The Shenyang Incident
I had a couple of meetings to attend in Shenyang* (Liaoning Province) in Northern China. Finishing early, I had some time to kill so did the usual beer hunting, coming up with Snow Beer and Snow Lager.
Leaving next morning, I left one bottle to take back in my check-in luggage, knowing that to take it in hand luggage would be a problem. So I check my luggage in, get my seat allocation and start walking away from the check-in desk. Suddenly a siren goes off and heads from all over the place start looking towards the check-in desk. A security guy catches my eye and he is waving to me to return back to the desk. A huge crowd forms to see what is going on. I am the only "lao wai"** for what seems like miles.
I bustle my way through the instantaneous crowd and the siren is finally silenced. "I am sorry sir but you have some illegal goods packed in your check-in luggage." I unlock my suitcase with 10,000 eyes peering over my shoulder. The security guy shoves his hand in and brings out my bottle of beer. He holds it up high in the air for the crowd to see. Where is the hole in the ground ? I think I need it. ... What's he going to do ? ... Surely I have lost that beer ... What on earth are all these locals thinking about the crazy foreigner ?
Then the gods smiled on me. "Sir, you are not permitted to carry bottles in your check-in luggage ... you must hand-carry this onto the plane". What !! I have entered a parallel universe where all of the rules are reversed. I think 911 was only a matter of months away.
* Shenyang has around 8 million people and ranks about 27th in the most populous Chinese cities.
** "lao wai" is a common term for "foreigner"