Location: Shanghai Pudong International Airport
As anywhere, nearly everywhere, the Shanghainese are a peculiar shade of friendly. Here, though, unlike other places, friendly comes with efficiency, no matter the face before them.
At the Information Booth in the Shanghai Airport, nearly delirious with travel fatigue and desperate for food that hadn’t been prepared by questionable means – something fresh, a salad perhaps – the young woman behind the counter served her blandness as equally to my quiet desperation as she did to the man who shrilly yelled his question at her.
No salad. No fresh food. Go to Burger King, she instructed.
Maybe she doesn’t understand. I’m not just from LA, I’m from westside LA. We’re a peculiar breed so highly strung up on our fresh, locally sourced, organic foods that if we don’t get it in regular doses we go into a rash of symptoms so complex its given birth to its own language (LA Story was just a precursor to what was come).
So, determined, I push harder. I wanted to find the answer I wanted.
Nope. I get her back and sudden deafness. She gave her answer, there is no reason to provide another.
I set out to find Burger King (please don’t tell my LA brethren). Wandering around the Shanghai airport is not for the faint hearted. Nothing was obvious, or not to this American girl. Then, there was suddenly the strange but bright young man who read my confusion, stopped, and wanted to help. Between his badly broken English and my insane-looking hand signals, we ran-walked directly to what he thought I wanted. It wasn’t, but dear man, he meant well.
There was the man who also read my person in line at the fast food Chinese joint (alas, no Burger King, much less fresh food found) and asked, “Hello, you American?”. Before I could get a full yes out of my mouth, his face lit up in glee. So was his excitement to recount his visit to Minnesota that he never did ask what I wanted to eat but ordered me what he ate. Good enough.
Now exhausted and unsure of how much more friendly-efficiency I can handle, I keep my face low, blank and determined all the way back to my gritty airport room.