Sunday, November 02, 2008

I Finally Lost It

Note: Whenever you take mass transit to the Great Wall, you inevitably find yourself surrounded at the bus stop by drivers trying to convince you to jump into their private car instead. This is what happened a few weeks ago, when we found ourselves trying to fend off one such salesman...

I'm ashamed to admit that, after two months of being stared at, called a waiguoren, and having people try to rip me off, I lost my temper a bit. This was not a rage of anger, or anything remotely approaching that. I just got a little peeved, against the better judgment I normally try to exercise on the streets.

Here's the scene. We were trying to take a bus to a nearby section of the Great Wall. In advance, I went to this Chinese website that listed all the stops of this particular route. It took a while, but I thought I had a pretty good handle on where to go. So we jumped in a cab and headed out to the location where I thought we needed to be.

That was where things got confusing. We couldn't find the stop we were looking for. We saw the bus we wanted, but it was speeding by without stopping. An ayi on a passing bus simply told us bu qu. "You can't get to the Wall from here."

As I as trying to figure this out, a guy came over, asking where we wanted to go. I told him. I was also suspicious of him, knowing that he was hanging out at the bus stop trying to find people, like us, who need to go places the buses won't take them.

In our case...JACKPOT! Not only are we waiguoren, but we also wanted to go far away. He made an offer of a few hundred kuai for a trip that would cost us six kuai each for a one way bus ride.

I said no, just like I've done to hundreds of hawkers. He persisted. "The bus won't take you there. Take my car." As he kept on saying this, I was trying to concentrate on reading the Chinese characters on the bus sign and getting us out of there.

My train of thought busted, my voice started to rise. Now, I really don't know how to speak forcefully in Chinese. "I know we can't get there by bus. Stop talking!"

I quickly caught myself, but felt like the damage had been done. He was just trying to pressure a person he saw as being in a weak position. I, in turn, wanted to prove that we were not so weak at all. Of course, I should have just ignored him. That would have been a much better show of strength.

After we walked away, I apologized to Desi and the kids. None of them, however, seemed fazed at all by what had just happened. Inside, though, I felt like I had let them, and myself, down.



At 5:27 AM, Blogger The Balla Family said...

Steve's experience will sound a bit less "intense" when I explain what I witnessed today...
After crossing a street I heard some commotion to my right and noticed a small van and a car in peculiar positions in the oncoming lane of traffic. The woman driver of the van got out and started screaming at the driver of the car. This man also got out of his car. From where I was standing it looked like the car had sideswiped the van.
While normally I would have went about my business, I couldn't help but watch the two of them fight both verbally and physically. She was swinging punches at him and he was returning the hits. At one point they moved into the opposing traffic's lane and when she tried to kick him, he grabbed her foot and pulled until she fell to the ground. She got back up and continued to practice her moves, as did he.
While this proceeded, a few men from the street went to help break things up. When I continued on my way, I noticed a crowd behind me at a bus stop. They were watching intently and a few of the older gentlemen were quite jovial about it.
Now I really know what a chaojia is!



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