My least favorite part of flying is those ten to fifteen minutes after the plane has landed when every passenger feels it’s completely necessary to pop up out of their seat the second the wheels touch the ground, pull their oversized suitcase out of the overhead compartment, injuring anyone and everyone in their wingspan, and queue up despite the fact that it will inevitably take the crew what feels like an eternity to open the airplane door.  The way I feel during this joyous time is the same way most of you probably felt while reading that last sentence…mainly it’s hard to breathe. 

Fortunately, thanks to a pesky little epidemic lovingly referred to as the swine flu, I avoided this experience upon arrival to Nanjing, China.  Once we pulled into the gate, a flight attendant informed us officials would be entering the plane to do physical inspections, in search of any passengers with flu-like symptoms.   

These inspections involved a temperature reading unlike I had ever seen.  The inspectors held what looked like an Epi Pen to our necks or foreheads with gloved hands, and shown a red light on the area, producing a large red dot, which apparently read our temperature.  They would scratch notes on each person’s health form as we all sat anxiously in our seats feeling a bit like Long Island residents desperately trying to get off the island in “I Am Legend”. 

Apparently this temperature-taking tactic wasn’t quite thorough enough, because each passenger had to pass through 2 more inspection stations once we left the plane.  One was equipped with a temperature-imaging screen, which showed people as green and red blobs according to their body heat.  I was one of the unfortunate red blobs. 

“You have fever,” an agent informed me, as she directed me to a curtained off area, where I joined my fellow red blobs all donning medical masks.  After a few agents squabbled over my passport and health form, again scribbling more notes, one came over to me and jabbed a thermometer into my armpit. 

“Wait five minutes,” she said.  I looked to the other people sitting near me.  Everyone looked nervous, and I wondered if they too were thinking to themselves, “Ok, just stay calm.  If you get nervous, you’ll just raise your body temp.” 

After a while, they began to read the thermometers.  Most people were sent on their way, but a few were sent to another curtained area to be asked questions like “Have you been around farm animals an excessive amount in the past seven days?”  Apparently my body temp had dropped enough for me to no longer be considered a threat because I was allowed to leave, although advised to keep wearing my mask. 

This became difficult after leaving the door of the airport because I was blasted with a wall of heat and humidity that immediately caused sweat to bead on the area of my masked face.  But I kept it on long enough for one photo in front of the airport, commemorating my welcome to Nanjing, China.