Death or Trekkie? Death, Please.

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I was sitting outside my hotel in the quiet town of Trat, awaiting the arrival of a VIP minibus that would take me to Pattaya, Thailand’s Sin City. And as always, getting there would prove to be half the fun.

I’d decided the trip must be under-booked and was being canceled. I could not have been more wrong.

The minibus was supposed to arrive at 1:30 — or even earlier, the hotel manager warned me — so I was at the curb by 1:00 with my bags ready. By 2:30, something was obviously wrong and I’d decided the trip must be under-booked and was being canceled. I could not have been more wrong.

The minibus finally pulled up around 2:45. It was a slick new Toyota extended van, designed to fit 8 people comfortably. The driver stomped out and slid the door open to reveal 12 pairs of eyes staring back at me. A solid 8,000 pounds of luggage was stacked in the first row of seats.

The driver grunted, pointed, and said “Get in.” My first response was “You gotta be shitting me”, followed closely by “Get in where?” A weathered Russian man sat in the first seat by the door, drinking a Singha beer, and he reluctantly moved back a row, while his Thai girlfriend moved even further back.

I’ve found that there are certain advantages to being a big sweaty man, the primary one being that nobody wants to sit next to a big sweaty man.

I’ve found that there are certain advantages to being a big sweaty man, the primary one being that nobody wants to sit next to a big sweaty man. When a driver points me to a seat in the far back, where I’ll have to squeeze through 3 rows of tightly-packed passengers, someone inevitably “takes one for the team” and moves, leaving me a seat upfront.

I squeezed into the prime seat, with my day pack in my lap and my backpack wedged between me and the door. The stacked luggage loomed over me like Judgement Day. Now, I’m a fairly tall guy: six foot tall and two-thirds of it is torso — in fact, before I started this site, they called me Johnny Torso. The luggage was stacked a good two feet over my head, and –I’m pretty sure– was packed full of cinder blocks and bowling balls.

After about an hour on the road, we stopped for a 20-minute break at a rest stop. I bought some Gatorade and the world’s blandest hotdog from the convenience store — they had vendors with hot food on offer, but I live in fear of getting food poisoning on a cramped bus.

We milled about, anxious to be back on the road but unwilling to get back in the bus.

After the twenty minutes were up, we all milled about, each of us anxious to be back on the road but none of us willing to get back in the bus. Finally on the road again, the driver took a fast, sweeping right turn and the top piece of luggage slid down, nearly breaking my neck. I spent the next hour propping up the Wall of Doom every time we took a right turn.

Finally, we stopped in a seaside town and half of my fellow cattle passengers got off. The driver threw the remaining bags into the front row and I moved back to the second, stretching my legs and reveling in the new space.

I sat next to an Englishman named Simon (not his real name — his real name is Nigel) and we spent a good half-hour talking about South-East Asia and his experiences in Vietnam. Then, we began talking about books and that’s when I made my big mistake.

“I read a lot of SciFi” he said, and without thinking, I said “Oh I do too.”

“Brilliant! Are you a Trekkie?”

Warning bells were clanging in my head by this point, but it was too late.

Warning bells were clamoring in my head by this point, but it was too late. I’d already taken that first step off the cliff and there was no stopping until I met the dull, wet thud at the bottom.

I diplomatically said “No, I’ve seen a few episodes but it never really, you know, did it for me.” It didn’t matter — I spent the next hour listening to detailed insights about the Star Trek Universe, Trekkie fan fiction, and the science behind it all. “Antimatter really exists!” he said.

When the monologue reached the point of “If you really, really read the Star Trek books, the TV show becomes so much deeper”, I felt the bile rise up in my throat. And for the first time in Thailand, I was certain the nausea wasn’t food-related.

I spent the next hour nodding when I heard a pause and pining for my old spot beneath the towering luggage. I’d asked the driver to drop me off at certain hotel, but he wasn’t familiar with it. As Simon launched into a discussion of how Nimoy and Shatner never really got along, the driver finally pulled over at a random spot and said “I don’t know where it is. Here OK?”

