This arti­cle is part 6 of 10 in the series Beijing Acupuncture

Three weeks lat­er, my prepa­ra­tions com­plete, I parked the Lexus in the long-term park­ing struc­ture at Bluegrass Field and made ready to board my flight to Chicago, where I would meet up with the remain­der of the group tour­ing to China.

I had select­ed my Canadian pass­port, hav­ing agreed with L.T.‘s assess­ment that, by trav­el­ing as a Canadian, I would come under less scruti­ny once we reached China.

Since my flight from Lexington to Chicago arrived two hours before the sched­uled depar­ture for Seattle, there was lit­tle like­li­hood of any­one in the tour group won­der­ing why a Canadian was com­ing from Lexington rather than from some­place in Canada, although my pre­pared response to such a ques­tion would have been that I was con­clud­ing some busi­ness there before going on this tour.

I walked to the wait­ing area at the gate where our flight to Seattle would be depart­ing, grab­bing a cup of cof­fee on the way from one of the many food and drink stalls locat­ed along the midway.

By the time I had deplaned from the flight from Lexington, walked some dis­tance to my depart­ing gate and stopped long enough to acquire my cof­fee, it was now only about six­ty min­utes before our flight was sched­uled to depart.  I set­tled myself into a mar­gin­al­ly com­fort­able seat, slid my mod­est car­ry-on under the seat and began to pass the time by observ­ing the oth­er pas­sen­gers who were gath­er­ing in the wait­ing area, try­ing to assess which ones might be a part of the tour and which were just going to ‘Frisco. Eavesdropping of some near­by con­ver­sa­tions allowed me to cor­rect­ly gauge some of the tour mem­bers and I eas­i­ly spot­ted the tour guide who was busi­ly mov­ing among us, intro­duc­ing her­self and mark­ing off those she encountered.

As she approached the area where I was sit­ting, she first engaged the mid­dle-aged gen­tle­man sit­ting next to me. 

“Good morn­ing,” she beamed cheer­i­ly.  “I’m Ann Pierson.  I’m lead­ing a tour to China.  Are you one of the mem­bers of the tour?”

“Yes,” he replied.  “My name is Harold Rasmussen.  From Cleveland.”

“Of course, Mr. Rasmussen.  Good to have you with us.  I hope you’ll find the trip enjoy­able and see all you care to when we arrive.  I think our itin­er­ary is a very good one.”

“I’m sure it will be,” Rasmussen respond­ed.  “I read the tour brochure very thor­ough­ly and am look­ing for­ward to all the areas we’ll be visiting.”

“And you, sir,” Ann said, turn­ing toward me.  “Are you also on our tour?”

“Yes, indeed,” I said, try­ing to be as cheery as pos­si­ble, as I expect­ed some­one going on a real tour would be.  “My name is Michael Tallent.  From Toronto.”

“Ah, yes, Mr. Tallent.  So hap­py to have a Canadian with us.  I’m sure the oth­er tour mem­bers will be most inter­est­ed in find­ing out more about Canada, as every­one else is from some­where in the States.”

“I’m pleased to be with you.  Looking for­ward to it.”

Satisfied, Ann jaun­ti­ly made her way to oth­er wait­ing pas­sen­gers, jot­ting down names and check­ing off her list.

“So, you’re from Toronto, eh?” inquired Rasmussen as he turned in my direction.

“Yes, ever been there?” I asked, hop­ing his answer would be no so that I would­n’t have to con­tend with some­one with a deep knowl­edge of the city.

“No, afraid not,” he replied.  “I’ve heard a good deal about it and I’m very impressed with the Canadians.  I’ll nev­er for­get the help your peo­ple extend­ed to ours dur­ing that Mideast cri­sis many years ago when your embassy shel­tered a large group of Americans until they could be sent safe­ly home.”

“Well,” I respond­ed, “the Americans and Canadians have been friends and part­ners for a very long time, at least going back to your War Between the States when Canada gave sanc­tu­ary to a good num­ber of your run­away slaves.”

“I guess so,” said Rasmussen. “Being from Ohio, I know that our state not only shel­tered many slaves but served as a pas­sage for a lot of them to get on into Canada.”

After a bit more small talk about Toronto and Cleveland, I was some­what relieved to hear the board­ing clerk announce that pas­sen­gers could begin board­ing the plane.  As the clerk called off the rows of seats that would be board­ing, Rasmussen stood with his cam­era bag and head­ed toward the queue.

“I’m sure we’ll see each oth­er again before the trip is over, Mr. Tallent,” he said as he moved away.

I remained seat­ed, know­ing that there was no rush to board since my row had not been called and I would­n’t be head­ing up until most pas­sen­gers were aboard any­way.  In my years of trav­el­ing, it had become obvi­ous that planes don’t leave as long as there is a valid pas­sen­ger still wait­ing to board and that wait­ing until most peo­ple were already aboard reduced the amount of time one has to spend stand­ing in the plane’s aisle while every­one else stows their over­sized car­ry-ons in the over­head bins.

At what I con­sid­ered the appro­pri­ate time I head­ed toward the board­ing gate, offered my board­ing pass to the clerk, and head­ed through the pas­sage­way for a four-and-a-half-hour trip sand­wiched into a too-nar­row seat with some three hun­dred oth­er peo­ple, forty-four of whom would be con­tin­u­ing on with me to China.

  • Chuck Witt

    Chuck is a retired archi­tect, a for­mer news­pa­per colum­nist, and a life­long res­i­dent of Winchester.

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