Where have all the people gone?
Last in, first out. That's the way baggage claim works. Forty minutes after waiting at the conveyor belt in Chiang Kai Shek (CKS) Airport, I finally spotted my loyal green Samsonite.
I proceeded without interference through the "Nothing to Declare" lane, having earlier declared myself at the Immigration Check-point to hold the profession of a pianist. Two years ago, I was an editor. Before that, researcher. And before that, student. And before that, analyst.
Did I arrive at the wrong airport? It was new and almost completely empty. This was Thursday just before noon, and I had never seen an airport as empty as this.
The airport seemed even larger because of its echoeing emptiness. I visited an ATM (bank teller machine) to fetch a 1,000 NT note which I guessed to be enough for my coach ticket to Taichung.
Barely into the hall where the three coach companies served the airport to Taichung route, I got bombarded with excited, high-pitched female voices. How I loathe the chorus of unorganised sopranos! And how I resent being hussled and hassled!
"Where are you going?"
"Quick, there's a coach just ready to depart," said the lady at the Greyhound coach desk.
"But I need to change my money to make a call first," I protested.
"There's no time for that, unless you want to wait for the next one."
"When is the next one?" I asked.
I had hoped to choose the best, the cheapest one that would drop me off at the stop my father indicated in his email. But the lady said that none of the coaches stop there anymore.
I decided not to follow my father's instructions to call him at the airport and instead rush to catch this coach. I pushed my trolley hard and hurried outside. The driver was waiting for me, his last passenger.
"Quick, get inside. Give me your ticket," he commanded.
The baggage compartment was empty, save two suitcases. Upstairs, I sensed there were two passengers in the front.
Where have all the people gone? Where was everyone? SARS was history. What now?
Politics. Election. Protest. Uncertainty.
Later I learned that everyone had flooded to Taipei to demonstrate against the recent national elections.
11 April 2004 Sunday
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