Greetings from Beijing airport. After a month of traveling, this is my last stop before a flight home. I will have circumnavigated the globe (entirely unintentionally) as of 7pm tonight, Toronto time.
I’m online now via the “free” airport wifi in Beijing airport. To get a login name I had to scan my passport into a machine. Who knows what kind of identity fraud I’ve just opened myself up to? First thing I did was to check my Gmail… in the wake of a series of high profile Gmail hacks originating from China. I’m sort of surprised that Google products are accessible at all here!
I say that not lightly, because I’ve been unable to access either Facebook or Twitter. So for my readers who can’t access my “wisdom” in those fora, I say: “Beijing, bitches!” Happy, now?
After two weeks of interesting, and sometimes frustrating, Indian inefficiency, I was looking forward to some good old-fashioned one-party-rule getting-things-doneness. The way international transfers work here is that you get off your incoming flight, go to an “international transfer” desk to get your boarding pass for the next flight, then go through Chinese passport control and security before re-entering the departure lounge.
So I arrived at the international transfer desk and proudly presented my passport and itinerary and asked for my boarding pass to Toronto. It was 12:15 pm.
The fellow said, “Sir, yours is an Air Canada flight. The Air Canada desk is not open yet. Please wait until 12:20 for that desk to open.”
So I took a seat across from the desk and waited. And waited. An hour passed. So I stood up and asked about my flight again. Same guy hands me a boarding pass and says, “your flight will leave from gate E14.”
Now, the important part about this story is that nothing had changed. No one came to the desk, nothing new was printed and there was no phone activity. He just had me waiting there for an hour before handing me the boarding pass which had been sitting on his desk.
But then the worst part about this segment happened. Let me preface this bit by saying that you don’t mess with Chinese security. They take shit seriously.
Now, I’ve been traveling with an Acuball (TM) for nearly 3 years now. I have two herniated discs, and nothing has given me joy and relief like the Acuball. I sleep with it and I travel with it. It’s the perfect back support. Here’s a pic:
The Acuball comes in a set of two: a large one for the spine and a small one for the foot. And they’re blue. (Heh heh.) But I only ever use the large one.
I’ve written about my adventures with my sturdy Acuball before, as in this post. And I’ve taken it around the world with me. I think I’ve taken it to over 12 countries and on well over 100 flights. Sometimes security gives it a shake or asks me about it, but it never goes beyond that.
But in Beijing, the security folks picked it up, examined it, waved a naughty finger at me (seriously), then –gasp!– tossed it in the trash! THE TRASH!
My heart literally sank. For one thing, the Acuball goes for something like $75. The thing ain’t cheap! And for another…. the trash! Why? Was I going to hijack the plane by giving all the pilots better spinal health?
Just met a nice Korean fellow who’s practicing his broken English while taking his family to Oslo. That kind of courage –to enter a whole new world without the benefit of language– is one of the great things about travelers. Meeting him helps to quell the absolute anguish I feel over losing my Acuball.
So I will end this post here and go find a bar. I need to raise a glass to my little blue balls.