The Chinese Experience

 

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As soon as I tried to check in for my flight, the agent informed me there was no such leaving at the time.  Not exactly what I wanted to hear before a business meeting.  Amidst the confusion I discovered it was a code share flight, and they wanted me to check in with the operating airline, which is usually not the case, but..the Chinese have their way.
After finding my flight information, the agent informed me that I would have to sit in the back of the plane, because the front rows would be empty to balance out luggage weight.  The only flights I’ve ever been on where my seat weight mattered were on 10 seater planes in Hawaii, but..the Chinese have their way.

When I boarded the plane, there were still scattered passengers in the front rows.  Sure enough, I had been placed in the last possible row, as if any inch forward would have tipped the plane.  When I asked the flight attendants if I could move, they readily agreed.  I moved to the front of the plane without triggering the silliest accident of the year.

The meal served was reasonably tasty (for an airplane meal).  Though as a I picked through my noodles, I found a number sticker at the bottom that was clearly meant for the lid rather than the interior.  I asked for another, and it was switched silently without apology…the Chinese have their way.

As we streamed out of baggage claim, the swarms funneled back through a “line” meant for customs.  But there was no line in the typical sense of the word.  The movement of people depended on the ebb and flow of the channel; there was no holding your place in line and cutting was encouraged.  If you could make it to that position in the mob, you deserved to be there.

I planned to take a taxi after exiting the subway, and when I asked the subway attendant for help she pointed in a general direction with an annoyed look.  There was definitely no taxi stand at the exit she pointed at.  Outside, the skies were grey and a fine drizzle splattered the pavement.

I decided my best bet for a taxi would be from the shiny looking mall across the street.  Sprinting through muddy puddles, I finally ended up at a roped line marked “taxi”, where I waited..and waited…and waited.  The person ahead of me managed to get a taxi, but I was out of luck, and when I asked the nearby parking attendant why there weren’t any taxis, he said: “Oh, taxis don’t come here unless they are dropping people off.”  When I finally flagged down a taxi on the street, he dropped me off 2 blocks away from my destination, despite insisting he knew where it was.  I’d already put my heels on in the car, and as I struggled down the road with the skies spitting on me, I still smelled the unmistakeable odor of smoke.  The 2 other people sharing the sidewalk were smoking in the rain!  The Chinese…

I walked into the building sopping wet.  The smoke I’d picked up on my clothes mingled with ash tainted stale air inside the building, and I started actually looking forward to breathing HK air.  One consolation was that I’d have access to an office bathroom soon.  The building was clearly dated, so I was not expecting much, but my heart still sank as I walked closer to the ladies room.  The door was cranked wide open, revealing an out of order sink covered in blue tarp.  If I’d wanted to pump milk there was nowhere to hide.  There was not even space to set down my bags and straighten my suit.  I settled for smoothing rain water through my wild hair.  When in China…

The meeting was ok, and in an attempt to avoid getting stuck in Shanghai traffic, I had booked a 9pm flight out.  I already knew it would be delayed, rain notwithstanding.  After my flight was delayed 2 hours, we arrived back in HK having missed the last airport train to the city.  My entire plane got in line for a taxi.

And this, folks, is China.

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