On trains, in restaurants or indeed anywhere, the average chinese local likes to stare at the westerner. By stare I mean really stare, like they’re attempting jedi mind tricks on you. If you reciprocate the stare and make eye contact about 90% of them will avert their eyes rather hastily. They’re embarrassed see, which is natural human behaviour. The remaining 10% will not flinch. Their eyes lock on to yours and suddenly you’ve been entered into a game of stare chicken. I entered one such game yesterday on the metro. I swear for four whole stops the bloke didn’t blink, or breathe. Fighting every polite instinct in my being I eye-tussled with him for what seemed like minutes. It was minutes. Eventually real tears started to form from the strain on my poor peepers and I had to concede. As I left the train I noticed the victor didn’t swivel his head to follow me out the door and on to the platform. No, he remained perfectly still, his black eyes dead and callous. It was then that I realised he might actually be dead.
So since then I’ve been doing a bit of staring myself, and there’s plenty to stare at, what with all the mental day-to-day stuff that occurs just everywhere. I watched a cop chase some street vendors down the road yesterday. The vendors were remarkably quick at bundling their stock together and taking flight, their blankets on which they lay out their wares have handy ties on each end see, so when the cop call goes out they just need one quick pull and they’re off. Incidentally the cop never got near any of them and they returned to the same spot a few minutes later.
I actually saw a man threaten to hit a cop or at least some sort of security official outside my apartment. No-one seems to care much for the dear police and they don’t seem to command much respect, which is surprising I guess as I thought initially they’d rule the communist state with a fist of iron.
Weirdest thing yet though occurred last night in a nightclub, which was underground and on the Bund (read: bloody pricey). I was doing a pee in the urinal when a guy started giving me a back massage. He then started jostling round my arms which made me pee everywhere before exclaiming – “Oh yes, you very strong.” He then asked for money, which he did not receive. It was akin to homeless folk cleaning your car at red lights but with an increased quota of avert willy-watching.
We ended up at another club in the French Concession where they charged 60 RMB at the door and it was free booze inside. Dear oh dear. There was a skinny waif of a lad singing over the music on a microphone while most of the clubbers flocked around him. That doesn’t sound as bizarre as it actually was. In fact I thought I’d be slightly numbed to the bizarre by now but that’s definitely not the case. In the long run this is probably a good thing otherwise I’d return to the west as a cop-hitting, willy-watching stare-master with a penchant for gobbing and elbowing grannies out of queues. OK, off for a curry!