Baoninato, Cebu Pacific.

Self-portrait. Taipei Taoyuan Airport, July 2012

Before I left the apartment, I saw a cockroach in the stairway.  It was, seriously, as big as a pork chop.  Must have been a sign.

So instead of taking a 1200塊 | $40 USD, I took the metro to Songshan Airport, and took an express bus to Taipei Taoyuan.  It was 120塊 | $4.00 USD.  That’s good, right?

So I got to the airport, and I walk into the departure hall, and there’s a long line snaking three or four miles; seriously.  The beginning and end of the line are in different area codes.  Luckily I did web check-in, and nice! there’s a web check-in counter sign on the flat screen, and a separate web check-in line!  Sweet!

So I stand in that line and the counter staff ignores me.  I walk over to one of the teenage women in wool suits whose job it is to extend their arm toward the next available counter and ask, is this web check-in?

You have to wait in line, she says.  She extends her arm toward the horizon, indicating the end of the line.

Web check-in, I say.  Her arm lifts graciously again toward Mecca and she says 排隊。


So ok, I walk to the back of the line and I wait in line for however long; 15 minutes, it’s not that long.  But I keep looking up at the flat screen that says “Express counter, web check-in” and the sign on the velvet rope that says “web check in.”  And of course I start planning on how and who I’m going to yell at.

And then I remember, this is not the Mainland.  This is Taiwan, people are competent here.  There is plenty of time.

So I got near the front of the line, and a guy and his family are waiting at the web check-in line.  After being ignored for a while, he walks to the same lady I talked to and gets the same answer from her, 排隊 wait in line.  Her arm goes up several times toward Polaris, the North Star.

But, he says, it says “Express counter, web check-in” on the screen above.  He points.  Then he takes her to the damn sign on the velvet rope and says, look, it says “web check-in line!”

At that point, she walks over to another wool suit, a slightly older teenager who is her supervisor.  I see her indicating the flat screen (Express Counter!  Web Check-in!) and the  velvet rope sign (WEB CHECK-IN) and the supervisor nods yes, yes.  She starts walking to the patient guy in the web check-in line, but she has to walk past me first.  By the way, was this is all going down, I’m in line acting like I’m losing my shit, sighing LOUDLY and craning my neck around to glare at everyone.

EH?! Web check-in 呢? She says something stupid, like “please wait a moment.”  She walks past me and ushers the other dude to the WEB CHECK IN COUNTER, and tells the lady that he is next.

At this point I’m first in line, and I start talking to the supervisor.  There’s a sign over THERE and a sign over THERE I say, pointing, obviously, to the two obvious signs.  Both say “WEB CHECK-IN,” but when I asked that lady for information, she says wait in line.  SO I WAITED IN LINE.  Now there is web check in?

不好意思,says the wool suit supervisor, 不好意思 unfortunate.  Then she gestures that I’m next, to go to counter 9.

There’s no one at counter 9, so when counter 10 is free I push my way over.

I already checked in online, I say, I just need my boarding pass.  The dude does his thing, the passport check, the tappy tap on the computer, and then he says to me, “You don’t have a return flight?”

Yes, I say, I do have a return flight, it’s with this reservation.

“This is a one way ticket, you have to pay for a return flight.”

I look down at my iPad and see my return flight staring me in the face.  I show the dude, and he says oh.  He prints out my boarding pass and tells me to go to gate A6.

I turn to walk toward security.  But before I go, I turn around smartly to look at miss “go wait in line.”  She looks like she dropped her ice cream on the ground.  I look her square in the eye, and say to her in a voice that sounds like she’s going to die…


Ladies and gentlemen, I am the hero of this story.  You’re welcome.


  • 航廈 hángshà airport terminal
  • 巡迴巴士 xúnhuí bāshì shuttle bus
  • 航空公司 hángkōnggōngsī airline
  • 一路平安 yílùpíngān  bon voyage

I was counting on there being food in this airport at this time; there is none.  A dude has been yapping on this phone in Pangasinan for the last hour.  I can’t wait to get to Manila.

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