Friday, September 2, 2011

China 2011 Chapter 1

“Excuse me, but do you enjoy queues?” Zai Jian, London; Ni hao, Beijing
I surreptitiously write this in a dark room. [note: I am in my hotel in the PRC. It is 4am.]
There are some days where you know you shouldn’t attempt to do anything: Do not get out of bed, do not try to cook (stay away from sharp objects and use the microwave as much as possible), do not operate heavy machinery (including the dishwasher, washer/dryer, ladders, a vehicle), do not wear high heels if you do have to leave your house for whatever reason. I attribute this eerie feeling to my 7th grade science teacher, Mr. K – , who taught us about biorhythms. According to this theory, there are just some days where you are so fucking out of it (all three emotional, mental and physical states are at their cyclical troughs) that you should just save yourself an accident and stay in bed. Previous incidents on my end have included (but are not limited to) the following: (1) one incident of taking the E train to the Heights instead of to my work in midtown Manhattan, and thirty minutes later, realizing that this train is not full of the “usual” morning work crowd (2) one incident of taking 3 separate, wrong tubes to try to get to Baker Street Stop to meet my girlfriends, Emma and Lea, for lunch. They were so concerned that I was told to stop moving and stand where I was and report to them by phone all my surroundings. They then came and retrieved me. (3) one incident involving my pant leg’s being stuck at the bottom of an escalator at a Paris train station, which ended in a Parisian National Guard’s having to cut my pants off (he shrugged; pulled out his knife, I shrugged, succumbed my pants) (4) one very special incident involving my realizing that I had forgotten to wear underpants half-way through the day.
I have never done the following: been an alcoholic, dropped acid, done shrooms, any other illicit drug. Why make things worse when a few times a year, I feel as if I wake up having taken 10 mg of home-grown-looney already?
Today (or, yesterday given the time-difference), was one of those special “stay-in-bed” days. But given that my flight for Beijing was scheduled for that afternoon, I had no choice but to take precautionary methods:
“Juli, this confirmation says I leave at 4pm from Heathrow on August 5.”
“Yes, that’s today”
“So 4pm is this afternoon, and it is 11am right now. Today is August 5th?”
“So, today, I catch a flight from Heathrow in a few hours to Beijing.”
“I should leave soon then.”
“Yea, but don’t forget your passport that you left in my room.”
“Oh shit.”
I made it to the airport (hold your applause, please), but not without having one of those conversations you wish you could have just left in your own imagination. There are those moments when you engage with a person, and you know all you need to do is walk away and play “I don’t speak your language”, but instead, you find yourself using all your energy yelling at them for some stupid miscommunication. Here’s what happened.
I left the Picadilly line tube to enter into Heathrow but bought a single ticket as, since it is “you’re fucked day” (so says biorhythms), I left my oyster card at home. As I was trying to enter the Heathrow terminal, I realized that my ticket wasn’t being accepted. The floor-cleaning lady, a West Indies woman with beautiful orange eye-shadow and shiny, braided hair, told me to hop on the back of another passenger who was going through the tube-exit-turnstall. I did.
Immediately, a man in a blue (very official looking) shirt grabbed me and said, “Where’s your ticket.”
“You owe one pound. Give me one pound.”
“If you could wait until I got my purse out, I can procure the pound. I don’t just have pounds hanging off my dress.” [fucking shit, why didn’t I shut the fuck up]
“OK, you have to give me one pound. Your ticket is zone 1, and this is zone 6.”
“I understand, but I need you to wait for about 10 extra seconds. Is that too much? Can you do that?” [go to hell, Pan]
I shuffled through my three bags. He took the pound, and I waited to see if he needed anything else from me.
Meanwhile, my home-girl washing the floors came over to say, “Why did you let him catch you? You have wrong ticket! You should have the other ticket! Why did you let him catch you?!” I didn’t know I was supposed to make a run for it.
The gentleman in the blue shirt came back to tell me off once again, to which I responded with an extremely pointed and serious stare, “Do you enjoy queues? Do you enjoy following rules and coloring within the lines?” [fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck!]
With that comment, he terminated our conversation.
So none of the above needed to happen on a normal day, but because it was a “stay-in-bed” day, I found myself – in horror – as a witness to my own, uncontrolled actions. It’s like wanting to say “purple” but finding yourself shouting “yellow!” instead.
* * * * *
Flying is rarely fun once you pass the age of 8. This is a perfect example of what I hate about flying: It’s the dead of airplane-space-twilight-zone night (so, it’s really morning where you’re going and afternoon where you came from), and people are trying to sleep. Finally, the person next to you in the aisle seat has fallen asleep, and we all know from flying experiences that this is a rare and special thing. Unfortunately, that is also when you realize your bladder has been ignored for the past 5 hours. You sit there, uncomfortable and panicked at the thought of either having to wake up “unknown man sleeping like a baby” to the left or accidentally wetting yourself. Nobody wins either way. You wish for some turbulence (please, shake up the goddamn plane and everyone in it now!), a loud baby, small technical glich scare, anything, to wake up “unknown man sleeping like a baby” to the left. Two agonizing hours later, he stirs! He awakes! Your bladder is doing a victory dance! You stare and blink at him with infinite happiness, relief, expectation, and impatience. He looks at you like you’re a freak whose been watching him in his sleep.
This is why I hate flying.
* * * * * *
I also have a unique relationship with airport security that requires my arriving at the airport an hour earlier than the suggested times. This is because I am on TSA’s “list”. This means that I am always selected for “random” check, which means I follow a very gender-sensitive man and his accompanying gender-sensitive friend to a glass room where I have my photos taken in various positions that suggest I am “running away from the scene of a crime”. The two gender-sensitive individuals are then too sensitive to do the pat-down, so they call a not-so-gender-sensitive female to come in and finish the check-up.
I was first given a warning when I accidentally forgot my cycling flat tire patch kit (CO2 cartridge, CO2 cartridge, sharp objects) in my carry on after Collegiate Nationals in 2008. My parents were sent the official letter after Ironman Hawaii when a similar thing happened. My mother was not happy.
“Pan, what illegal things are you doing?”
“I am not doing anything illegal.”
“Why is the United States sending me a letter to our home?”
“Oh, that? I don’t know, I accidentally brought CO2 cartridges on the plane. It was for cycling.”
“Why did you do that?”
“For cycling. I forgot.”
“But it’s illegal.”
“I know.”
“Why are you doing illegal things?”
And so on…
* * * * * *
But, my friends, you will be happy to hear that despite waking up on a “don’t get out of bed day”, I have safely arrived in Beijing. My cousin’s husband, S – , took me to the hotel, where I immediately got into bed and stayed out of trouble for the next six hours. Now, today – here in Beijing time – we are in a new day, and I am allowing myself to be released to the public.
Big love. Pan Pan
August 5/6, 2011

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