My proclivity for getting into strange, frustrating and sometimes dangerous situations was the theme of the presents I received from my colleague Jennifer at our office Christmas party.
Jennifer gave me box of knickknacks, along with a booklet of written instructions on their use and purpose. The items included:
- “Chill Pills’’ – Two bottles of flavored chewing-gum pellets designed to calm me down when I “take a cab in a Zhengzhou traffic jam, or your Internet goes out or you have to talk to the building manager.’’ I’ve taken a few epic, rush-hour taxi rides and had a running battle with my landlady over getting Internet service and a shower curtain in my apartment.
- “Snake Oil Cream’’ – A packet of skin lotion that “can ward off any kind of questionable woman you may run into.’’ A con woman in Beijing tried to stick me with a $1,400 bar bill.
- Monopoly Money – A stack of Monopoly bills so “you won’t have to go to a bank machine or anything like that to get money to pay anyone who tries to con you.’’ To settle with the Beijing swindler, I had to withdraw 1,000 yuan ($164) from an ATM.
- “Adventure Kit’’ – A package with a flashlight, wooden spoons, a first-aid kit and a bottle of aspirin for my “next mountain adventure.’’ Two friends and I were forced to descend a narrow mountain trail at night after we miscalculated when the sun would set. I walked into a tree, gashing my head and getting a serious concussion. Next time, Jennifer said, I can use the flashlight to navigate the trail and bang the wooden spoons together to “alert all trees’’ that I’m coming.
- Sunglasses: According to Jennifer, they can help me “borden my eyesight’’ and “stare at China in a poetical way’’ – both references to some unusual phrasing we’ve encountered from our English writing students.
One thing Jennifer overlooked was my encounter with a naked janitor when I got locked into our office building one night. I’m not sure what gift could prevent that from happening again. But maybe the sunglasses would make it more bearable.