hijacked days

September 27th, 2008

And no, the title does not refer to the Chinese practice of working a weekend to make up for the holiday.

Had lunch with a few colleagues yesterday. Nothing remarkable in that, there’s a group of us who often hang out. But we took a table outside T’s favourite Muslim restaurant. T’s easy to please: If it’s cheap and has noodles and beer, he’s happy. Cheap, in this case, comes with a downside: Even though it’s a Muslim restaurant and Muslim restaurants are usually cleaner than infidel restaurants of similar price/quality, this one isn’t. It’s a low down, dirty, dive. In fact, that little corner, Pandaomiao, on the northeast corner of BeiGongDa, looks more like an old lower working class quarter of Taiyuan than anywhere in Beijing. But that’s ok, T eats there often, I’ve eaten there several times, and neither of us has ever suffered any ill effects. And I’ve heard no complaints from Roubaozi or D, either.

It was nice, though, when one of our students, who happened to be passing by, stopped over at our table to warn us that the food wasn’t necessarily very clean. We told him we were well aware of that and were quite happy about it.

Roubaozi and D had to run off to class, and when they left T and I sat back and relaxed into our Friday lunch routine. Empty bottles piled up, many yarns were spun, the afternoon wore on. That would be fine, except that the local toilet is probably one of the very, very few shallow concrete trench jobbies left within the Fourth Ring. Not normally a problem for me, no matter how bad the toilets may get in this city, I’ve still used worse. But somehow between my last visit to this restaurant (which was at least a month ago, I’ll admit, if not two), the local men had somehow gotten really, really lazy.

I mean, really lazy.

The men’s side of that toilet now has a clear patch of floor just inside the door measuring at most two square metres. The rest of the floor is covered in crystallised urea. I kid you not.

And of course, once you’ve broken the seal (something T delayed as long as was humanly possible)…..

My second trip to the toilet got me the confirmation I didn’t need: A security guard (from the BeiGongDa East Gate, no doubt. Go BeiGongDa! Defend that reputation!) walked just inside the door and turned 90 degrees so he was facing the crystallised urea and….

….well, added to it, as if you needed to be told.

Well, anyways, apart from the rather primitive public loo 50 metres down the road, I still can’t think of any reason to dislike that restaurant.

Well, we couldn’t sit there all afternoon, and T went about his business while I headed home. But arriving at the front door of our building, I parked and locked my bike, pulled the house keys out, and

OH

SHIT

!

No swipe card for the front door!

When foreign teachers at this university are issued their keys, the swipe card comes hung on the key ring. Trouble is, that thin sliver of plastic holding card to key ring breaks easily, and had done. I’d been very careful, as I almost always am, to keep the card with my keys, but obviously somehow it had fallen out of my pocket somewhere. It was nowhere on the ground behind me. Obvious place to check: The public loo I had stopped in on the way home. Nope. The restaurant. Nope. Shit. Where then? Before the restaurant I’d been at the office, check there. No. Bank. No. Security guard even checked with the managers and came with me to examine where I’d parked my bike. Shit out of luck. Bugger. Oh wait, I’d stopped at the East Gate waiting for Roubaozi, and had pulled my phone out of the same pocket. Whip through the grass I’d been standing next to and check with the guard- who remembered seeing me waiting there- and no.

I’d retraced all my steps and searched everywhere I could search, and no luck. Only one thing to do now, and that is go to the front desk of the Foreign Students Dorm (they also manage foreign teachers’ accomodation) and ask for a new card. 50 kuai and an admonition to not put the card on my key ring (BUT YOU PUT IT ON MY KEY RING!) later, and I have a new card and can go home.

And so what was left of my Friday afternoon was hijacked by my own carelessness. Stupid thing is I’m almost never careless like that- lzh got mad at me when I told her this story and yelled at me for losing stuff all the time. I said, oh yeah, what have I lost? The sipe card for the door. Yeah, and? The swipe card for the door…. And? Oh, right. Oh well, gotta screw up once in a while.

Then today, of course, was a Monday timetable to make up for Monday being included in the National Day holiday. Monday’s my busiest day, but transferred to a weekend? Media studies. Still, watching the same film four times in a row can be surprisingly exhausting. Funnily enough, attendance at the afternoon classes was in the 9 or 10 range (out of 30+). Tomorrow’s classes have been cancelled or postponed (although the students seem to interpret postponement as cancellation) so I get an extra day off, which I am very, very much looking forward to.

Funny thing is, the first years are still showing up in full force…. as far as I can tell. I don’t have first years on a Monday, but those first year classes that were happening near me where packed full. Ah, freshers. They’ll lose their naive, eager earnestness soon enough. For now, it’s sweet to observe.

And with a bit of luck (and based on past experience, this bit of luck should happen) lzh will get off work at midday tomorrow, allowing us to join the crush of Yanqingren heading home for the holiday. See, a crowd of Yanqingren heading home is no hassle, because everybody knows how everything works already. A crowd of tourists, which is what we’ll most likely see if we have to wait till Monday, is far more trouble.

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