After touring the Forbidden Palace, Chris and I decided to go for some pizza at this great place I knew of near Beida. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find the place, so we ended up going to McDonald’s instead. They had an absolute monstrosity of a hamburger there, called the “World Cup” burger. It had four beef patties. Being the guy that he is, Chris ordered one.

World Cup BurgerWorld Cup BurgerHosted on Zooomr

After dinner, I realized my cellphone was missing. I went back to look for it, but with no success. I have no idea whether I lost it at the club, at the Forbidden City, in the taxi, or in the restaurant. Bummer. Chris caught his train to Xi’an, and I went back to the hostel. By then, it was too late for me to get a ticket back that day. Once again, bummer. I booked one for the next day, i.e. yesterday, and went out with my new buddies at the hostel.

Pizza

Yesterday afternoon, I found out what the address of that pizza place was and decided to round everybody up, and treat them to a “Mark’s leaving Beijing” pizza meal. Unfortunately, all of the Brits and Aussies I’d been hanging out with were busy. Winnie and Queenie did offer to meet with me later and go to the train station as a group, though.

In the end, it was just Zhanqiang, one of my Korean buddies who goes to BLCU, and two of his friends who went. The place was just north of the west gate of Beida, and it was great! I swear it was the best pizza I’ve had in years! The name of the restaurant is Kro’s Nest (雞巢). Since my train ticket was for 7:14, I decided to take off by 5:15 to make sure I made it in time.

Desperation

I hopped in a cab and headed for the subway. In a nightmarish scenario I’d never imagined possible, traffic stopped. Completely. It took over half an hour to move a single kilometer. By the time we got to the subway, it was already 6:35.

I didn’t make it to 前門 station until after 6:50. Knowing I had little chance of making it to the hostel, picking up my things, getting back to 前門, and getting to the train station within under 25 minutes, I ran. Make it or not, I would not waste my train ticket willingly, I said. Lugging my new knock-off Northface backpack, dodging hundreds of people walking through the market on 大柵欄, and ruthlessly plowing through my arch-nemeses, the rickshaw drivers, I ran and ran until I made it to the hostel.

Between heaving breaths, I shouted to the people at the desk that I needed to get my stuff out of storage. Since they seemed busy, I ran back to the room myself, found the door unlocked, grabbed my stuff and ran back out on to the street. Hefting my suitcase up into my arms, and cursing the 50 pounds I’ve gained since I was a competitive distance runner, I ran back to the entrance to the 前門 station. My blisters from the previous week of walking around the city were killing me, but I only had fourteen minutes left. A guy tried to push me out of the way and cut in front of me in the ticket line and for the first time since I’ve been in China I pushed back. Having at least 50 pounds, plus a heavy suitcase on him, he went sprawling. I grabbed my ticket ran down stairs and jumped through the doors just in time to make on the subway.

I got off the subway at the train station and took a quick glance at my watch. It was 7:08. I had a chance! I pulled out the extension on my suitcase so I could roll it on its wheels and started running towards the line. Once again, more bozos tried to cut in front of me. Didn’t they realize I was in a serious hurry and that once, just this once, I wasn’t going to tolerate their lack of civility? One man kept pushing against my right arm, and finally getting frustrated that I didn’t let him cut in line, he grabbed it, gave me an Indian burn and tried to twist my arm at the joint. I dropped my shoulder and slammed him hard, sending him back and into the railing to the right. Then, as he lunged forward at me, I sidestepped to the left, keeping my suitcase between us. He went reeling into a couple of people in front of me and they started to get into a shouting match with each other. I ran.

I finally made it to the train platform at 7:15, one minute after it should have departed. Thankfully for me, it hadn’t. I ran along, next to the train, finding the appropriate carriage and stumbled in, drenched in sweat. My ticket wasn’t wasted.