Thursday night, I flew from Beijing to Shenzhen. It was a long journey, starting with a half-hour taxi, a half hour schlepp and bus to transfer from the terminal where I was dropped off (the big, glitzy, international terminal 3) to the terminal of my departure (the old, shabby, small terminal 1, which used to be the glory of Beijing), two hours of check-in, security screening, passport control, hurry up and wait, boarding, and then waiting on the tarmac for several hours. We finally landed in Shenzhen, and then I had to wait a long time for my bags.
After that I had to get a cab into the Futian business district, where my next meeting would be, and I was confronted with the mystery of the three-tier color-coded Shenzhen taxi system. The airport arrivals driveway had two queues, helpfully marked “Red Taxi [and a bunch of Chinese]” and “Green Taxi [and a bunch of Chinese].” I assume the Chinese text on these signs must be helpful. The English was not. I got in the queue that was longest, reasoning that the longer wait seemed to be my destiny on this trip. While queuing for twenty minutes or so, I used my iPhone to Google up an explanation:
- Red Taxis: can operate both inside and outside the Special Economic Zone.
- Green Taxis: can only operate outside the Special Economic Zone.
- Yellow Taxis: no explanation. My guess is they operate inside the SEZ only.
This explanation is not necessarily helpful either. Fortunately, I knew from a previous visit that central Shenzhen is a Special Economic Zone that allows a Chinese version of unfettered capitalism. It’s a way for China to bring money in from Taiwan and Hong Kong more easily, basically. I needed to cross into it. Last time I was in Shenzhen, my taxi had to pull over for a version of passport control, but this time it just needed to stop for a whole bunch of tolls, and it seemed to have a FasTrak-like transponder thingy for getting through the passport control thingy.
I arrived at my hotel, the Futian Shangri-La, and was informed that my guaranteed-for-late-arrival reservation of a king nonsmoking room couldn’t be honored because… well, actually I have no idea why. It just couldn’t. The sweet young thing in the de rigeur chignon punched at the keyboard for a long time and then tried to entice me with a nonsmoking twin and then a smoking king. I shook my head. She punched at her keyboard for a long time again. She tried again on the downgrades. She tried to sell me on an upgrade to Club Level for only $50 more per night. I thought $251/night was plenty steep for a place to sleep and shower, so I declined and suggested that since the room availability problem was theirs and not mine that they give me a complimentary upgrade. There followed some wild gesticulating and embarrassed laughter, and then she tried once more with the twin ashtray. I declined again. She finally called over a manager, who repeated the routine almost verbatim and then finally upgraded me to a Premier King Nonsmoking, which he pronounced “Primer King Nonsmoking—bigger!” I nodded and said thank you.
The bellhop brought me up to my room, which smelled like an ashtray, I thought. I wasn’t certain, though, so I decided to say thank you and settle in for the night.
I’d been sweating and scratching mosquito bites all day, and I felt filthy from the dusty grime of Beijing, so I took a shower.
I felt tired but hungry, so I went down to the hotel lobby and had a steak sandwich and a martini.
I came back up, read my email, answered some email while fighting uncontrollable yawns, and went to bed.
The next afternoon, in the middle of my business meeting, I realized I’d completely forgotten to make a Kaddish on Thursday, 30 June 2011. It was the first day I’d failed to keep my promise. I’ve forgotten quite a few times, but until now something or someone has reminded me in the nick of time.
A kaddish for the dailiness of the kaddish—it had to happen sooner or later.