Bungy in Patong

To be a successful pharmacist one must possess something of an obsessive compulsive personality. The drugs have to be stacked on the shelves in such a way as to minimise the risk of accidentally giving Mrs Blogs antidepressants in place of blood pressure tablets. Every time a script is presented there are a series of checks to be done, such as their compatibilities, dosages and timing of dose. Not to mention numerous checks to ensure government concession cards are valid. These checks must be done with every script, however the obsessive checking needs to be somewhat controlled otherwise customers will be left waiting for half an hour just for a simple antibiotic. Fretting mothers with pyjama-clad kids would understandably be upset at the wait and business would suffer. Community pharmacy, therefore, is a balancing act between keeping the customers happy and keeping them healthy.

Pharmacy is an important job, Mrs Goggin needs to know that side effects may include barking like a sea lion and delusions of grandeur. Mr Blyth must be told to, ‘see his doctor if symptoms do not improve’, yellow warning stickers need careful placing to tell you that sleeping tablets may cause drowsiness. Seriously now, I do not want to downplay the importance of the pharmacist in healthcare but, these days with the internet returning diagnosis of life threatening disease at a frenetic rate I found that much of my time in ‘past life’ was occupied with reassuring customers that a pimple is just that, not the first sign of metastatic liver cancer. Customers aside, the routines and systems in place safeguard and maintain a happy pill popping community.

Throughout my career I mostly controlled my obsessive nature while also avoiding selling pep pills to schizophrenics. This obsessive aspect of my personality definitely worked in my favour during my sticker adhering career, but I quickly realise that these traits are something of a hinderance to my evolution into a footloose traveler. I have planned my trip down to the last detail; airport transfers arranged to and from every hotel stay, accommodation booked well in advance.

Even the way I pack my bag has quickly became systemised with checks in place. My banking widget and pocket knife clip to a string inside the top pocket of my pack, I have a spare credit card taped inside the padding of my rucksack, another in my little bag, one in my wallet. I pack the big red rucksack in reverse order of clothes needed. For example, my next stop is Thailand which means hot weather so I pack my warm jacket and jeans at the bottom, followed by light pants and shorts at the very top ready for use. My small backpack has a specific spot for my laptop, camera and wallet, my sunglasses live in the front pocket, spare camera cards in a leather change purse. I find comfort in knowing exactly where everything is, kind of like a buffer against any cultural shock or unexpected surprises, not that I have any planned.

With the smell of way too much Everest lager lingering on my breath a pre-booked private taxi shuttles me from the airport in Patong to the Hotel Graceland. I check in and neatly fold my clothes on the bench to ensure everything is in order. Shoes are neatly lined up next to my clothes, I have checked my small pack to ensure nothing is missing. Next I hide inside my room for two days, eating hotel hamburgers, watching bad movies and being too timid to venture further than a few blocks.

Halfway through a forgettable scene where Richard Gere is busily flashing his winning smile I look outside to the shining sun, remember why I left Tasmania and mentally slap myself in the face. Richard Gere was never meant to be part of my intrepid adventure. Throwing caution to the wind I check out of this luxury hotel early and pay my hefty room service bill. I shake off two days of catatonia and strike out to find adventure. With my red rucksack on my back I nervously flag down a local taxi and move to a slightly more gritty hotel closer to the beach. Having wasted two out of five in Patong I shake my pack empty onto the floor, hastily arrange my clothes and find the nearest tourist information centre. I need to book some activities to avoid this catatonia, the first activity I book is a bungy jump that afternoon.

A pre-booked taxi drops me at the bungy centre where I am greeted by a heavily tattooed and very bored looking man with a New Zealand accent. Behind and above Tattoos is another man, pale and overweight he quivers high on a ledge and does not dare look down. This sight makes me chuckle confidently and think,

‘I have recently done scarier things than this. This will present no significant challenge sir.’

I watch the man shake on his ledge for a few long minutes before he jumps. More to the point, he leans out into the emptiness too far and before he can catch himself gravity takes control of the situation. Like a surprised fish on a line he silently plummets until the cord catches him and bounces him up and down a few times. Red faced and visibly shaken he is lowered to a pontoon over the shallow dirty lake where he is released from his bindings. He jumps to his feet before scuttling to a waiting taxi, which he no doubt directs to the nearest bar. I am now left alone at the bungee centre with Tattoos. Random bird noises from a nearby wetlands punctuate a heavy silence over the grounds.

Now it is my turn to test gravity. The dark skinned man in a faded bungee T-shirt wraps a towel then some straps around my ankles before calling his colleague over to check as a rusting crane creaks nearby under the weight of the platform. The second man lowers my confidence in this operation further by undoing the whole assembly and retying my legs. The rickety crane laboriously hoists me and the dark skinned man about fifty metres up into the air over the water. He is trying to make friendly conversation in pidgin English as we rise, asking questions such as,

‘Do you like here? and Where from you?’

‘Yes. Tasmania, in Australia’

As I speak the view around me opens up to reveal lush green jungle. The ground slowly drops away taking with it my ability to maintain casual conversation, it is all right for this guy, he only has a commercial interest in the fraying straps around my legs, mine is much more personal. At least the centre is empty so there is no one to hear me scream like a little girl. My mind throws up a random image of a lone spacecraft orbiting earth; ‘In space, no one can hear you scream.’ The crane shudders to an unconvinced halt but I continue shuddering as I look down. Near the car park I see a group of drunk but beautifully tanned tourists materialise from the kiosk, apparently in Thailand there is always someone to hear you scream.

I must look quite a sight up on that ledge, last night I checked out my skinny frame in the mirror. Twenty-eight days of hard trekking at altitude has left my face dark above a snow white torso, I am now long bearded with very unkempt hair. In short I would be able to scare small children without breaking a sweat. At least I am starting to look like a footloose traveler, if not always acting the part. I force all thoughts of breaking bungy cord out of my mind and instead focus on executing a graceful swan dive. I look down, trust that Ameshi has not left me, gulp and jump.

Despite trying to keep all my openings clenched, at mid-plummet I let out a little squeak of fear. Two weightless seconds later the cord grabs and slows my fall. A few upside down bounces stills me, hanging by my feet over the dirty water. My head fills with blood and I can feel a rapid pulse pounding in my temples as I wait for the crane to lower me onto the jetty. Once safely on the platform and full of adrenaline I let the man talk me into doing another jump, this time in reverse.

My feet are tethered firmly as I stand next to the pond, the bungy cord is attached by a hefty harness to my chest and slowly extended by raising the crane platform, I hear my back cracking as the strain increases. My feet are now hovering about two inches above the ground and I can feel a great deal of the tension in the rope through my legs. The little Thai man counts down aloud from five and pulls the knot around my feet on,

‘One’

But nothing happens.

He looks up at me with a bemused expression before crouching down to inspect the knot more closely. He yanks the rope a few times and looks up at me apologetically as I bob up and down slightly. He then gives one final big pull and falls backwards. I do not see him complete this fall as I suddenly launch up towards the top of the crane. Somewhat surprised by this sudden departure I yell all the way, my yell turns into a laugh then into manic chuckling as I run out of breath.

Back to the hotel and feeling somewhat proud to have achieved something, even a very touristy something, I check that my room is still in order before braving the gauntlet of alleys that lead to the beach. I dodge lady boys and massage parlours to find an Irish pub free from molestation. A few hours are spent sipping beer and watching a steady parade of fat tourists with their young girlfriends. Thinking about the bungy I mentally pat myself on the back and feel totally relaxed, ready to scuba dive the next day.

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