Chaos and relativity


Nope. I did not take a sudden liking to physics. In fact, our academic field of study was on world religions, and even on that, I paid little attention as civil rights and the anti-Vietnam protests raged in continental U.S. while I was poring over texts.

Between departures from Saipan to my return in 14 days, I saw chaos and relativity in close quarters. I began at Asiana (OZ) that took me to Hanguk. I was told to check in two-and-a-half hours before departure time. The flight was always full being the sole carrier to my destination.

The line into the security booths was a chatterbox of Zhonghua (Chinese), Nippongo (Japanese), and Hangul (Korean), with a spattering of English. Indo-Malay based native Chamorro and Carolinian were not to be heard, save among the airport guides. I was the lone Pinas.

A ground lady escorted us halfway past the long line. I suspect that designated places for passengers of the three sequential flights leaving the airport were assigned. I was headed for cold Dong Bei so I wore a long-sleeved undershirt of the kind normally worn by construction workers, under another long-sleeved dress shirt. The inside was not made of cotton of our familiar but of polyester, inexpensively sold in outlets. It was warm all right but I was still in the tropics.

Naming the situation through chaos (in mathematics) was more realistic than politely calling it relativity (physics); the former incorporates the emotive response of the affected party.

At the Saipan airport, security checked documents, opened an extra line for elders and families with children only. I asked the officer at the security booth if I qualified to join the elders, and he looked at my passport, saw my age to be 70, and directed me to join the newly opened line. When I got to the x-ray machine, the lady said that the elders’ rule was for those 75 and older. I was sent back to the rest of the crowd.

I had been on crackers and cheese diet since November and was delighted to see that 5 kilos had come off my weight. When I got past to where one took off shoes and belt, I walked into the pat-down section and the guy told me to raise my arms. That’s when the pants without the belt slid down. Now, those who were watching gave a quiet smirk, and if the pants were that loose, I lost considerable weight. So I was not embarrassed. I only wished I was wearing long johns!

When the designated time to board arrived, passengers formed a line at the gate, though the scheduled flight arrived 30 minutes late. We dutifully stood on line until the crew got the plane ready. Infants wailed in their mothers’ arms. The first food tray that came down the aisle once the plane was aloft was full of Gerber jars. Yup, the Gerber generation got the stewards’ attention first. It was an hour later before I was asked to choose between chicken porridge and hotdog pancakes. A Chihuahua-sized hotdog came with my pancakes!

We arrived at Incheon 36 minutes before my connecting flight to Dalian. I had to retrieve a boarding pass at a transfer desk. I quit smoking eons before and with two computers in a backpack plus a camera with accessories, the run to the gate taxed the lungs and trembled the knees, but I made it ahead of six other passengers. The flight to Dalian was bursting at the seams. Seated in 42D, which along with E in the midsection, I was between two ladies who thought my being in China made it obligatory that I spoke rudimentary Chinese. We didn’t exchange a word during the two-hour flight.

Arriving later than the earlier forecast, I hightailed it from the Dalian airport to the North Railway Station. A friend’s niece was supposed to meet a luggage she sent. She didn’t show up so I lugged the bag into the train bound for Shenyang. 

The relativity of chaos frenzied. At security, the guard asked me to open one of the bags and the zipper broke. So the help got tape (cost me 5rmb) and by the time the bag was wrapped, the train was loading on the other side of a huge station so one of the guys got his cart and took my two pieces of luggage plus two small ones (20rmb/$3 for two pieces and the small ones, pro bono, he said) and got me into the train on time. I will not reduce the nature of human transactions into a physics formula. I could never decipher Einstein’s e=mc2 anyway, and this relativity was chaos in motion. 

The last time I took the Dalian-Shenyang train, I was unloaded at the North Station, but this time the train stopped only in the South on its way to Changchun and Harbin. The station was two times the distance to my home. 

The taxi driver tried to negotiate a price, as is the custom; I pay meter readings, I said. He took a second passenger who got off before I did and paid the meter. Then the taxi driver flagged it up and said, he will take me to where I was going at the same price. Chaos got personal, arriving at 9pm in the dark without a key to the apartment door. Einstein at Princeton would have smiled.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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