Chewing Nails Isn't Such a Bad Habit

I've travelled to China, Japan, and Hong Kong, but human existance remains a mystery hidden inside a complex and unbalanced duality called "body and mind."

On one flight from China to America, my seatmate was an older gentleman who found an existence in the classrooms of Chinese universities, teaching English as a second language. He would later tell dashing tales of his exciting life as a teacher amidst a people whose language he would never learn. The suitcase on his lap fascinated me; it was worn and brown and securely fastened, something of a relic. As the other passengers boarded, he called over a flight attendant, and said, "This is the worst airline I have ever flown with and the last time I flew with you I was greatly upset with your service."

The woman was offended but responded with a slew of niceties and scripted responses, feigning concern. The man quickly realized his words were worth about as much as if he'd kept them to himself and settled in for the flight of his life.

Once airborne and free from a few of the restricting rules, the man beside me extracted his briefcase from below his seat. The flight has just begun and so had his agenda. For those in eyeshot, the man was a mental terrorist for pulling out what looked like a spherical, faded wad of condensed paper. Once revered as a gentleman, the surrounding passengers had a much different opinion of the man as soon as he put the wad in his mouth. Curious, I enquired and he responded, "Chewing tobacco."

Now this might sound odd, because it is. It led me into a spiral of self-awareness that I had never tapped into—questions I did not want answers to. But one question was lodged in my head like the keepsake chew stashed in the old briefcase, "Where did he get the tobacco and which brand was it?" I never got to the second half of the question because the first half was shrouded in mystery. When I asked where he got the wad, he responded cryptically, "China doesn't sell smokeless tobacco."

Category: Airplanes

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