When the plane landed at Beijing, and the pilot announced that the outside temperature is -08 deg centigrade which is around 22 Farenheit, I knew I need to go shopping. When I get to the terminal, this guy asks me for a Taxi, moment of caution, when in China or Asia Pacific (Singapore is an exception) never even talk to these people, they will rob you in day light, I refuse his offer, and walk out of the terminal. It is extremely windy, although am wearing a thermal, regular clothes, a suit, I feel as if the wind is running through my bones, my nose starts running, and instantaneously freezes, it probably snowed the night before. I walk over to the public taxi stand, where they had these old Volkswagon taxis, I show him the card that reads the hotels address, he turns and starts driving. The drive from Beijing Airport to the city is one of a rich blend of recent economic progress and decades of poverty. I reach the hotel check in, and make my way to the familiar fashion mall, which is about a two block walk.
While it was a freezing walk, the mall from inside is very comfortable. I walk to the area where they have men’s clothing. The walkway is full of Italian and French designer label rip offs. The quality is a rip off too, and then so is the price. From previous experience I know to offer 10% of whatever the initial price is quoted by the shopkeeper.
The thing about Fashion Mall is that all the shops are “manned” by teenage girls, clad in jeans t shirts and red standard sleeves-less Jackets. I come across one over coat, which I really liked, I should look like Dick Tracy wearing this, while I am admiring the coat, the girl that is manning the shop walk over, you like, velly guud. I turn, shes hardly 12 I think. You like, she says again, I’m supposed to be a negotiator, I don’t like, I say, me show you anothel, no, how much is this, 1,000 RMB she says. Hmmm, 100 I say, she starts laughing, I smile, whats so funny I say, she says, you want 100 RMB, I got this muffler for you, no thank you I want an over coat, oh that is for 1,000 RMB, so how much will you give it to me for, for you, ummmm, she thinks, 800 RMB, 200 RMB I say, ooooh come on, 800 is gud plice, here, let me tly it on fol you, she helps me take my jacket off, and put the coat on, I look at myself in the length mirror, and make a face as if I don’t like it. She says, you no like, me hap anothel. No, me ok with this, so how about 300 RMB. She thinks for a while, 500 she says, last offer, I go back to my initial experience, 10% of initial price, and settle at 50%, so this is good right, okay I say. She smiles, says something to the girl in the shop next door, oh my God, I’ve been had, I should walk away I say to myself.
Excuse me, I changed my mind, I say to her, as she is putting the coat in a case, she looks at me inquisitively, what, she says, I no want it, she frowns, you no want it! You no want it! And then she goes crazy, as I quickly walk out of the shop, she follows me, screaming at the top of her voice, I look left, and I look right, each and every person is looking at me, and smiling, I smile back. I focus on this tile on the floor in front of me, I wish it would cut open and I could sink into it right this very moment. The girl is following me still. Screaming still. Just as I am about to touch the tile, she catches on to me, and hits my back with both hands, I don’t turn around, just turn the corner, and keep walking, she stops at the corner. I turn another corner, and no one here knows what I have been through.
So I see the same overcoat at another shop, and I start the bargain all over again, the deal ends at 450 RMB, so I went through all of that for 50 RMB hmmmm
The Taxi Driver
As I am paying the girl for the overcoat, I receive a call from Yang, she wants to have dinner, discuss some things over before we go into the meeting tomorrow. I tell her the hotel that I am staying in, she says she will be there in half an hour if its okay with me, seems like a plan, I should be able to get back, take a warm shower and get ready for dinner.
Half an hour later, I come down to the lobby, and pick up one of those cards that they have at the reception that you give to the taxi driver. As I look around, I turn, and the over coat swirls behind me, I am so looking like Dick Tracy right now. Yang is here, she is getting out of a Taxi, I rush out, so we can continue in the same Taxi. The bouncer tells me we can’t, we will have to wait for the next in line Taxi which should be around any second now. We kiss our hellos, I tell her how its too cold here, but I like the city, the smog and the pollution is crazy, but the buildings and the roads are impressive, the taxi arrives in the mean time. She takes me to this place where they have the Peking Duck, and the dinner is another story which I will tell some other time, let me rush to the journey back to the hotel.
We step out, she says, lets go for a pinyin, have you had that, I know a good place near your hotel, I’m game, we hail for a taxi, one stops, we hop in. The driver is nothing short of 80, and looks cranky by his looks, Yang tells him the hotels address. He has no clue where the hotel is, the car in the rear starts honking, the driver starts driving. She tells him the hotel address again, he says God knows what, she keeps talking, he keeps shaking his head. She turn to me, what an ass, she says. Do you have a card of the Hotel, that has a map on it, well, actually, I do. I hand her the card from one of the pockets of my overcoat. She takes a look at it, and talks to the driver. The driver leans back, I look forward. My harrowing eyes see a red light upfront. The driver pulls his spectacles out of his pocket, and starts observing the card, he is muttering something by the by. The red light is getting bigger, there is a string of cars waiting in line for the light to turn green. The cars are getting bigger, I start pointing to the driver about the upcoming danger. Yang is screaming to him, he puts the card on the front seat, and looks up front. Instantly he coughs, and screams, and hits the breaks, the car slides, I know we are going to hit, so does Yang, so does the driver, and hit we do. We ram into the car in front of us, my head bangs into the seat in front rather lightly, I’m pretty much okay, so is Yang, and so is the driver. He doesn’t say a word, opens the door and steps out of the vehicle. Both of us follow suit. He steps forward to look at the loss. The car that we’ve hit is also a taxi. Observing the loss, the driver steps back, unlatches the boot, and walks over. We step back and observe, I look into Yangs eyes and she is just a confused as I am. The driver open the boot, and takes out a Baseball bat. I am more confused, so is Yang. He takes the baseball bat, and screams and runs towards the car in front. The driver in the car is screaming something as well. We slowly start to nudge towards the sidewalk. The driver crashes the bat into the car in front, and then aims for the driver. He ducks, and then starts running. The driver follows him. We look for another Taxi, find a bar, and go have the pinyin over a good laughter.