Probably most people would advise you not to rent your first car in downtown Bangkok.
The Avis guy looked worried.
He drew us a detailed map on how to get out of Bangkok. Turn here. Avoid that. Pay here. It was beautiful, really. The lines and arrows and labels and warnings stretched across the back of an available envelope.
Unfortunately (but probably predictably) we missed the first major turn.
It was a slow motion catastrophe, looking across the car at each other and realizing there was no way we could get across the four lanes of traffic between us and our turn.
I stared at the durian (that notoriously smelly fruit) fine sticker stuck a little crooked where the oil change decal usually goes. The motorcycles whizzed and whirred and buzzed past us, filtering through the otherwise standstill traffic.
Then green light. Plan B. A few more missed turns. Whoops, I guess that was the freeway entrance? Then another missed freeway entrance. Something kind of like a roundabout but with fewer rules. Red light. Red light. Near tuk tuk collision. I was starting to feel like making it out of the city with no fatalities would be a major accomplishment.
And then, watching the rhythm of the motorcycles wash past us another red light, something slid gently into place. The rules were different, but they were there. Subtler than a turn signal, but still, there.
We finally did everything right, made it up and out of the city. Speeding along on a mercifully empty highway, I took my first big breath since getting in on the wrong side of the car two hours earlier.