La La How The Life Goes On

Something Happened On the Way to Guangzhou

Posted on: July 23, 2011

Very few people ever get to see me cry. If you’ve missed out on this spectacle, you should have been at the Beijing airport as they told me that I actually had no ticket to get to Guangzhou. You know, the place where my husband and daughter are meeting me. The place I have to be tonight without fail. The place where we depart in 12 hours for Bambina’s hometown. The place where the last flight arriving tonight is THIS ONE. The one you say I’m not on, even though every shred of paper I own says I am. Yes, you are about to see a crazy foreign lady lose her shit right here at this window.

It’s a long, convoluted (and I found out later, common) story of how my ticket was changed by the United person when she checked my luggage from Boston to Beijing to Guangzhou, even though my flight to Guangzhou was on their codeshare Air China. Blah blah. Internal systems errors and whatnot. The upshot is, I am very seriously ready to cry because the layover is not very long and I need to be gettin’ on if I’m getting on. So I thought things were pretty bad. And then my phone died. Then I remember, with a grim combination of acid stomach and acute despondency, that even if I should find a public computer, every single email or trip contact number is in my gmail account. Gmail by Google. Google which is banned and inaccessible in China. I am stranded, and oh yes, I am FUCKED. I don’t need to elucidate all the ways in which this was a scary and unpleasant turn of events for a control freak like me, even someone who feels at home in China.

With one hour to go it became apparent to me that my only option is to purchase another ticket to Guangzhou and fight with United later. Did I mention economy was full? (Please believe you do not want to fly stand-by in China, a country of 1.3 billion people. Those are odds you don’t want to bet against). So out came the bank card (after the credit card was denied, of course, because I’m spending major ducats IN CHINA. That’s not suspicious at all.), and well, let me just say that at least I won’t be home when the mortgage check-bounce notice arrives…

So I get on the plane to Guangzhou. I hear you exhaling in relief. Not so fast, Sunshine. Because my plane is delayed for 90 minutes on the tarmac (Beijing Airport is the Dallas-Fort Worth and Chicago O’Hare of China). I arrive super late, and see (mistakenly) that the BabyDaddy and Bambina’s flight arrived two hours ago. I miss the guide waiting for me, and after wandering around looking clueless for 30 minutes (and, to be honest, having had my fill of airport strandings for one day), I follow the tour company’s emergency directive to get a cab to my hotel and call from there.

Fantastic!, you say. Except I STILL don’t have the tour company number, nor the BBDD’s pandaphone number, nor any way to charge my phone to send an email that I hope he might check. So after being heismanned by the dude behind the desk at the hotel, I follow the BBDD’s advice about receiving news you don’t like from a corporate employee: “Just ask someone else.” So I go to the concierge, who not only lets me use her desk computer, she volunteers that the hotel can loan me a charger with a Western voltage adapter. Five minutes later, I’m texting my mom and sister to look up the tour company in Minneapolis, to call my guide in China, to tell her I’m at the hotel, twenty miles from her. Come to find out, the arrivals information was incorrect on the screen and everyone had been searching for me for two hours at the airport, fearing that I’d collapsed in a bathroom stall or something. Nice! Like I’d die an Elvis-style death on this, my child’s special trip!

So when can you exhale? At 2:12am, when finally we were all together, just where we needed to be.


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