear. I am doing my utmost to walk as normally as possible. Nothing to see here. Don’t you know it’s always super hot back in New Zealand, so here in southern Taiwan, I need to wear six layers on top and bottom just to be comfortable?
Back at the Vietjet counter, I place my bag back on the scales.
She’s acting like she’s not impressed. Is this the part where she puts 14 digits on piece of paper and tells me to call her after she gets off at 6? It seems not. That probably happens later.
I remain cautiously optimistic.
Cover by Bambi Corro