The Motorbike Chronicles, Part VII: Just Sign On the Dotted Line

Location: Vientiane, Laos

Yesterday, Jack went back to the hospital to finish up negotiations. At first, Mr. Pathoummakong and his wife refused the $700 they’d agreed upon the day before and raised their price to $800. The negotiations worsened over the next hour and they were about to leave the hospital without a resolution when Jack pulled the thick stack of bills out of his wallet to show the couple. 

When Mr. and Mrs. Pathoummakong saw the wad of cash, everything changed. There were no hesitations. They signed the papers agreeing that the accident had been settled outside of court, that no police action was necessary. As soon as the money was in his hands, Mr. Pathoummakong, who had previously said he couldn’t sit up without dizziness, sat up and encouraged the film crew to snap photos of him with Jack. Afterwards, Jody said that he and his wife had probably just never seen so much money at once. They couldn’t refuse it. 

The look Mr. Pathoummakong wears in the photos makes me cringe. 

It’s all good, guys.

Today, Jack rode with Jody and the film crew back to Nakam with the signed agreement. It’s funny that a single, folded sheet of computer paper printed with a single paragraph (translated into two languages) and two fresh signatures can change a desperate situation so quickly. The police were apparently cheery when Jack arrived and even more excitable after he handed over the non-negotiable $250 “police investigation” fee. The chief officer unlocked the first drawer in his desk and pulled out Jack’s passport, handed it over just like that. 

More photos, more smiles, more hugging, more hand shaking, and all that bullshit. 

No worries, dudes. No worries at all. Thanks for the fun times.

We’ve booked bus tickets to Luang Prabang and our ride, a double-decker sleeper bus, leaves in t-minus one hour. I’m nervous as hell. I feel cursed. When the film crew asked for one last take of us all getting ready to depart and we acted out our staged walk down one of Vientiane’s streets, I noticed Baby’s sold motorbike parked out front of the new owner’s hostel. The chipped green exterior, purple and gold Honda sticker peeling off it, and its broken, dusty speedometer stared back at me menacingly. I could feel the bike laughing at us as we faked our silly, smiling parade for the cameras. It was our so-called happy ending; that last, classic shot as characters in a B-grade flick, backs to the camera as we became smaller and smaller and finally exited the screen.