Saturday, 8 December 2018

The Night Shift in Beijing

It's 00:38 in Beijing. The grey breathiness of air conditioning permeates the hotel lobby where I sit, tapping at my laptop. I have spent the past three hours marking assignments. To my left, an eerie deathmask gestures at me for silence from a bookshelf, and a humidifier exhales steam silently. There are two charming hotel staff at the faux-marble desk to my right, occasionally chatting; apart from these, the lobby is silent as the proverbial tomb. Perhaps more silent, since I'm pretty sure tombs get lots of creaking and settling noises.

To cut a long story short, I'm locked out of my hotel room.

I'm confident this is accidental, my betrothed having retired to our twin room when I started marking in the hotel café. The door isn't exactly locked - I've got the key - but the security bar was over the door, preventing it from opening more than two inches. Alas, it's also an actually good one, which even one of my slender wrist and flexible roomcard cannot flip open. So I have returned, somewhat ignominiously, to the lobby.

Explaining this situation is one of the weirder things I've had to do so far in China, but at least (once the idea was grasped) they have been sympathetic and helpful. Thankfully there's a toilet here and some comfy chairs. They offered to try and get me in, but on balance I decided staying up really late (until it's technically early, in fact) was preferable to waking my intended wife with the sound of splintering wood in a strange hotel in a distant city. She is a gentle soul and easily alarmed, and I would hate to upset her.

Right, let's see what we can get done tonight...

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