The Luckiest Boy in Southeast Asia

Yesterday afternoon, my brother Tom walked to Malaysia. I'm not using "walked to Malaysia" as a euphemism for anything, and it's not some hip new street lingo that the kids are all using. I mean he actually walked to Malaysia. From Singapore. For the evening.

The walk between countries, apparently, only took 20 minutes; although Singapore is officially an island, it's joined to Malaysia by a causeway. I've been across it myself, but only as part of a huge, involved, complicated excursion to the basement of a suburban shopping center to pick up pirated copies of 13 Going on 30 and Just Like Heaven. (Shut up, I like Mark Ruffalo. I like him enough to get arrested.) We are not a family who just walks into Malaysia willy-nilly. There is always some planning first. We always take snacks. And a map.

Tom's mission was shrouded in secrecy. We'd been out shopping for the whole day with my mother, and when we got home it was close to 5pm. He said "am I needed for the rest of the evening? It's just I've really got do something, and I can't tell you what it is. But I need to do it tonight." He made Luke, Susie, and I promise not to tell our parents where he was going or what he was doing, and then he left. Clutching his passport.

The thing you should know about Tom is that he's sort of a little scatterbrained. He loses things easily. He forgets things easily. He has sort of a laissez-faire attitude towards most things and yet he seems to get away with it all. He flies by the seat of his pants, coasting along on a mixture of charm, wit, and cheekbones. I'm fairly willing to bet he's scaled more walls than most people. Because most people don't come home drunk without their keys half the time. Or their shoes.

All through dinner, my parents kept wondering and worrying about where Tom had gone. They were particularly concerned that he had taken his passport with him. Susie and I did our best to reassure them by saying things like "oh, I'm sure he's just smoking crack somewhere," and "hmm, perhaps he went to a strip bar." My father said "he's not getting married, is he? Would you tell us if he was getting married?" While we were watching a movie later, my mother suddenly turned to me and said "Oh, no! Is he GETTING A TATTOO?" When I said, "nah, I'm sure he's just picking up a prostitute and dealing some heroin," I think it was a relief.

Around 10pm, Tom finally came home, victorious. He burst into the apartment, and jubilantly threw a Malaysian newspaper onto the table in front of my parents. "I've been to Malaysia!" he said. "But it's fine! I'm home! I did what I needed to do! It's all okay!" Just like they always do, things had worked out for Tom. He'd remembered suddenly late in the afternoon that his visa had run out the day before; in order to renew it, he needed to leave the country. Rather than tell my mother---whom he assumed would have gone crazy at this typical display of irresponsible behavior, even though she swears that she wouldn't have---he decided to take matters into his own hands. He walked 20 minutes to the subway station, caught a subway to a bus station 40 minutes away, took a bus to the Singapore border, then stood in a line for 15 minutes before being taken into a room and yelled at for 15 more. Then he was allowed to walk across the No Man's Land to Malaysia, where he found the passport place, was issued a new visa, and turned around and walked right back into Singapore.

He was very pleased with himself when he arrived home. Obviously most of all because he hadn't been caned, but also because he'd managed to wait until the last minute to do something that should have been done a long time ago, then do it without losing anything, forgetting anything, or incurring any parental wrath. "See, it all worked out!" he said. "It always does!" We all went to bed laughing at his wacky ability to get away with it all. "Oh, that Tom!" we said. "Such a cut-up! Such a harlequin! How does he do it?"

This morning, my mother was coming back from her 7:30am exercise class when she noticed a sign stuck to the double glass doors of our apartment building. She peered a little closer. But really, as soon as she saw that it said "Passport Found," she knew who it referred to. Because, please, could it have BEEN anyone else?

Dec 31, 2005

Because you didn't say it, I will: TOM IS STUPID! He also had it coming! I mean, he did yell at me when I asked if I could come to Malaysia with him, though I asked before I knew he WASN'T going to a strip club... A male strip club.

Props to Sean and his Photoshop skills for blurring the numbers out. Just like they do with nipples on TV.

Dec 31, 2005

Wait, there was a picture of Tom's nipples and I missed it??

Dec 31, 2005

great story! and something i would totally do.

susie get a blog already the world is waiting!

Dec 31, 2005

I love that he went through all of that and then lost the passport. That is hilarious.

Susie does need a blog. And I'm going to have to start scouring the archives looking for the fork in the head story.

Jan 01, 2006

Yeah, I went through the whole thing and I still can't find the story about the fork. Would you please direct me to where it is? Oh and I have now had to download the Ok Go album off of iTunes because of that video. Which I couldn't even watch the whole thing because my computer sucks but what I saw was very funny.

Jan 01, 2006

I think Tom has another brother somewhere, long-lost perhaps, and I think also that I married him. What relation this makes me to you, I have no idea and am probably afraid to begin trying to sort it out. Okay, so he lost his passport. But did he have his towel? If I know Tom like I think I know Tom (and, although I don't know him at all, I'm allegedly married to his separated-at-birth brother), even if his passport had gone he would absolutely always know where his towel was. Real froods, these guys.

Jan 01, 2006

What a great story! I would love to hear the details from Tom, if he feels like writing about it and you would accept a guest poster. I'm absolutely fascinated by other countries, especially from the perspective of those who live there (or real travelers, not tourists), and I wish we had more opportunity to travel - alas, must wait until the children are older and we can pawn them off on relatives (more easily, anyway).

Jan 01, 2006

DM, the fork-in-the-head story is actually at, in the comments.

And Susie, GET A BLOG. Jesus, I'll set it up for you if I have to.

Jan 02, 2006

How many people need to say it woman? GET A BLOG. A Sister Susie Blog.

Jan 02, 2006

I can't believe I know someone just like him. Her name is Jennifer and she is the younger sister of one of my best friends. Amazing.

Jan 03, 2006

I am still astounded that I managed to travel abroad for an entire month this summer without losing my passport once. So unlike me. Bragging about successfully pulling off a last-minute anything is, however, very much like me.

Jan 04, 2006

Tom learned how to use the subway?

Jan 04, 2006

oh. wow. and your camera was so readily available? did you leave the sign up for a while and taunt him with it? did you ask him where his passport was just because you knew? did you call the person who found it, and then claim it for him, but leave the sign up for him to find so HE could call and find out that they no longer had it? because if you had that TOTALLY would have been worth filming and then posting it here for The Internet.