In a country where you can get arrested for shouting “Free Tibet!,” the government has banned Facebook, and people care so much about “saving face” and who pays the dinner bill, people are suprisingly not good at following rules and basic manners. They slurp their soup, expel phlegm everywhere on the sidewalk, and smoke anywhere, anytime, despite what any sign tells them. But the thing that really gets me is the line jumping.
Yesterday we flew from Beijing to Dalian. People were starting to hover at our gate, so Stephen said we should line up. “Why?” I asked. “We’re flying first class. Don’t we get to board first?” Stephen laughed. “Do you think Chinese people care about that?” He was right. The minute boarding began, people flocked to the gate like they were boarding the last ship on earth from the movie 2012. They seemed to forget it was assigned seating. It was absolute madness. Which brings me to a side topic–why are people, Americans included, always so anxious to get on the airplane? The only benefit to early boarding is being able to store your bag in the overhead bin by your seat. There’s no prize for being the first 50 to board. Why are we so excited to start breathing that recycled warm air?
We pushed our way to the first class line, which was filled with–you guessed it–passengers not flying first class. They would get in our line and at the last minute sneak under to the economy line. A guy pushed past us, almost shoving me against the wall, so that he could cut under to the other line. “That’s ok, sir, you go right ahead.” I told him. “After you.” That’s the beauty of being surrounded by people who don’t speak your language–you can talk about them to their face. It was strangely therapeutic. I know many people in China do speak English, and maybe this guy did. If so, I hope something I said sunk in.
Since we were flying first class, we were some of the first people off the plane, and thus first at baggage claim. We were in the perfect spot. “Do you think people will cut in front of us?” I asked Stephen. He thought we would be fine. He was wrong. The minute the first bag came onto the carosel, all hell broke loose. A man actually shoved me into Stephen in order to get in my spot. “No problem, sir.” I told him. “I know your bag is far more important than mine. You go right ahead.” He gave me the same blank stare I gave the flight attendant when I asked where the bathroom was and got a Chinese response.
China has been fun and interesting, but I’m looking forward to Hong Kong tomorrow. I’ve heard they actually have lines (“queues”) there.