Departure Day – 2/25/2015
My mom and dad woke me up early in the morning in order for us to arrive at the airport in time. I’m not sure if it was the almond fudge cappuccino or all the nerves of this exciting but scary adventure that wouldn’t let me sleep last night.
When we got to my terminal, there was a film crew there working on a documentary called, “Hello/Goodbye.” From tear-stained cheeks to long, tight hugs to joyous reunions, it’s amazing thinking about the love witnessed within the walls of an airport. Perhaps part of our good-bye was documented.
The whole process was less dramatic and emotional than I had imagined until I was in the security line, where my parents could only wave at me from a distance. A stream of steady tears flowing down my face prompted one officer at the check-point to say, “Don’t worry, you’ll see them again.” The other greeted me kindly and smiled with his eyes. These two gentlemen’s response to me was quite unexpected because I usually find myself pulled aside, full body patted, and drug residue tested. Perhaps looking young, naive, and emotionally compromised had benefits.
I cleared through the security and bag scanning area quickly and with ease. I experienced only mild panic as I realized Gate C meant I had to go through the concourse area. This shouldn’t have been a shock to me because I have passed under the strange lights of this airport concourse nearly a dozen times, but this is the first trip I have taken entirely on my own.
When I made it to Gate C16, I immediately knew I was in the right place because I could see Asian faces and Asian bodies spilling out of the waiting area and into the main hallway. I found a vacant seat near an outlet to charge my phone, and the strap of my purple Barcelona purse came undone.
The lady next to me quickly said something in Mandarin, and I simply responded, “对不起，我说中文说的不好。(I’m sorry. I don’t speak Chinese well.)” Great, I sarcastically thought to myself, I haven’t even left for China and am already feeling language insecurities. The lady helped me until my bag was fixed and didn’t look at me for the rest of the wait.
It wasn’t long anyway. I was lost in my own head and oblivious to the fact that my boarding group was already on the plane. I briskly walked up to the man with the ticket scanner and an obtrusive noise blared, and a red light appeared on the control area. I knew my flying through security had been too good of luck!
“Hmmm…” The man looked quizzical, and a new ticket printed out. He handed me the new ticket and gave me back the old one. “You’ve been upgraded to Business/First Class, Miss.”
What?!?! But there it was on my ticket. The words, “Premiere Access” and “Business/First Class” appeared at the top undeniably. I made my way to the plane and a flight attendant helped me to my seat. I was immediately offered a beverage. After I placed my belongings in the overhead storage bin, I took a moment to glance around me.
In front of me was an electronics tray. Below that, a leather food rest my feet could barely reach, and more stowage underneath. On my seat was a large, white pillow and a navy comforter. The control panels to my right had switches to adjust the angle to the back, the foot position, and even one that turned the large, cushy chair into a bed.
*** Note: First class lavatories are just as small but contain a choice of three inspirational titled lotions for after your hand-washing experience. ***
I didn’t really say much to the man sitting next to me until we began eating our salads. I found out he’s from Chicago but is a professor of mathematics at one of the universities in Beijing. Even more interesting to me was the fact that he is the adoptive father of two girls from China (2005 and 2007).
I think being adopted into a Chinese-American family must be such a different experience. His daughters attend Chinese school and are quite good at Mandarin. They visit China frequently. This man even identified his daughters’ birth families, though he was not able to locate them. But should they be able to, his daughters won’t have an awkward language barrier to overcome or large unexplainable cultural differences that compromise the relationships. His daughters have Chinese parents and Chinese family friends. Perhaps they haven’t learned (and subsequently had to unlearn) some of the subtle but vicious internalized racism that comes from being surrounded by a sea of white faces, constantly asking questions, constantly highlighting insecurities.
We finished the four course meal, and we both retracted back into our own worlds – his of math and mine of private thought.