Last Friday night I was doing some last minute Christmas shopping with some friends at Wantong Market at Fuchengmen. It's one of the markets in Beijing we lovingly call "Stuff Mart." It's 5 floors of stalls selling every bit of dongxi (stuff) that is made under the sun. You want it, they've got it. Cheap! At one point I spotted a friend at a nearby stall checking out some fun dishware. She was admiring the bowls and I could tell the vendors were a bit bemused by her friendly chatter to them in Chinese. I decided to add to the fun, so sidled up to one of the vendors and said to her (referring to my friend), "Bu guan ta. Ta chi cuo yao le." (Don't mind her, she ate the wrong medicine). At that, the vendor collapsed into a heap on the floor laughing hysterically. This was too much. A foreigner who can speak Chinese is one thing, but one who can crack jokes using local slang and idioms was just too much. Here's the thing–'to eat the wrong medicine' is an expression that means someone is nuts, kind of like "she's off her rocker" in English.
I love to make people laugh, and it's even more satisfying when I can say something funny in Chinese. For a brief moment, I felt like an insider. Don't eat the wrong medicine today.