Living in the Orient, one becomes keenly attuned to mystical Eastern practices. For example, not only do I not bat an eye when I see individually plastic-wrapped toilet-paper rolls, I baulk when they don’t have “made from 100% virgin pulp” on the side. My handbag is full of tiny packets of tissues – free gifts when I buy the newspaper. I wear trackpants and thongs in public all the time.
Oh wait there’s nothing wushu there, that’s just me being an expat prick.
The point is, some things about living here, I don’t understand at all. But some things I do, and one of them is that if it’s a parable, then it’s true. This whole joint is constructed on a delicate veneer of thousands of fables and sayings, just waiting for a future generation to stamp on it with their collective inquiring foot, creating the fissure that will put an end to making important decisions based on what stick fell out of the lucky box. The downside is our arses will have to get used to being wiped with pulp that’s been around the treatment plant once or twice.
The price of progress.
Once, at work, I invented a Chinese parable by accident. A lawyer referred to “that famous Chinese saying about the roofless chicken”. Turns out it was actually “ruthless“. Think about it though: if you have a split second to write the thing that will make you look least like a dickhead, logic tells you to write “roofless”, right? As in, a chicken without a roof on its cage so it can fly the coop or whatev? A ruthless chicken doesn’t even make sense. I’ve never even seen an annoyed chicken, let alone one with the necessary emotional complexity to take that further into ruthlessness.
Singularly important to the Chinese person is their carparking spot. In our village, there’s a guy who has not one but two cars he is very proud of (their being an early 1990s Mercedes and a crap white Honda notwithstanding). At some point he decided he wanted our carpark, and just started parking there. We had a number of stand-up fights in both Cantonese and English, and an embarrassing confrontation where he chose to park me in in “his” carpark, rather than using one of his own spots, and then sat in his car for hours yelling out the window, “I’ve lived here for 25 years! I’m a village elder!” Mate. I don’t care if you’re a ruthless chicken. Have you seen how shit my car is? I’ll happily back into yours in the morning to get out.
Eventually he did appropriate our spot and I guess he was pretty pleased with the eight steps he saved himself every day. Until, one morning last week, his car was discovered like this:
Someone (NOT US!) had reversed right into his car.
What can you say?
Man who steals neighbour’s carpark will eventually get his ride smashed up?
Or, as we say where I’m from…