Nov 26, 2010

Chinese supermarket ineptness: the beansprout

Today I walked into the local grocery store, Vanguard, and I was just about to grab one of those little plastic shopping baskets near the entrance. A husky male employee, charged with monitoring the exits for shoplifters, at that very moment discarded a rather large crumpled ball of paper right into the stack of plastic baskets. The paper landed in the very basket I was ready to pick up and use for my shopping.

"Hey, beansprout!", I remarked to the boy. ("豆芽菜", in Mandarin)

He looked at me incredulously, trying to figure out why I was talking to him, and if I was a troublemaker.

"Hey there, you just chucked your garbage into the shopping basket," I said to him again. I picked up the basket on the top of the stack with his trash in it, and handed it to him.

"Oh, that accidentally fell in there," he said back to me.

"Don't worry. I'll mention this to the store manager on my way out later, " I said. I then picked up another basked from the stack and went on with my shopping.

I never did find the store manager, although I asked the cashier as I paid for my items.

Nov 24, 2010

A Hong Kong Jackass!

This is several weeks-old news, but did everyone see this story about the Hong Kong guy who dressed up as an old white man and took a flight to Canada?

Obviously, he is a huge Jackass fan, much like myself. I can't get enough of anything related to the show. Doesn't matter if it's the original Jackass crew, Viva La Bam, Steve-O, or The Dudesons. Last time I had a trip to the US, first thing I did when I had free time away from the office was to check out Jackass 3D in a theater. That was the first movie I've ever seen where I had to literally close my eyes to prevent myself from vomiting. What innovative work.

Anyway, the Hong Kong guy is obviously copying Johnny Knoxville's character from Jackass Number Two, where he dresses up like Bad Grandpa and gives his grandson whiskey and cigarettes at a Hollywood hamburger joint.

All Hong Kong people have gone up a notch in my book thanks to this guy. Awesome job.

Nov 21, 2010

Unreadable subway cards after x-ray scanning

If you've stayed in Beijing longer than a week, you'll have purchased an yikatong, which is the local, rechargeable subway card. It saves you lots of time, since you'll not have to line up and buy a single-trip card for each subway journey you make.

I have my card with me even when I travel outside of Beijing. This is because I'll often take the airport express subway line to the airport, and I'll save time by swiping my subway card when I ride.

The problem with this, however, is that when you are traveling, your luggage will invariably go through like twenty or more x-ray scanners per trip. I've noticed after three or four different trips, when I return to Beijing, my card is only swipeable half the time.

I end up going to the service booth at the subway, returning my card, getting the deposit and money on it returned to me, and then buying a new one. I can't figure out what's up with this.

I take my credit cards, my work badge, and other similar cards on the same trips, and I've never had any problems with them after many years. The Beijing subway yikatong seems to be very delicate.

Heaven forbid your card becomes completely unreadable. Then you have no way of getting your money off the card, except to travel to Xizhimen somewhere to a special office. I currently have one such card with about $10 on it. It's just not worth it for me to waste one or two hours traveling and waiting in line for that. I've thought about delegating the task, or just giving the card, to my cleaning lady.

Nov 19, 2010

Communication difficulties on China-US flights

You'd think that if people are traveling to the US, they'd typically speak some English, right?

I'm not quite as crazy as Michael Douglas's character in Falling Down (You come to my country, you take my money, you don't even have the grace to speak my language...), but I do expect some level of English from foreigners traveling to the US.

On a recent China-US flight, and on the return US-China flight, I had several interactions with my fellow passengers that went like this:
I get up from my seat, walk down the aisle to the toilet. I see a bunch of people mulling about near the toilets.

Me: "Is this the line for the head?"

Random Chinese passengers: <blank stares from the group>

"Is you all waitin' on the bathroom here?"

Random Chinese
passengers: <more blank stares from the group>

At this point, I just assume no one is actually waiting on the head, and I jump into the restroom as soon as it's empty.

I think that the whole communication problem is my fault. Probably, the toilet on an aircraft can't be referred to as "the head", and this is where I went wrong. Head can only refer to the toilet on marine vessels.

I'm going to make sure to adjust my terminology on my next transpacific flight. Hopefully things will go more smoothly.

Nov 17, 2010

Video: Beijing car fire

How rad is this?! Just happened come across this car fire during a taxi ride.

Billowing black smoke, giant flames engulfing a black car, but everyone pretty much goes on about their daily lives. Old ladies on bicycles cruise by, buses continue on their routes, and traffic runs as usual.

I love the policeman running from left to right in the second video. Looks kind of like a video game character.

No one was harmed during the burning of this Audi, don't worry.