I replied “Yes, yes! Here OK… Perfect, actually.”

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

brian April 2, 2010 at 1:31 am

I went through the same thing, except my van was much older and it was from Bangkok to Siem Reap. 12 hours mashed together is not the way I envisioned getting there, but we did nonetheless.

And I love Star Trek but not sure I would want to sit there and discuss the intricacies of it in a packed van. This is the point when the iPod comes out and you put in the buds, even nothing is playing…

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wes April 2, 2010 at 2:31 am

Yeah, I don’t really have anything against Star Trek, personally — I’ve watched a lot of it. But listening to a full-hour monologue about *any* subject gets old fast.

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Bill Gillespie April 2, 2010 at 3:58 am

How do you have a bland hot dog? They are all bland and terrible.

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Dan April 2, 2010 at 4:13 am

What I like to do in these sorts of situations, where people ramble on and on and on about nothing in particular (or about things that I find, quite frankly, rather stupid) such as this bloke’s comment about how anti-matter ‘really exists’ that’s when I break out equal parts professor-in-training and old high-school/university debate team skills and say, ‘well, while antimatter does exist as an experimental technology, it really isn’t in the way you think it is. What anti-matter really means is….’ and he’ll be putting HIS earbuds in by the time I’m through. Its not exactly traveller-friendly, or conducive to making friends on the road, but its better than nodding along like a fool or yelling ‘SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!’. Ya know?

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wes April 2, 2010 at 5:43 am

very good technique, Dan. I was actually enjoying it in a perverse way and it kinda tied the whole story together, so I’m glad I persevered…

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Rich April 2, 2010 at 3:43 pm

I thought “Johnny Torso” was just your porn name!

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wes April 3, 2010 at 9:15 am

shhhhhhh…

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half century April 2, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Ever tried those wierd little sandwiches, jam & cheese or jam & tuna? Very, er… surprising! I always go for the cooked food, its amazing and (touch wood) never had a problem yet, likewise street food. Why Pattaya for goodness sake? Doesnt sound like your kind of place…

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wes April 3, 2010 at 4:34 am

Heh, I knew I’d hate Pattaya but I had to see it for myself. It fully lives up to my expectations ;)

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Chris - The Aussie Nomad April 3, 2010 at 8:14 am

Oh god mate, I’d have reached for my ipod straight away. Some things about travel can be great but I have no intention of knowing anymore about star trek than what I watch of it on tv.
.-= Chris – The Aussie Nomad´s last blog ..Mail Redirection, Bills and More =-.

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Maria Staal April 3, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Even as a Trekkie, I enjoyed this post. :)

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wes April 4, 2010 at 4:40 am

Ha! Thanks, Maria — I was afraid I’d get lynched by Trekkie fans but so far, so good. I’m a sci fi geek myself, so I don’t really have room to criticize. Nice blog, btw…

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Nomadic Chick April 3, 2010 at 6:59 pm

I would have flashed him some boob, that would have stopped any conversation. If not, crying/ranting is the next ploy. “Sniff.. sniff.. sorry, just PMS. Last time I was released within 48 hours, and got community service. Really…”
.-= Nomadic Chick´s last blog ..Gypsy Wednesday – Wandering Carol =-.

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wes April 4, 2010 at 4:41 am

Yup, a glimpse of my hairy man-boob probably would have done the trick…

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Joel April 6, 2010 at 6:06 pm

Y’know, Wes. I USED to like you. But knowing that we can’t meet up on the road and chat the mythology of Peter David’s Star Trek New Frontier series might just kill any chance of us getting along.

;)
.-= Joel´s last blog ..Miami: From Douche til Dawn =-.

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wes April 7, 2010 at 3:16 am

haha! Nah, we can still geek out. Just not on a bus, where there’s no escape hatch ;)

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San Diego short sales April 22, 2010 at 1:05 pm

Hey mate, thanks for sharing but this article doesn’t format correctly when using Internet Explorer it is doubled up.

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wes April 24, 2010 at 8:19 am

Thanks for the heads-up. I’ll look into it.

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