Friday, August 31, 2012

Buying Beer Through The Fence

One of my regular evening rituals in Beijing is kicking back at the end of a long day with a big bottle of Yanjing Pijiu, a glorified bottle of water with a little beer thrown in for kicks.

Much better than the warm beer itself, and deep down perhaps the main reason why I persisted in this ritual, was the way in which I had to go about procuring my nightcap.

Those of you who have spent time in China know that it is a land of fences and gates. Access to each particular building and complex is closely controlled, much like things are in the gated communities normally associated with beach resorts and homes of Hollywood actors.

The little shop where I preferred to buy my beer was located just meters from the entrance to our apartment building. But, unfortunately, there was a fence in between me and my beer, as the shop was located in the next apartment complex over. Getting there would have required walking out onto Zhongguancun Lu, heading over to the main gate of that complex, past the security guard, and all the way back around to essentially where I started.

Luckily, the folks manning the shop have an alternate system worked out. All you do is walk up to the gate, belt out a Chinese grunt. (I can perform this grunt for you sometime, if you want to hear it. One day, years ago, after using this grunt, I was complemented on how good my Chinese is.) Upon hearing the grunt, the proprietors grunt back, walk outside, and ask you what you want. They then pass the product through the fence, you hand over your cash, and everyone goes back to their lives on their respective sides of the fence, never to actually cross paths.

Hey, it works!

~Steve

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