The Only Woman on the Plane

On my way from Tokyo to Phnom Penh I had a 4 hour layover in the Shanghai airport. Layovers are usually the worst, but I was excited about this one, because I had really wanted to visit China on this trip. This layover seemed better than not visiting at all, even though I couldn’t actually leave the airport.

Once we land I am told I have to go through customs and another security check. A very large and excited group of Japanese tourists offer some entertainment while I stand in the customs line. The five women in the group find everything around them excessively hilarious. Once they are cleared they are directed to the right. They run off laughing hysterically holding hands and wobbling, taking a wrong turn. Everyone in line watches as these women stumble down the wrong hall their laughter growing quieter, only to get louder as soon as they realize their mistake and come running back. The line lets out a collective giggle, but airport security is not amused. At all.

A very stern gentleman escorts them through the correct door as one of the women drapes herself dramatically around one of her friends, while another attempts to take a selfie with the guard. I really hope they weren’t arrested.

I finally make it to the waiting area of the airport and find a seat near a power outlet trying unsuccessfully for an hour to message friends on Facebook. It works for about 2 minutes in the beginning, but then suddenly stops connecting. The only thing working is iMessage. I can’t even Google anything. The inconsistency drives me crazy. It takes me way too long to realized it’s probably not a connectivity issue. In order to prove my theory I open Bing, something I have never used before, and what do you know, it works! Looks like Bing might be the only one who hasn’t pissed off the Chinese government.

Four hours and an overpriced Starbucks (they are literally everywhere) coffee later, I board my flight. I take my seat next to the window waiting for takeoff. Literally a second after my neighbor gets up to use the bathroom a very aggressive man appears next to me. He’s clearly on the phone with someone, but begins asking me questions in a language I could not understand.

Man stares at me, holding his phone slightly away from his ear, waiting for a response.
Me: I am sorry I don’t speak…(uncomfortable pause)…what you’re speaking.
Man finds my response hilarious and continues to pester me. I faintly hear an exasperated voice coming from his cellphone.

He keeps looking at me in a way that makes me extremely uncomfortable, slowly invading more and more of my personal space. I try to tell him to leave me alone, but he ignores me. By the time my neighbor finally returns from the bathroom this guy has invaded so much of my personal bubble I’ve practically glued myself to the wall of the plane, about to press the help button. Thankfully my neighbor demands his seat back. The aggressive guy looks at me as if I was going to let him stay, but I just shrug my shoulders at him. He throws his arms up in the air, visibly upset and storms off. Good riddance.

Over the next 20 minutes, he and several other passengers continue changing seats. The poor flight attendant runs up and down the aisles telling people to stay seated and to turn their phones off. No one listens or sits still. It was the rowdiest flight I’d been on since flying to Prague with 10 separate British stag parties. Only this time, since my sister wasn’t with me, I was the only woman on this flight. Thank god the man sitting next to me was genuinely friendly.

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