It's been raining in Shanghai these past few days, which is actually a good thing. Sure, you can't go outside without getting soaked, but on the plus side the temperature has dropped into the low eighties--even the high seventies one day!--and the humidity has become bearable. Not that it's gone, because it's definitely still there, but it just sort of becomes background noise, like Paris Hilton as soon as she starts talking or the little kids in the subway station who grab your leg and beg for money to buy dinner.
(Side note: the beggars in Shanghai are so terrible! I mean, they don't even look like beggars--they're way too clean, and are sometimes wearing colorful clothes that almost approach normal. At least the beggars in Beijing had the decency to smear some dirt across their respective faces and wear dark-colored rags, which really helps to sell the whole beggar lifestyle. Not enough for me to actually give them money--every Chinese person I know has told me not to--but enough to occasionally think that they might actually need it.)
But back to the rain. One notable side-effect of rain is the formation of puddles in the middle of the sidewalk. (No shit? Crazy! Only in China, I guess.) Normally, I'm not a big fan of puddles, what with the having to watch out for them, walk around them, and so on., but today I got some enjoyment out of them. Or, more specifically, one of them.As I have mentioned before, I get stared at quite a bit here. Not surprisingly, it happened today as I was out getting some lunch. I was walking down the street and an older man walking toward me, apparently deciding that I was by far the most interesting thing for at least a one-block radius, started to stare. And stare. And stare. And stare. Get the idea? Since I was in a whimsical mood, I gave him back a normal stare--the "I'm staring back at you" stare, as opposed to the glare or the dismissive glance, both of which I use frequently--but he just kept right on looking.
Whilst I pondered what my next move would be--normally, people stop staring if you stare back--I noticed that there was a puddle in the middle of sidewalk, and not only was he heading right for said puddle, but he was wearing loafers and the flesh-colored nylon booties favored by so many Chinese men. Can you see where this is going? Or, more specifically, where he is going? Or, even more specifically--specificalistly?--where his foot is going?
Yes, that's right: the puddle. As we exchanged stares and walked toward each other, I slightly altered my course to the right to make way for him before he could do the same to make way for me. He took the bait, obviously forgetting what Sun-Tzu said in The Art of War: never take what the enemy gives you! (Yes, I'm paraphrasing.) Seconds later, his left foot was ankle deep in brackish brown water, which no doubt got into his shoe, thereby soaking his entire foot for the foreseeable future.
I smiled. And not just because it's always fun to take pleasure in other's misfortunes--it totally is--but also because, thanks to the puddle, he had finally stopped staring. Yes indeed, sometimes life is good ...