November 24, 2010

A Preview from: My Moving Diary

2 January, 2008.  Raleigh, NC:  “I don’t think you can fly into China on a one-way ticket,” the woman at the Delta check-in counter says.  Her vest has these sad plastic wings pinned on. 
            “Are you saying that I can’t get into the country, or that I need to buy a return ticket?” 
            She thinks for a second.  “I don’t know,” she says.  “How long do you plan on staying in China?”

I'm actually moving to China, but two different people told me not to say that.   This is what I say instead:

“I’m just going to roam around the country for a while.”   
“Um, OK, you can figure this out when you get to JFK.  Have a good flight.” 

JFK Airport:  I check into Air China, get my boarding pass, and keep my mouth shut.   

Air China:  I’m the only White person boarding the plane.  Oops – there’s one more.  The plane is a double-decker.  I’m downstairs.  Everyone around me is speaking Mandarin or shouting Mandarin.  I have a window seat.  I sit down and watch people in the aisle shove each other from behind. 

There's an impulsive air onboard.  As we taxi down the runway, a man stands up to rummage through the overhead compartment.  The stewardess storms over and berates him.  I mean she lets him have it.  She points to his seat, and yells at him like a dog.  The man looks away like a dog, too.   
     “No!  Bad!”  I imagine her saying.  “You know what you’ve done.  Now sit!”   

I half expect her to bust out a choke collar.

The man behind me has his knees in the seat, talking to the man behind him.  They’re using ‘outside voices,’ even though they’re close enough to play patty cake.  The captain comes over the speakers and speaks Chinese.  I look out the window to make sure we’re still in America.   

I eat a Xanax.  We are prepared for takeoff. 

Somewhere over the Arctic Circle:  I wake up feeling naked.  The overhead lights are off.  My wedding ring is gone.  I use my iPod as a light and search the floor.  A knot tightens in the pit of my stomach. 

I search my immediate area before hitting the flight attendant CALL button.  I still have a pretty good buzz on; otherwise, I don’t know if I would have done that.

The girl comes over.  “I lost my wedding ring,” I say.   

She shakes her head.  She doesn’t speak English.   

At this point, I don’t know why this surprises me.  I point to my finger, tapping the spot where my ring used to be.  No luck.  I point to the ring of the man beside me.  He’s asleep.  Everyone’s asleep.  She’s trying real hard to understand what I’m saying. 

In a last ditch effort, I point to my ring finger again and say “Poof!” 

Poof is a magical word to this flight attendant.   It gives her clarity.  And not only that, it gives her the power to disturb sleeping passengers without remorse.   

The woman in the aisle seat gets it first.  The flight attendant prods her on the shoulder.  She comes to with a jolt.  I’m standing.  The flight attendant’s standing.  We’re both looking at her.  Before she can figure out what’s happening, the flight attendant launches an interrogation on missing jewelry.  The woman looks around like a chameleon, muttering the Chinese equivalent of “No, no, no.” 

I feel awkward about unleashing this flight attendant, but it’s out of my hands. 

She’s jostling the passengers in the row behind me now.  Their reading lights are turned on for them.  Their faces recoil.  They’re ordered to search the floor.  The man in the window seat is still asleep.  When he comes to, he is very confused.  The passengers beside him have their heads between their knees.  This, coincidentally, looks like the crash landing position.  The man looks to the flight attendant, but she offers no relief.  She is using her outside voice in a dark plane somewhere over the Arctic Circle. 

By this point I am freaking out.  What will I do, I think, wait until the plane lands? 

The nervous man doubles over now.  There is a commotion.  He comes up, pinching my ring between his fingers.

1 comment:

DarrenDriven said...

I'm getting on a plane bound for Shanghai one week from today. This will be my first time and thank you for preparing me properly. I will make sure to lose something much larger so that it will take fewer people to find it.