This is making me nervous. The usual run of daily-life hassles has so far .... vanished today:
1) Good soaking rain last night in Beijing, with a cold front moving through. Open the hotel windows this morning to see: bright blue skies! Thin high white clouds! Hills and mountains visible miles away in the distance! Gee, I guess the pre-Olympic air-quality campaign is kicking in even faster than planned. (Don't worry, I know this is fluke-not-trend, and a reason to have planned the Olympics for September rather than August.*)
2) Taxi to Beijing Capital Airport, leaving three hours before flight time just to be safe given the morning rush hour. Third Ring Road: at a dead stop for miles into the distance. (Remember: we can see miles into the distance today.) Taxi driver veers recklessly off the entrance ramp, movie chase-scene style, one second before we would have been trapped. Fourth Ring Road: same endless jam, same escape. Out to the Fifth Ring Road: clear sailing! At the airport an hour after we leave the downtown hotel.
3) Time to kill before our scheduled flight to Shanghai. Maybe we could talk our way onto the one leaving an hour earlier -- despite our cheapo-discount tickets, bought with "no change/no transfer" strictures? My wife, the bargainer/negotiator in the family, asks -- and receives!
4) Plane takes off on time, and lands on time. Despite the overall efficiency of Chinese domestic air travel, on-schedule operations into and out of Beijing are still nothing to take for granted. Luggage appears immediately.
5) At Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai, instead of the usual teeming-masses horror of the multi-hundred-person taxi queue, hardly anyone in line! We don't even need to use the trick we'd heard from savvier friends: going back up to the Departures level and jumping in a cab that has just dropped off a passenger. (Thanks to the cartel rules that keep the taxi lines snarled, these cabs aren't supposed to pick anyone up.) We stay in the legit line, step into a cab, cruise downtown to our apartment, and are unpacking at "home" a little more than four hours after we checked out of the hotel in Beijing. Veterans will know, that's a miracle.
Which is why I'm worried. Something bad must be about to happen. I think I'll stay inside the rest of the day.
* The opening ceremonies are of course planned for 8:08pm next August 8, as a bow to the auspciousness of the number eight in China. (08/08/08 -- get it?) Maybe the temperature will be 108F too!
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