Back to the N section, I wait and wait. Some of the officers occasionally greet me, remembering me very well from the week before. They all address me as A-jarn, Professor. One thing and another, I mention to that pretty lady officer with a daring hairdo that on the two stickers on the front partition, out of their eight or nine words in English, there are two glaring errors: ‘PASSPORT RECEPTE’ and ‘dipplomatic’. I’m immediately fussed over and asked for the correct phrasing and then handed over a couple more forms to check their translation and English. Leave us your email address in case we need more help: English specialists that know Thai so well like you can be of great help… Kraphom. We even chat about Thai novels, short stories, the kind of work I do, the boring work they do and so on. What’s taking so long?
When I finally ‘recepte’ my passport with the precious one-year visa, it’s past 2:30pm. I dash over to the re-entry section, the C section. My number has yet to be called. Once I’m through with this (another 1 000 baht), I locate the infamous 90-day section, the A section. This is where all of us foreigners issued with one-year visas must report every ninety days like ordinary criminals. I know that, aware of the insanity of the measure, the powers that be kindly allow us to ‘report’ through the mail instead and I need to find out what this involves.
When I’m provided with the relevant information and surface back into the open, it’s past 3pm and it looks like rain, so I decide Labour will have to wait. I take a taxi back to the office, where more photocopying takes place. The head of Personnel, dear Khun Pheun, is at once delighted she no longer will have to do hard labour every year gathering mountains of documents for the lone farang employee, a little peeved that I didn’t use the latest business batch she sweated so much over and worried about my having to fend for myself in years to come.
The office on Phra Arthit Road is within walking distance of my house: a 600 metres’ walk to the foot of Pinklao Bridge, a ferry ride across the river and then a 1km motorcycle taxi ride to my place.
When I leave the office at 4pm, it’s raining buckets. Luckily, or rather, as it will turn out, unfortunately, I find a taxi and tell the driver to go around the Royal Esplanade (Sanam Luang) to take the Pinklao Bridge and so on. This he does or tries to: there’s a mega traffic jam.
When the rain stops, we are at the level of the Ministry of Defence. The taximeter reads like this: Distance covered: 1.7km; Idling time: 72mn; Fare: 130 baht. (The usual fare from office to home is 60 baht.)
I pay and foot it, amid stalled cars and then against traffic, to … the bottom of Pinklao bridge where I take the ferry. It’s close to 6pm when I reach home.
That night, basking in the glory of that hard-earned visa but almost catatonic, I treat myself to a vintage movie on TV: Octopussy!
The next morning, going through the motions at Labour is like a walk in the park. It will still take a couple of hours before everything is in order, all the moneys are paid (9 200 baht altogether), I’ve gathered all the forms for next year’s round (oh shit! I forgot to do that at Immigration) and for the next hurdle: resigning, one month from now, from the company that employs me.