“So what do you like about China?”
I often receive this question and after eight years of living in China, then the past three years mostly away, the weak answer I still give is, “I love the action.” There is always something happening. The noise is the most overwhelming aspect of the culture, reflected in eardrum-shattering Peking Opera. When I lived here full-time some weekends I would close the apartment door Friday after work and not emerge until Monday morning.
On Tuesday, thanks to me taking a $800 bump and Delta not getting my checked bag over to the China Eastern codeshare from JFK in time, my suitcase went to Detroit while I went to Shanghai.
I filled out the China Eastern delayed luggage form, the guy asked “Have you been to Detroit today?” and we worked out the details. I pried RMB 400 compensation out of them only because I was on paid business class. The guy realized I had some experience of China because I made him write down the compensation on my form AND to put his own name on it, to which he and most people here are deeply reluctant.
The next morning China Eastern sent me a text that my luggage was coming in from Detroit on DL181 and they would contact me for the delivery. When delta.com showed the luggage arrived at 2:59pm local time I tried calling the China Eastern luggage line and got the familiar busy signal. I could have persisted throughout the evening in trying to get through but I was busy and conditioned by time in China, so went to dinner, and took a jetlagged nap. I woke at 11 pm, an hour after their closing. and the busy signal was gone but no answer. I called Delta and the only help they offered was to provide their luggage line at Pudong Airport (PVG), which was already closed as the last flight had arrived at 9:30. The hope of the friendly text message “HERE SIR,HERE IS CHINA EASTERN, YOUR BAGGAGE WILL ON DL181, WHEN WE RECEIVE YOUR BAGGAGE WILL CALL YOU AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.THANKYOU.” was washed away by the frustration of silence since.
Then 1 am, long after I had given up, the hotel concierge called, “Sir, there is a man from airline here…”
In the lobby was a tired courier with my wearied suitcase and 400 RMB. How he was still out working at 1 am I don’t know. I am sure in most places nothing further would have happened until 9 am.
I am heading to the office with a colleagues’ wedding gift in tow, ready to start another exhausting, thrilling day.
Oh, and the email complaint I sent to Delta begging for help – no reply. That’s better than their typical response of ignoring the content of the email and giving an infuriating reply.