China Crisis


During dinner on the plane to China the stranger sitting next to me made an odd glugging sound, then started convulsing and flapping his arms around wildly. I was struck in the arm and in the face, and squashed myself up against the window as I pressed the help button and the air hostess called for a doctor. The doctor found the man's pouch of needles and insulin and realised he was having a diabetic hypo. He produced the biggest syringe I have ever seen, and had three attendants hold the chap down while he injected him as I pressed up against the window. I felt faint, the man flopped down, and then everybody left. I was given instructions to put some sugar on his tongue and look after him. When the man came round he remembered nothing about the whole episode, but I felt quite shaky and I was still unsettled when we arrived at Beijing Airport.

After retrieving my bag I saw the cutest little dog belonging to an armed soldier. He was lovely, and oh joy, he came over to see me, and his little tail was wagging, and he was sniffing at my bag the nosy little thing, and then he sat down next to me with his tail wagging excitedly as he stared up at the soldier with the gun, because Oh No he's actually a sniffer dog and I'm ordered to "Open the bag, now!". Uh oh, and now there's a crowd of security men around me, all with cute yet highly trained working sniffer dogs, as he rummages in my rucksack for the drugs/explosives/weapons that might be inside there, and swiftly removes the offending item. Which is an apple. Oh I see, those posters of food are not to advertise the products but to tell you what you're not allowed to bring into China. I innocently continue stroking the dog and offer him a piece of my cheese sandwich, which is also swiftly grabbed from me with more force than strictly necessary.

I'm allowed to leave and after getting some money from the airport bank I head off to catch a bus into Beijing. I have to lug my rucksack all the way up the aisle to the only empty seat. I sit down and try to sort myself out a bit. Then I feel a sense of panic as my passport is not in the pocket it should be. It is not in the left velcro pocket, or in the right one, or the trouser pocket, or the coat pocket, or the pocket in my bag, and I am checking every single pocket but it is not there. I wonder if I lost it on the bus, and drop to my hands and knees to crawl along the aisle. The people on the bus must think I am mad, but they all pretend not to notice me!

My only hope is that I dropped it at the airport, so I have to get back there right away. The bus has already travelled fifteen miles towards Beijing, but the driver refuses to stop for another three miles. I flag down a taxi. The first driver doesn't understand me and drives off. The second understands my aeroplane imitations, however he is understandably confused when I keep insisting on the Arrivals area, thinking reasonably enough that I am flying out. It is panic stations when he attempts to veer to the right at a crucial airport turning when I need to go left, resulting in frantic pointing and shouting, and him swerving at the last second in front of irate and beeping drivers. When he pulls up, the fare is 53 yuan. I thank him kindly for his assistance, and give him 60. He starts jabbering and waving his hands, but although I think it's charming that he doesn't want a tip, I won't take no for an answer. He continues to protest, throwing his hands about in a gesture that at one point looks remarkably like giving me the finger. I later found out that I was also supposed to pay the 10 yuan that it cost us to get through the toll booth.

Getting to the airport bank I could see a little maroon rectangle propped against the window. Thank the universe, it's a British passport. Hugely relieved, I cradle it, and fasten the pocket velcro so tightly that I may never be able to open it again.



A MacDonald

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