Dead Women Tell no Tales


In the course of researching accessible travel, I read anything and everything that’s even vaguely related to my area of expertise. To be honest, some articles are more pertinent than others. Usually I follow up on the pertinent ones and delete the rest. It’s something akin to hand-picking the ripest and juiciest cherries.

But I’m having a hard time with my cherry picking today, and I just can’t bring myself to deep-six one of those not-so-pertinent articles. In my defense, technically it involves accessible travel, because it’s about a woman traveling in a wheelchair. But that’s pretty much where the relevance ends.

Specifically, it’s about a dead woman traveling in a wheelchair. Apparently she died while on holiday in Xian, and her husband wanted to take her home without a lot of muss and fuss. To that end, he schlepped her on a 28-hour train trip and then wheeled her across the China-Hong Kong border.

Now here’s where it gets a little strange.

According to her husband, after he presented their papers to the immigration officer at the border, the officer asked him to pull up his wife’s hat so he could see her face. The officer then scrutinized the photo on her permit, and when he was satisfied with her identity, he let her pass. Or more correctly, he let her husband wheel her cold lifeless body across the border.

And yes, it really happened.

I just don’t get it though.

Was the border official just so totally bored with his job that he zoned out and didn’t notice that not only could the woman before him not speak, but she couldn’t breathe either? Or did he just not care? Or did he just assume that all disabled people look like that? I’m not sure which premise bothers me the most.

Personally I find it odd that I can’t take a lousy six ounce bottle of hand lotion on an airplane, yet it’s perfectly OK to wheel a dead woman across an international border crossing.

Like I said, I just don’t get it.