Where’s the Car?

This is yet another "traffic in China" post.  My friend, who writes for "That’s Shanghai" has written about his disappearing minivan in Shanghai.  It starts out like this:

A couple of weeks ago, I drove through downtown Puxi early one Saturday
morning to have breakfast with a friend. To my surprise, I found a
parking spot across the street from the restaurant. After breakfast, my
friend and I left the restaurant, shook hands and parted ways. He went
in search of a taxi and I went in search of my car. Which had
disappeared. I experienced one of those cartoon double-take moments: I
rubbed my eyes and squinted hard.  No car. I cocked my head to one side
and emitted a Scooby Doo-like “Aroo?” But still, no car.

You can go here to read the entire story. 

I had a similar experience in Beijing once.  I’ll write about it soon.

Fortunately, Unfortunately

Yesterday I participated in a seminar on English teaching in China.  One of the presenters did an exercise to demonstrate an oral activity, called "Fortunately, Unfortunately," in which 3 or 4 people stand and tell a running story.  The teacher starts off by telling the opening of a story line, such as, "Yesterday, I left my home as usual and set off for work…."  The next person must say "fortunately," then continue the story.  The next person says, "unfortunately," and continues the story, and so on.  It can be quite humorous to see where the story line goes.

As they were doing the activity, I was reminded of my own "fortunately, unfortunately" story from last month.  I was flying to Seattle for the weekend to speak at a conference.  I was scheduled to fly out Friday morning, and back Sunday morning.  Since my conference wasn’t until Saturday, I decided to rent a car and head up to Everett, WA to take a tour of the Boeing plant.  Before I left I went online and booked both the tour and a cheap rental car.  Here’s where the story line picks up….

Unfortunately, when I arrived at the Northwest ticket counter (what else, I’m in Minnesota!), I discovered that I did not have my drivers license—it had fallen out of my purse at home.

Fortunately, the ticket agent said there were procedures for this and not to worry, I would be allowed on the flight.

Unfortunately, that meant having to go through extra scrutiny at security.  When I arrived and told them of my situation, they escorted me off to the side.  They put all my stuff into a red bin (STAY BACK, THIS WOMAN MAY BE DANGEROUS!!) and told me that I was not allowed to approach my stuff until I was told to.  I was escorted through security and hustled off into a corner where they went through everything of mine. 

Fortunately, they were very polite and friendly about it all.

Unfortunately, now I was flying to Seattle to pick up a rental car and had no drivers license.  Fat chance on that one, folks!!  As I sat on the flight I pondered the fact that I was going to miss out on the Boeing tour and wondered how in the world I was going to get to the conference site.  Super Shuttle anyone? Needless to say, I was bummed, and quite annoyed with myself.

Fortunately, as I entered the baggage claim area, I heard my name!!!  Who knows I’m here, I wonder?  Well, it was one of the conference coordinators who was meeting others coming in!  Glory be!! I won’t have to use Super Shuttle!  But first, out a mixture of curiosity and stupidity, I went over to the rental car counter to see if they’d give me a car even though I didn’t have a license (I knew the number and expiration date).

Unfortunately, the agent looked at me as if all of my brain cells had died.

Fortunately, the conference coordinator was still waiting around. 

Unfortunately, though, I still had that ticket to the Boeing tour which I thought I would have to forfeit.

Fortunately, when she heard that I was trying to get to the tour, she decided that she wanted to go as well.  And what’s more, the driver of the van (someone else, of course) lived close to the tour site and he said he’d be happy to drop us both off there!

We did the tour, then did the conference on Saturday, and all was well that ends well.


Breaking the Pipes

A colleague of mine has recently moved to Beijing from Mongolia, and has started a blog about her experiences transitioning from the countryside of Mongolia to Big Bad Beijing.  It’s called T in Beijing, and it can be found here.  Her first entry is a story about an embarrassing moment at a bathroom (a common location for embarrassing moments in life).  As I read it I was reminded of my own embarrassing moment in a bathroom awhile back.

It took place at a coffee shop in Haidian District in Beijing, near the north gate of a university.  I had gone there to make use of their free wireless connection, since my internet connection at home wasn’t working, for some unknown reason! I’m not a coffee drinker, but I did enjoy  my large coke and popcorn.  After a couple of hours, of course, I needed to find the bathroom.  I was directed downstairs, and when I got there was disappointed to find that it was a "squatty potty."  In principle, I don’t have any problem with them, so long as they are clean (this one was), but my deteriorating knees are never happy to have to do the hard work of getting me down and up.  Basically, they rebel (painfully, I might add), and I can only manage to perform their function so long as I am either bracing my arms against the sides of the stall walls (is this too much information?) or I am hanging on to something.  In this case I was able to grab onto the pipe and hang on for dear life.  Problem was, though, it was a PVC pipe, and as I used the pipe to pull myself up, the pipe just snapped in half!!!  Yikes!! Now what was I going to do?  Not wanting to be on the receiving end of a fountain of water, I opted NOT to flush the toilet (this pipe was coming down from a tank mounted high on the wall).  I decided to get out of Dodge.  I washed my hands, then surreptitiously went upstairs to pack up my things and pay my bill and leave. 

Interestingly, I couldn’t bring myself to return to the restaurant for many many months for fear that I would be fingered as the one who’d broken the pipes.