Creativity and Ramblings from the heart of NYC and around the World

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Taking it Easy

This is hysterical to me. For the first time in YEARS I've planned this trip to China allowing it to move at a human pace rather than 18 hour days with 5 hours of sleep and commuting.

I'm in Shanghai being driven to the airport by my factory manager.
He speaks no English other than, "OK?" and "Please." Oh, and "Bye-bye", but that's what they say in Chinese too.
He took an alternate route after we're stuck in traffic...or rather. A U-turn into the opposite direction.
And, well...after 3 dead ends and 5 u-turns...I think he's now lost.

Oop- he just asked again which airport by repeating the airports name to me.

We drive, turn around.

Drive.

Turn around. And suddenly, after appearing to have not been going in any certain direction...
We arrive! Shanghai Hongqiaio International Airport (or what's called the local airport.)

Pull up to drop-off, park in the yellow zone and he walks me in.

Ahhh. Crisp spring day. Just the right breeze. Perfect temperature. Flight time!

***Looking at the board***
***Looking at e-ticket***
***Looking at e-ticket & board with manager***

My flight isn't listed. This never means well.

***We're walking***

Customer Assistance counter #1.
I explain in English. Factory manager explains in Chinese. We are directed to Customer Assistance #2.

***We're walking***

Factory manager pushed through the random crowd to the front.

"Chinese-Chinese-Chinese".
Finger pointing.
Paper writing.

I'm ushered to desks 67-74 for check-in.

Hand shake.
Smile.
"Bye bye."
Factory manager is off - hopefully is car is OK still in that yellow zone.

Daunting line ahead of me. I am again reminded that there is no such thing as personal space in China. None. Something those who are coming to Beijing for the Olympics should keep in mind. People behind me are practically standing on my luggage as the line crawls along.
The British know how to queue. I've witnessed the Japanese do a nice queue. To totally generalize...the Chinese, at least those at this airport, in this line...they suck at queuing. It's less a queue and more a slowly moving mosh pit. I made the terrible error of stopping for half a moment to long to open my water and they began walking OVER me. Literally.
Somehow when you shout expletives at people and they don't understand anything but the tone of your voice as you pull their luggage off of your shoulder, somehow you don't quite get the same satisfaction.

***crawling***

***more crawling***

Ah-ha! I'm up! E-ticket. Passport as ID. Loading luggage up.

"No luggage." She says.

***deer in headlights look***

"No luggage?" I ask.

"No flight. No luggage."

She takes my e-ticket & passport and walks away. No words. No explanation.
5 minutes pass.
10 minutes pass.
I wait - as if there's another choice with this woman holding my passport in hand.
She returns. She keeps giving me these looks like I am putting her out and I should be ashamed of myself. Scribbling on a paper in Chinese of course--and not just in the spaces provided. I wonder what she's writing?
My flight was cancelled. From her pointing at the calendar, I think she means it was cancelled 3 days ago. That's nice.

I'm directed to another terminal. To another airline. To another flight.

Holding onto the Chinese paper like it's gold...
***I'm walking***

Leaving terminal B entering terminal A... FWAP!

A wall of heat. Of course. Terminal B isn't air conditioned. That's nice.

I see the desks she had sent me to. I queue. I wait. I'm smiling. My turn!

"We are not servicing this flight. Go to desks 1-10."

***I'm walking***

It's now that I stop to appreciate the value of good wheels on a suitcase.
Thank you Swiss Army for making my fabulous and easy to wheel orange suitcase.

***I'm still walking***

I see the desks she had sent me to ahead at the end of the terminal. I queue. I wait. I'm smiling. My turn!

The air at the desks is at least 15F degrees hotter with no air circulation. The staff is happy. Yah, that's it. I hand over the "Golden Paper" and e-ticket and passport. She first gives me this "you've GOT to be kidding me" look...which is followed by a series of looks like I am putting her out and I should be ashamed of myself. (Are they all taught this look?)

She sighs. Pokes around the keyboard then takes the paper, leaving my passport etc. there on the desk and walks away.

3 minutes pass and those in line behind me begin to get restless. One woman pops ahead, passing others and bangs her fist on the desk front ledge apparently demanding to know whether someone was coming back. It was then she noticed me standing there. One heck of an observation I might say since I'm the only Caucasian that I've seen in this entire terminal. I don't exactly blend. She sizes me up - I wonder what she's thinking. SHE gives me the look that I AM obviously putting her out. I smile. She sighs, throws her hands in the air and resumes her spot in line. That's nice. See Mom, I'm making friends.

Over 15 minutes later the counter lady returns with a boarding pass for me and allows my luggage to go through into the x-ray machine.

***We wait. ***

2 minutes. 4 minutes. 8 minutes.

I can SEE my passport with it's frosty new friend, the boarding pass, under her hand. She's grins for the first time as she apparently reads a text on her phone that's out of sight under the desk and replies. Stoic look returns to her face.

"Luggage failed x-ray. Please go there." Pointing I see my luggage being hoisted onto a table. I guess I should now tell you that although the WHEELS are good on this luggage, the main pouches zipper pulls had been made of tin foil and all broke off on it's first voyage. I unzip the front pocket and pull out a large bobby pin which I proceed to thread through the zipper pull base and unzip my suitcase. This, of course, brings on very odd looks by the security agent assigned to my bag. He's now watching me extra closely. I'm crafty. I can feel it. There are many other agents all carefully watching as well...because only my suitcase was being searched and they all had nothing else to do.

Over the years I've had my luggage searched dozens of times. Each time they open the suitcase gently poke around and close it, doing what I consider to be a half-assed exercise in time wasting. This fellow I must confess was a master at the luggage search. I have large rectangular inner bags that I pack everything in within my luggage so I can keep things tidy and organized as I got from hotel to hotel. Everything including clothes fit into these 4 bags. I began this last year and it's surely the way to go! He took each bag out, unzipped unloaded, touched, poked and repacked. Every item in my toiletries was opened and sniffed. Every compact, eyeshadow etc was opened and sniffed. (How does he know what is something that shouldn't be sniffed?)

I waited. I repacked the bag. He nods. I go back to the friendly counter to retrieve my passport, boarding pass and e-ticket and was on my sweaty way! Yippee!

***I'm walking***

Back to the start of the terminal for the ID and handy-carry luggage security check.

I queue. I wait. I'm smiling. My turn! Aces! Passport check A-OK!

Now for the x-ray of my hand-carry...
Computer, computer bag and purse.

My necklace goes off as I pass through -- which I know because they so thoroughly wanded me that for the second time this week I'm not sure if I should be grinning or if I was just violated.

I'm called over to the security desk where all staff is standing around my purse. Because, only my purse is being searched. Everything is removed. Every lotion is smelled. Every lipstick and lip balm too. I am allowed to return it all to my purse when I see that another table has my computer bag with a new group of folks standing around to observe this.

Everything is removed and opened. Computer wires uncoiled. At one point she takes the 3 black large Sharpies in her hand and removes all caps and smelled them all at once. She nearly fell over...and yes, I refrained from smiling or laughing. No, I'm not sure how.
The near empty bag run through the x-ray again. Aces! Reload the bag.

NOW I'm on my way! Still smiling.

Accept for the plane delay...but that's another story for another day.

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3 Comments:

Blogger Knit Nurse said...

I feel your pain! Airports are the main reason why business travel is very far from glamorous!

10:29 AM

 
Blogger Dani said...

EX-huasting just reading it! But I'm glad you're safe and sound in spite of their efforts ;-)

6:08 PM

 
Blogger Rebecca said...

OMG! Kill me now!

11:56 AM

 

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