[exasperated sigh]

February 18th, 2008

Well, I was going to go into the office this afternoon, but lunch with T. dragged on a bit longer than usual- and mostly not in a bad way. In fact, lunch was a cool hanging out with one of my better colleagues right up until some nutjob decided to start hurling abuse at us.

Here’s the situation from my point of view:

We’re sitting at our table sipping our beers, picking at what’s left of lunch (lunch with T. and M. when he’s available tends to last a few hours) and chatting. There’s a bit of a commotion at the front of the restaurant, but I, and apparently T., just assume it’s the usual settling of a newly arrived customer. Then I notice what the newly arrived customer is saying:


But repeated over and over again. I look up, thinking a disagreement between staff and (arsehole) customer has erupted. No, customer is looking towards the rear of the restaurant while repeating his rather coarse phrase, while the staff are looking perplexed. It took me a while, right up until he switched to very slurred English “Fuck your mother!” before I realised he was hurling his abuse at T. and I.

What we had done to merit being sworn at in such a coarse fashion in two languages (note: The Chinese and English swearings were direct translations of each other) neither of us could figure out. We took note of this guy’s presence and attitude and did our best to continue our conversation.

Fortunately he expanded his vocab. Unfortunately, he got less and less coherent. He would periodically state loudly, as he was facing the door (away from us) something less than pleasant about foreigners, and I think he was at one point asking why the restaurant would stoop so low as to take foreign money. I say “I think” because his speech was rather slurred and somewhat less than coherent. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out whether he was drunk or insane (literally, legally) or both. Well, eventually he got bored enough that we could continue our conversation without constant, loud, vulgar interruptions, but we still kept an eye on him, and he still threw up the occasional, token round of abuse. Trouble with drunks and the mentally ill, especially the aggressive ones (who are, I must state, a small minority of the mentally ill), is that they’re unpredictable. So as he got his food and calmed down, I relaxed a bit, but, being the one facing the door and therefore facing Arsehole, I still kept an eye out. Just in case.

Well, surprise, surprise. We paid (the restaurant just wasn’t such a pleasant place to hang out in anymore, and we both had things we needed to be doing) and left. And as we were leaving, we walked past Arsehole. And did he even say anything even remotely untoward? No. I was worried about the possibility of him acting out, but, as I suspected, only his mouth was tough. His body just wasn’t so interested in following through.

Yeah, this time at least. What did I say about such people being unpredictable?

Anyway, just for the record, to make sure it’s clear to all who read this: Apart from the usual tourist-trap bollocks (which is targeted at Chinese as much as foreigners, just differently, and which is easy enough to avoid), I’ve only been targeted, I mean aggressively, because of my skin colour one or two times, three at most, in all the eight years I’ve been in China. Really, it is very, very rare for a foreigner to be targeted for abuse in this way.

Oh, sure, I’ve had idiots mutter things not-quite-under their breath or as they’re passing by, but that’s happened less than a handful of times and is only done because the idiot in question assumes I could not possibly understand, and therefore can’t possibly react. That doesn’t count.

I have only been targeted directly, aggressively, two, at most three times, and each time shrugging it off, ignoring the aggressor and moving on has worked like a charm.

What I’m saying is, I had a nasty encounter today, yes. T. and I were obviously targeted because we were foreigners, there’s no getting around that. This kind of thing is exceedingly rare in China, and the best method for dealing with it is to ignore the aggressor (but keep an eye on him in case he tries to take you from behind- and read that in every possible sense) and move on. This kind of thing is exceedingly rare in China. Two or three times in eight years, as I said.

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