“I’m —-ing tired.” That’s how the normally polite & well mannered, to say nothing of educated & well spoken, Lady of tdaxp suggests to begin this post.
I agree. I’m —-ing tired.
The picture you see above is not particularly amazing. Indeed, it looks just like the first-class rail cabin that it is. But the story of this rail cabin, and how we came to occupy it is — as one might say, —-ing amazing.
Lady of tdaxp and I were sitting in King Coffee (a/k/a Kentucky Fried Chicken Cafe) when I said I would explore. A short trip revealed the most amazing and romantic — inexplicably so — route to a lavatory in coffee shop / fast food history. King Coffee is Old City Xi’an sends user up a stairwell — which opens to a balcony above a rain-soaked boulevard — before you re-enter the KFC building.
Jump ahead three minutes. Lady of tdaxp is frantically — and fantastically — searching for me. “I misread the train tickets! It’s not 9:30! They’re for 8:15!”
Time: 7:40 We spring down the would-be-romantic-if-you-weren’t-in-a-hurry stairs to our King Coffee table. Lady of tdaxp picked up the bamboo mattress for her grandfather , I picked up our groceries, and we ran outside. The first road was for bicyclists and buses (a dangerous combination) and we ran past it. We flagged down the very first taxi (a miracle in a city where Government-regulated taxi fair is low, and so taxi drivers tend not to like to pick up customers), and hopped in.
When you hear the love of your love’s frantic, desperate voice, you know it’s not a good thing. And it wasn’t. “How long will it take us to get to the train station?” I asked. We were in old town, the station was in oldtown, I was hoping five or ten minutes. “Twenty,” she said, “He says, maybe, twenty.”
I don’t know what Lady of tdaxp did next. The driver drove. I prayed Hail Mary’s and Our Fathers until they were no longer real.* About ten minutes later I opened my eyes and adjusted to the surroundings. We were behind a slow car, hogging the road. My heart sank but I concentrated on our surroundings. Finally we got out of the Old City — which was only good in the academic sense, as it meant we needed to leave the Old City to get back in it.
Time: 8:00 At the train station. Her: “You can’t get out yet. We need to wait until we’re in the taxi stalls.” Me: “Don’t wait for change. Just give him a 20.” We jump out as soon as we’re theoretically in the taxi stall. I would say we were nearly hit by a taxi on the way out, but this is China, so we passed comfortably through the remaining traffic. We ran to the checked luggage stand to grab our bags, which we had deposited ours before. Then to the long line of passengers. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Coming through, We’re late for our train” Lady of tdaxp shouted in Chinese as we pushed through the Xianese.
(A word should be said here. Xi’an is considered to be in the Middle-West of China, and Xianese are pretty comparable to Americans of my country’s middle-west. They are friendly and helpful, and I felt bad to push through them. In spite of this insult, when I dropped one of the grociers, three immediately pointed to it to help me out. Xianers are great people, and I will miss them.)
To the front door. Crowded line, x-ray security. Lady of tdaxp’s head of me. I throw my backpack in the machine, and keep holding the rest. The guard doesn’t stop me. No cutting through the deluge. I come out, get my bag — and Lady of tdaxp’s gone.
Lady of tdaxp interlude: I was worried about if the waiting room was in the second floor which we would have to go up the stairs — running again. So I looked back and saw you were behind me, so I went to a police man and asked for directions. They say we were in a hurry so they pointed us the corrected way. Then I went back for you.
Then, I followed Lady of tdaxp to the waiting room. The staff checked our tickets and pointed us in the right direction. Out of the waiting room now, and two ways to go — up the stairs with a crowd of people, or to the right with nobody. The ayi pointed us to the right. We ran.
The train, now. Try to board — a few people milling about, and staff by the train cars. We’re at — what? car twenty. “Our tickets are for car 1.” We run down the end.”
Finally, in the room. My stomach and throat are killing me from running– Xi’an’s in the rust-belt, and smog was particularly bad today. Collapse on the bed. Collapse.
“That what an Amazing Race finish,” I say. We’re in our second class cabin.
The rest of the adventure is not quite as amaizng, but more enjoyable. A few minutes to rest. A conversation with the railway staff. A first class upgrade (for a reasonable price!) Our second-class companions no longer get a panting (perhaps contangious?) laowai as a cabin-mate, and we get the little compartment in the picture above.
Wow! What an adventure!
[* God, while seeming to reject the truly important prayers in my life, is astonishing generous with crises-of-the-moment. There’s no good way to write this without seeming both foolish and blasphemous, but it’s true. God’s sent me signs for major events and helps me when I ask, but as far as the biggest prayers go, he has his own plans. ]