We made it! Ben and I landed in Beijing yesterday afternoon in Beijing time (which is 14 hours ahead). We had flight delay déjà vu so are thrilled we made our connecting flight.
As is my preference, we arrived at the airport hours before our scheduled departure from Minneapolis airport. Ben indulges my constant desire to “not be late”. I hate the feeling of running behind schedule and the stress it causes me. And to be quite honest, I love the people watching.
So we made it to our gate with plenty of time. When it was time to board the plane, the United Airlines employee had us board by group numbers. She made sure to announce that only First Class or United Club members may walk on the blue mat.
Do you all know what the blue mat is?
It is a stupid carpet remnant that has the United logo. It is cordoned off by metal poles so us ruffians in economy can’t get our cooties on it. In a fit of rebellion, I stepped on the mat. Of course I stayed in my designated lane while I did it, only my toe touched it, and nobody saw me. But still – rebellion.
We waited a while on the plane until the captain announced that the sub-zero temperatures in Minneapolis froze the water lines and drain in the plane. We had to get off the plane and wait “15 minutes” while they heated up the plane. That “15 minutes” was closer to an hour. Then we boarded the plane again.
Once we were all back on the plane, we were told it would be another “15 minutes” till the water lines were ready and we’d take off. About 30 minutes passed. Then we were told that it would take about “5 or 6 minutes” for some paperwork to be done regarding the maintenance. This veteran adopter knows that paperwork always takes longer then you expect. Another 30 minutes or so later, we were in the air.
Here’s where the stress came in. Our plane was scheduled to take off from Chicago to Beijing about 15 minutes after we were scheduled to land. That means boarding would have already taken place and the doors to the plane would have been closed. Once those doors close, only an act of God can open them.
Fortunately, the nice flight attendant made an announcement that we (and two other adoptive families on the Beijing flight) should exit the plane first. Everyone but a few in First Class let us through. They grumbled and said that they wanted to get off the plane, too. I guess stepping on that blue mat entitles them to ignore the plight of the common man. Insert any apt peasant metaphor here.
This left us sprinting through the airport. Of course, the international concourse was a gazillion miles away. Ben carried a backpack and the laptop bag. I rolled 40 pounds worth of nuts in a wobbly carry on and had about 20 pounds of magazines crashing against my side from my shoulder bag. I wish those weights were hyperbole. But no, the nuts were ceremonial gifts for various officials, etc. and the magazines were because I am in near constant fear that I might not have reading material handy at any given moment of my life.
The sprint left us parched, but in time. They held the plane until we got on, even though the flight took off about 10 minutes late.
Fourteen hours in the air was actually quite pleasant. I am having a difficult time remembering the last time I could sit and read that long, guilt-free, with no responsibilities except not smoking and not making terroristic threats on the plane. Fortunately, neither of those two activities are habits of mine, so all was well with the world.
I do think that the power of my pinky toe stepping on the blue first class mat emboldened me on this flight. When the drink cart came around, I asked for not just a diet coke, but an apple juice as well. The whole cans. I felt that power coursing through my veins.
Our section of the airplane was only about half full and the row of three seats behind us was empty, so mid-flight, I curled up on those seats and slept. Maybe slept is too generous of a word. But I did rest a bit in only semi-cramped luxury.
All in all, a good flight.