The hotel’s outdoor pool buzzed with excitement as the Floating Luggage Bridge Competition was in full swing. Each team worked quickly, lashing together their own assortment of suitcases, duffel bags and rolling handcarts to create an elaborate floating bridge across the pool. The crowd surrounding the pool laughed and cheered as they encouraged each team to build the best bridge in the shortest time.
I bobbed up and down atop my own gigantic military green duffel bag, surveying the frantic activity. My perch slowly began to tilt to one side until it finally capsized, dumping me overboard into the water. Tiny bubbles rose all around me as I sank, staring up towards the surface. My nose began to bleed, leaving a crimson steam floating topside as I descended. My butt thumped on the pool’s bottom, but I continued to watch the shifting, distorted images of the people above. A Civil War era bullet plopped into the water. It was covered in blood and left its own trail to the bottom.
I exited the pool and began searching for a means to staunch the flow of blood from my nostrils. Wondering about the hotel’s gigantic lobby, I finally found a napkin dispenser on a small round table. Seated at the table, in a comfortable looking chair, was a man reading the newspaper. He gave me a dirty look as I took some tissues.
Once the blood stopped I made my way to the front of the lobby and outside the hotel. The bustling sights and sounds of one of India’s grand cities spread out before me. A steady stream of bicycle rickshaws plucked passengers from the front of the hotel and whisked them away down the street.
I turned around to find the source of the voice. An American girl stood there smiling at me.
“Whoa,” I said. “I think that’s the first time anyone here has ever said a word to me!”
She just laughed and started down the steps from the hotel to the queue of rickshaws. I could only stand there in shock, mouth agape at this incredible event. As she jogged down the steps I noticed her blue t-shirt had a gray 4 on the back. She hopped in a rickshaw and the pilot pedaled away.
Recovering from my amazement, I sprinted down the steps and jumped into the back of the first empty carriage.
“Follow that 4!”
The rickshaw driver stomped on the pedals and we shot out into the street leaving sideswiped vehicles and angry shouts behind us. Number 4 was nearly out of sight when my driver cut across a roundabout against traffic, scattering rickshaws and cyclists onto the sidewalks as they crashed into one another. The street took a sharp right turn to bypass a long series of steps down a hill. Mounting the curb, my rickshaw shot up into the air, flying over a series of majestic fountains to come skidding to a stop just in front of Number 4’s parked carriage. I raised my hands in triumph.
My victory was short lived as I noticed the passenger of the rickshaw we just intercepted was a woman wearing a #44 shirt, not 4.