Minding my manners.
Tomorrow, we are leaving China for a few weeks. Yes, rather than hang out here and see how Beijing celebrates the dawning of the Year of the Cock … um, Rooster … we have decided to go back to Seattle for a while instead. Well, not directly back. On our way across the Pacific, we are going to stop and spend three nights in Tokyo. (Since we leave tomorrow morning, we are--naturally--watching Lost in Translation tonight.)
I am very excited about this, having wanted to see Tokyo for some time. I've been told by several people who have lived there that it's like going to visit the Jetson's, and what wouldn't be fun about that? Assuming, of course, that mean old Mr. Spacely doesn't try to make us work the whole time at the sprocket factory or something, but I'm guessing we won't run into him. Tokyo's a big city, after all. The biggest in the world, according to some UN agency: the greater Tokyo area is home to about 26 million people, give or take a couple hundred thousand. It should make riding the subway interesting, at any rate. Well, trying to get on the subway to ride it.
But enough about Tokyo, since I will write too much about it later. Knowing that we are going to be back stateside in a matter of days, I have been compiling a list of "bad" behaviors that I may have picked up here in China that I will have to remember to avoid while in Seattle. Some more so than others, as you will see.
These questionable behaviors are, in no particular order:
No spitting in public. This is one thing that I definitely take advantage of here. Need to clear your throat? (And really, in a place where--as I have mentioned multiple times--SMOKE is a common forecast--who doesn't?) Here it's not a problem: just cough up some phlegm, and deposit it wherever you'd like. What could be easier?
Use deodorant. I've been out for like two weeks, but it's hard to find here--you have to go to one of the Western-style pharmacies (none of which are near our place) to get it. As you might guess, this lack of deodorant use makes riding on the subway "interesting," to say the least. But don't worry--I haven't given up on it entirely: I will definitely get some in Tokyo. Probably. But in the meantime, I've been using Holly's Secret. Strong enough for a man and all that …
Less nose picking. Yes, it's true. Laugh if you must, but it's a dry climate--really dry. To quote the always quotable George Costanza: "I guarantee you that Moses was a picker. You wander through the desert for forty years with that dry air, you're telling me you're not going to have occasion to clean house a little bit?" For the record, the Gobi desert is not that far away from Beijing. Seriously, it's not.
No pushing beggars. What can I say? They're clingy. Outside of anywhere foreigners congregate in Beijing--be it a knock-off market, a restaurant, or even a grocery store with lots of Western food--there are sure to be beggars. Pushy beggars who grab and follow you for blocks, literally, even if they have to run to keep up with you. And some of the beggar mom's sick their beggar kids on you too, which is even worse. No, not because they're kids--you do know me, right?--but because they will, on occasion, decide to wrap themselves around your leg like you're a long-lost relative. In that case, there's nothing to do other than scrape them off of you, like gum from the sole of a tennis shoe. Well, I guess I could give them one yuan or something to make them go away, but that would only teach them to cling to more foreigners than they already do. And besides, I might need that twelve cents. You never know.
No pushing people in general. As I've mentioned before, manners will get you nowhere here in Beijing: there's just too many people. If you want to get to the front of a line, you just walk--that is, push--your way to the front of it. Well, most of the time. In places with more orderly lines--like a ticket counter--you may actually have to wait. But you have to be prepared to defend your place in line while waiting, because some will still try the push-to-the-front approach. Elbows out, everyone. Anyway, pushing everyone out of the way will not win me many friends in Seattle, I wouldn't think.
Like the other day at the Forbidden City, there were a bunch of people milling aimlessly around the front of the Starbucks counter. So instead of trying to figure out what was going on, I just pushed my way to the front of the register, in true Chinese fashion. It was only after I got to the counter and looked around that I noticed that everyone else in the place was a foreigner, and--being foreigners--they might not understand how lines work in China. So naturally, I turned right around and said, "Sorry, were you in line?" Well, at least that's what I turned right around and said after I paid for my order ...