The consequences of ice cream – or how I almost missed my plane to the Philippines

Do you like ice cream? Sure you do! Well I do at least. I absolutely love it. All kinds of ice cream, almost, but especially Italian, gelato. Soft and creamy – without being on the rim of melting. Give me two scoops, one with dark, heavy and bold chocolate, rich and flavorful, the other a light lime, fruity and sour – and I’m in heaven. Ice cream heaven. Or Norwegian cream-based vanilla ice cream with fresh, ridiculously sweet and delicious strawberries – I’ll eat until there’s no ice cream or strawberries left.

 I could go on and on and on about ice cream, but I won’t. Because this post is not really about how delicious ice cream is or how no “boil it cook it peel it or forget it”-rule would ever make me stop eating it around the world (until this day it has never made me sick, knock on wood), or how chocolate and lime is the best combination that ever was and ever will be. No, this is all about how two innocent little scoops – served from a nice little ice cream stand at the bottom floor of a big shopping mall in Singapore – almost made me miss my flight to the Philippines.

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(Amazingly good ice cream somewhere in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.)

When you set out to do something, something else must always be done first

It was the last of my few days in Singapore and I was spending it shopping. Or well, shopping isn’t the right word, as I wasn’t really buying anything. I was simply sampling the malls along Orchard road, the shopping center of Singapore. Their shopping street is one long strip filled with big shopping malls. Shopping mall upon shopping mall upon shopping mall. Wherever you walk you’ll see one, bigger and newer than the previous – and still they’re opening up new ones. Singaporeans sure love to go shopping.

On my way back to the hostel I got a sudden urge for ice cream. Who knew how the ice cream scene would be in the Philippines, maybe I wouldn’t get to enjoy a proper ice cream in ages (I can tell you now that they do have some delicious ice cream in Manila, not so much in the rice terrace lands of the north). I headed into the first shopping mall I could find and straight down to the food court, I would just pop in, buy ice cream and then eat it on my way back, that wouldn’t take too much time.

Then came the sushi stand. I eyed the raw slices of red salmon as I walked past, and my mouth instantly filled with water. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast – I could feel the hunger gripping at my empty stomach. Oh how good the ice cream would taste after a little sushi meal. I looked at the prices of the sets and then at the content of my wallet – a sad sight greeted me, it was almost empty.

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(Some not so very good crabstick maki rolls bought in Bangkok, Thailand)

Everything takes longer than you think

I didn’t want to risk not having a enough money for the ice cream, which was the reason I came down to this food court in the first place, so I trotted on and went looking for the ice cream stand, when I found it I noted the price, figured I’d have exactly enough money to get my sushi, my ice cream and still manage to pay my way to the airport. Perfect.

I bought a sushi set and devoured it as fast as I could. Then I went to get my ice cream kick. I already knew what I would get: lime and chocolate. Same procedure as last year, or maybe it was yesterday. While waiting in line I scanned all the plentiful of flavors behind the glass, but I couldn’t find any lime. “Do you have any lime, or lemon?” I asked, just to be sure, when finally it was my turn. The guy behind the disk shook his head. “Anything similar, something sour?” He smiled and brought forth a little spoonful of grapefruit ice cream for me to try. It was surprisingly good. I made a note in my head that I had to make sure to try other flavors than lime and chocolate now and then.

I enjoyed the sweet and cold deliciousness while walking at a brisk pace toward my hostel. The little ice cream adventure of mine had taken a lot longer than I’d first anticipated, but boy was it worth it, it was the best ice cream I’d had in ages. And still I had plenty of time. Or so I thought.

A shortcut is the longest distance between two points

My little ice cream adventure was just the beginning. Since I’d lost so much time buying it I decided on a shortcut. What a good idea it seemed like, even though my shortcuts rarely are. But this time I even had a map, how could this shortcut ever go wrong? But alas, of course it did. Suddenly there was a big wide ten lane road between me and little India where my hostel was located, and the only place to cross it was where I would have ended up if I hadn’t taken my damned “shortcut”. Well done Åsta, I thought annoyed, there you lost another ten minutes. Bummer!

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(A metro station in Singapore)

If at first you don’t succeed, you will never succeed

I finally reached the metro station, after picking up all my stuff and printing my plane ticket at the hostel. I went over to one of the ticket machines that I’d gotten quite acquainted with during my short stay and started feeding it with Singaporean dollar coins. It spitted the last 10 cent right back out. I fed the coin to the machine again, and it came right back out. I tried again and again and again. It had to work.

Feed. Spit. Feed. Spit. Feed. Spit.

Now if only I hadn’t bought that ice cream I could have tried with another coin, but these were my last and they just wouldn’t work.

Feed. Spit. Feed. Spit. Feed. Spit.

People were hurrying everywhere around me, I didn’t know what to do. I tried again, and again.

