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China, November 1, 1999

Open the F#*%ing Doors!

Never be late for a train in China

We had to exit the train and walk across the border!
The lucky ones who made it
I don't wanna start pointing fingers, cuz I only have ten, but lets just say a comedy of errors, including a few of my own, preceded my mad dash across the Beijing West train Station Thursday morning.

I wanted to catch the 9:11am express train to Hong Kong, and it was 9:08 as I slid along the slick floor in my dust-lubricated shoes. As I spun into Hall No. 4, I saw the gate attendants locking the doors as I ran towards them. Not one to be accused of being shy, I started screaming obscenities before they even found the chain, but none of my pleadings stopped the 'clink' of the lock before I reached the threshold.

Seeing my train still at the platform, I hit the doors at full speed, hoping my velocity would tear the Chinese construction out at the hinges. Unfortunately, they were German doors, and held fast against my repeated attacks. The staff, trying to tell me I was too late while I could still see the train, learned a few new words. I explained, in perfect detail at maximum volume, exactly how I was about to violate their every orifice with all manner of pointed objects in my possession, but to no avail. The doors remained locked.

Dreaming of Russia, where no one cares until the train is rolling, I ran to the next platform entrance, Chinese spilling out of my way as I lunged through those two guards. Diving down the stairs, not really looking past the next step, I arrived in time to hear the attendant on the nearest car seal the door. I banged, kicked, screamed, and even pummeled the door with my suitcase, to express my desire to ride with her to the beauty that is Hong Kong. In return, she merely pointed to her wrist and shook her head. Before I could climb through a window and strangle her to death with my bare hands, the two guards I pushed past caught up with me. Down we went, in a pile, and I watched my train pull away from the station as I elbowed one in the head and the other in a kidney (a babushka trick I learned).

Later, after the station police chief yelled at me a bit as I politely explained where he could shove his lecture, I went to the ticket gate and learned the Chinese like to add insult to injury. Since I'd missed the train, I wasn't gonna get 50% back for the ticket, like I expected. The whole ticket was void, and I had to shell out another 648 RMB ($76) for another ticket on the Saturday morning train. So now, instead of four days relaxing in Hong Kong, I'll have two days of dashing around for my visa.

Oh, I love China!

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