The Normal Files

a caveat:

everything that follows is a work of fiction.

even that which has actually happened.

reality is what you can get away with

and i don’t think i could possibly get away

with you believing any of this.

if you did, you would only believe it subjectively anyway


Fourteen hours on a plane that left on a Thursday morning and arrived on a Friday evening. I don't feel like I missed a day, just sat until I couldn't perceive time passing. Arrival was quick, I didn't even feel the wheels hit the tarmac. At customs they were a little baffled that I didn't have a printed itinerary or any idea of the flight number for my plane leaving the next day. 
They stamped my passport with a twenty-four hour pass anyway.  I was waved through customs with out a second look and soon found myself in the Shanghai airport. It was very modern.
I loaded up a pushcart with my luggage and realized I was very tired. The excitement I had had for a fifteen hour layover in a foreign airport was gone. So, taking the advice of an unexpected sign I decided to get a hotel and good nights sleep.

Like most international airports, this one had a few hotel representatives standing behind a desk and barking offers at passersby. I approached them and first they showed me a brochure for a four star hotel. I told them my price range and they suggested I might want a no star hotel. I agreed with no harm done to my pride.
Fifty bucks got me a ride to and from the airport, a suitable room and breakfast. They told me it would be a Chinese breakfast and I told them I expected nothing less, considering we were in China. They took my money, wrote out a receipt and pawned me off on a guy they said was airport staff. I was hesitant as it seemed like a pretty good setup for a scheme, but went along with it. 
Before I knew it I was sitting in the front seat of a little van rushing sixty miles an hour through Shanghai Airport traffic. The driver honked rather than signalling and I just let the experience wash over me. I was struck most by the amount of mopeds speeding through the dark and rainy streets with out a light or helmet.
In little less than fifteen minutes we pulled up to a very modest business hotel. A man walked out of the hotel and greeted us. He was exactly what I had hoped for. His age was indeterminable, some where between forty and sixty-five. His smile was wide and full of crooked yellow teeth; between his fingers was a meticulously crushed cigarette filter and the ash remains of an entire cigarette. He placed the cigarette between his lips and miraculously pulled a full drag from the nothing of a cigarette without displacing any ash at all.
With no English and little ado they gave me a key card and instructed me on how to find my room. I took my bags to the fourth floor and unlocked door number 8408. Inside I flipped the light switch and nothing happened. Standing in the dark I tried another switch, but it wasn't a switch at all, just a hard plastic fixture mounted on the wall. I opened the door to shed some light on the situation. In doing so I noticed some writing on the plastic fixture. It read, "insert key for power" so I did and tried the light switch again.
This time it worked and I was confronted with a very basic room. A bed, a TV, a water cooker, some tea bags and tea cups, an ashtray, and some matches. I filled the water cooker and plugged it in. I sat at the desk and lit matches as I waited for the water to boil. I was not surprised as only one in three matches caught and lit. As I did this I heard what sounded like a long and fast succession of gunshots. I pulled the curtains back from the window and saw fireworks exploding over the city skyline. Real Chinese fireworks, I had truly arrived on the orient. 
After a cup of tea I peeled my clothes off and stepped behind the sliding glass bathroom door. I took a hot shower and admired the tile work.
After the shower I flipped through the channels and found that even in a place as exotic and exciting as Shanghai, television is as boring as ever. I slept well on the concrete stiff sheets and woke rested in the morning.
Breakfast was provided and, as promised, was very Chinese. It consisted of steamed white buns and some sort of soup that I didn't think I could stomach. I ate a few of the buns and was then packed into another, smaller van. We arrived the airport and before I knew it I was on a flight to Nagoya, Japan. Where the layover lasted all night, the flight took a little less than two hours.