We left San Francisco about 1 hour late with a plane about 2/3 full. It was nice for me as I had an aisle seat in the center section and no one next to me. Always a blessing because you get to spread out and no one is shaking you awake to get out of their seat. And given the way the day began, with Mr. Full Body Thrash, it was a double blessing.
As always, not a lot to report about the flight. It was longer than I am used to – 13.5 hours vs. what I believe to be a standard of 12. The mechanics of it were the same – movies, food, movies, drink, movies, food, turn off your electronics, we're about to land. For once, I managed to sleep, having finally unlocked the code of positioning that allowed me to doze off without the fear of my mouth hanging open and drool running down my chin. I even overcame a partial jinx when it was suddenly obvious that my inflatable neck collar had sprung a leak. The discovery came by way of a slowly tilting head as the requisite air pressure leaked out, turning an otherwise stiff balloon into a floppy rag doll of no use whatsoever. I have to admit I'm a bit unhappy about spending $27 on a travel aid that lasted 2 trips and failed on an outward bound leg, rendering it nothing more than something extra to stow in my suitcase. But the sunny side is I've now mastered sleeping without one. We'll see if I can pull that trick a second time.
We arrived at the newly opened Terminal 2 in Pudong and I have to say that unlike Beijing, this one is really nice. For one thing it was almost completely empty, a state that I am sure is short-lived but it was nice for this one moment. Like everywhere else outside “advanced” nations, the place was seemingly constructed entirely out of gray and black speckled marble. Immigration was wonderful, the scrum having been replaced by a civilized zigzag line with an agent at the end suggesting the next open window. Too bad the Olympics aren't here.
Having had my passport stamped I headed down to baggage claim and lo and behold, my new suitcase seems to have broken my last bag off karma. Because there it was, winding its way down the carousel waiting for me. With all good fortune though comes a price, my brand new Halliburton aluminum case was dented and scraped and scratched to the point where you had to wonder if the baggage guys don't see bags like this as a challenge. Sort of like that old American Tourister commercial with the Gorilla. It was obvious that the case had seen some serious handling, several of its rounded corners now sport inverse dimples and in some places the surface is gouged down to the raw aluminum. I suppose though, this is what bags like this are designed for – abuse. And each scar will tell a tale of some exotic port and its associated ham-fisted stevedores.
We grabbed a cab and tolerated the laughter of the young Chinese woman behind us in line who thought out pronunciation of “san ge ren” (three people) was insufficiently coarse.
The drive in was glorious – sun setting in the gray sky, the roads lined with all colors of Oleander, far grander than any I've seen in Arizona. As we crossed the delta, dozens of Night Herons lofted themselves out of their daytime snooze, up and over the trees as they headed out for a night of feeding. The lights, the cars, the pollution, I was back in Shanghai.