A British couple with suitcases was having the same problem a few machines away. “Just try with another one” the guy said when they saw that I was having problems.

“I don’t have another one”, I answered, starting to get slightly desperate. “I’m heading to the airport and I just have enough money for the metro fare, but it won’t take my coin.”
“Try this one”, he said and gave me the 10 cents that their machine had rejected. I put the coin into the slot, let it fall, waited for it to come right back out, but it didn’t, instead I got my ticket. Relief!

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If several things can go wrong, they will

I must admit that my initial time schedule might have been a bit tight. Not ridiculously tight, but tight enough so that even I – the extreme procrastinator, always a bit behind schedule – was starting to get slightly nervous as the doors closed right in front of me, and the train headed off without me when I had to switch metro line for a second time (this also happened the first time, of course). 7 minutes until the next train the electronic time table could inform me.  All these small delays sure were starting to add up.

When the train finally arrived and I was safely stored on it, I would catch myself checking the time constantly, but things were looking bright, I would probably arrive about half an hour before check-in closed.

There was one last change of metro lines before I arrived at the Changi Airport, and it went surprisingly well. As I finally walked into the airport I couldn’t understand why I had been the least bit worried. Sure, I’d make sure to have plenty of time the next time I were to catch a flight, but this wasn’t too bad, after all.

I started following the signs leading the way to the budget terminal, leading me down an elevator, and through slightly creepy corridors, until I reached an underground parking lot and a little bus stop. There were signs that informed me that this was the place to be if I wanted to get to the budget terminal. All I had to do was to wait for the bus.

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(A cute little ice cream cafe in Pai, Thailand).

It was all empty, not a single soul except for me. It felt so wrong, and I had this tingling realization that I might not make my flight. That this was the one time that everything wouldn’t work out in the end. I was so angry at myself. Angry for always being late, angry for just having to get that ice cream even though I knew I didn’t really have time, angry for thinking that things always turn out okay in the end if I just don’t stress it too much. Angry for not checking important factors like how far away from the main terminal the fucking budget terminal was and how I would get there.

If I had just left for the airport way earlier, none of the things that happened would have been a problem. But I didn’t and they were. I was standing all alone inside a parking house and I would have to be checked in in less than half an hour. I didn’t know if there would actually be a bus or when it would arrive, and how long it would take when it finally did.

A trickle of people with tons of luggage started to turn up. The minutes went by excruciatingly slow. No bus. I stopped stressing, whatever happened, happened. What was done was done; it was too late to do anything about it now.

By the time the bus finally arrived, the previously empty bus stop was filled to the brim with luggage hoarding people.

 

asta_skjervoy-ice_cream-02 If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something

It was ten minutes until the check-in closed when I handed over my ticket to the woman behind the check-in counter, a big smile on my face. I made it, I made it, I made it. The woman checked the ticket, checked my passport. Then she looked up at me.

“Do you have a return ticket?” A return ticket? How could I have forgotten to check such a vital detail? I’d checked the Visa rules, I knew how long I could stay with a visa on arrival, but I didn’t know I’d have to have a return ticket. Even though I’d made sure to have onward tickets from New Zealand, from Australia, from Thailand (made sure to book a fully returnable one that I cancelled as soon as I entered the country) the thought that I needed it for the Philippines hadn’t even crossed my mind.


“No” I said dumbstruck.
“I’m sorry, but you can’t fly to the Philippines without a return ticket” she said, without looking the least sorry.
“What do I do then, where can I buy a ticket?”
She pointed over to a counter at the other end of the budget terminal with a shrug that suggested that she didn’t think I’d make it in time or actually bother.

I hurried over to the desk and started my booking. I already knew which date I would leave the Philippines so it was just a matter of getting it done. I took out my VISA-card, ready to pay, but the woman behind the counter just shook her head. They only took cash. Of course! A card terminal would just have been too damn convenient. But there was an ATM near the entrance – as far away from the booking desk as I could come, naturally.

“I’m in a bit of a hurry, could you make everything ready, while I get the money, is that possible?” I pleaded, while dumping my backpacks on the floor.  Luckily she agreed. I left my passport in her care and made a run for the ATM, feeling like Lola in “Run Lola, run”, though I only had a flight on stake. Everything was ready and filled out when I came back and handed over the money. I thanked her profoundly, grabbed all my luggage and ran back to the chek-in counter. They were almost about to close.

“There we have the last passenger for the Manila flight”, the check-in woman said as I arrived for my second time. “Do you have a return ticket?” Was that a little wink? The other guys at the check-in counter smiled as well when I handed her my first hand written plane ticket in God knows how many years – they had obviously been talking about me in my absence.

As my backpack got carried away on the conveyor belt I felt extremely relieved. I actually made it! Everything did work out in the end.

As soon I was through security I definitely would have to buy some ice cream to celebrate!