Hard Rider

There’s travel easy, and there’s travel hard. Right now, I’m traveling hard, and my mood is rather infelicitous.

So what happened? The original plan was to leave China via Shanghai. Fly to that city, look around a bit, and then zài Jiàn! The desire to see, for the last time, a young friend whom I value much, overrode he original plan, and I set a course for Hong Kong.

Saturday night, the long ride began with a bus trip from Nanning. Why not take a plane to Hong Kong instead? Simple. My flight was leaving Monday; my friend was arriving in HK on Sunday, and I saw no reason to hurry up and wait. Sure, gawking and gawping like a never see come see would have been de rigeur, but I’ve come to the “there was a naughty boy” stage in life.

What naughty boy stage is that? Every Caribbean school child who has ever learned to read with Nelson’s West Indian Reader by J. O. Cutteridge knows that simple but very deep poem by John Keats, “There Was A Naughty Boy.” It goes thus, in part:

There was a naughty boy,
And a naughty boy was he,
He ran away to Scotland
The people for to see—
There he found
That the ground
Was as hard,
That a yard
Was as long,
That a song
Was as merry,
That a cherry
Was as red—
That lead
Was as weighty
That fourscore
Was as eighty,
That a door
Was as wooden
As in England—
So he stood in his shoes
And he wondered,
He wondered,
He stood in his shoes
And he wondered.

One place is pretty much like another. People are pretty much the same wherever you go, with a few glaring exceptions, of course. Anyway, eye and ear ticklers are to be avoided; no oohing, aching, gaping here. Everything is dust, and back to dust again.

Arrival in Hong Kong airport brought its disappointment—my friend’s arrival would be delayed by a month. Hail, fellow; fare well. It is not my intention to gloss over the wondrous border crossing, at Shenzhen, as one goes from mainland China to Hong Kong. Indeed not. Rather, I would say this: whoever was the deficient who designed the layout of the immigration facility, relative to the arrival of buses (the primary means of passenger arrival at that point), the purpose of the place, and the encumbrances borne by passengers, should be flayed, skinned alive, hung, drawn, quartered, and shot. For sheer inconvenience, asininity, Byzantine tortuousness, Asian roundaboutation, the obstacle course that is Shenzhen border crossing for buses is unparalleled.

There seems to be no provision for buses to disgorge passengers near the entrance and move in. Instead, passengers are vomited out in a back yard, of sorts, which has no ramp up which to wheel luggage. Instead, there’s a steel pipe to be humped over, a few concrete blocks of uncertain utility, and a rough path unsuited to luggage hauling. Having conquered that micro-Everest, there us a long walk past some odiferous toilets.

Now, this is China, the land of rén duō, a lot of people, pushing, shoving, thrusting, lalaing without regard for the burdens of their fellows, stepping on toes, sans acknowledgment or apology, and generally engaging in charmingly and obliviously obnoxious behavior. Push against them as they gave pushed against you, and you earn a glance. Relentlessly push a heavy suitcase against the back of the leg of someone choosing to step in front of you is rewarded with a quick stroke but no effort to be less inconvenient.

Once past the toilets, travelers encounter a long flight of stairs relieved somewhat with a platform. Dividing the width of the stairs, a steep ramp for suitcases containing a tee shirt and a pair of boxers if panties. Anything more cumbersome and the ramp is useless. This double flight of stairs leads to a long crosswalk inclining downward.

For those with a heavy suitcase, continue past thus staircase, to a down escalator. Yes, a down escalator. Strip to the crosswalk on the pavement, cross the street, and walk towards the up escalator with the three or so steps leading up to it. Having arrived at its apogee, disembark and walk some more distance towards another down escalator. Some marvel of ingenuity built three steps leading DOWN to the escalator.

At the end of the ride, walk around some building or other finally to the entrance of the emigration control area if the border crossing, and join a long winding line in which people who cone after you have no compunction pushing past you or doing whatever to ensure they ride out to the by sir SUV that will take them to Hong Kong.

Now I’m tired, and must, perforce, end this tale in medias res.