Friday, November 28, 2008

Just a bit of wandering around

I decided to head over to the gym after work to have my second go at the spin bikes. A block down the street I realized I had forgotten to bring a towel but I had passed the point of no return and I figured I would just grab one there.

Today since it was early I figured I would be brave and use the locker room. I’d pretty much overcome the horror of milling around with those naked cell phone talkers and I thought it might be preferable to piling my crap on the floor behind my bike so having received my locker key at the front desk, I went up to the second floor and went on in. Luckily, there was no one there. I dumped my stuff, pulled on my Sidis and went up to the third floor.

The place was empty so I saddled up and rode for about an hour. A couple of guys came in and talked on their cell phones, pretty much corroborating my earlier assumption that the spin room is really the cell phone parlor. A man came in and took a drink from a water bottle that was in the bottle holder on one of the bikes. It matched his shirt. Fifteen minutes, a woman came in wearing a shirt that matched the other guy’s and placed her matching water bottle in a bike near mine. She stood there and stared at me for a few seconds before wandering off. I was nearing the end of my planned hour which was running up against the publicized start time for the thrice weekly spin class.

I spun to a halt and stepped off as a young guy came in – the spin class instructor. He said “hello” and I responded in kind. He stared at my shoes, I imagine because I was the first person he’d seen in his room wearing real live mountain bike shoes. The funny thing is, I have seen tons of Chinese staring at my feet, starting with some guys in a van back at that make believe heroin deal we did down at the port and ending with dozens of guys on the train, in the street and even in the grocery store. My assumption was that they see westerner and they expect big fancy athletic shoes and then they are sorely disappointed when they see me wearing my clunky pair of Ecco hikers. This time though, I made a positive impression. He asked me why I was spinning alone, pronouncing it “boring” and wanted to know if I had spun. I told him I was a cyclist and that I actually had a spin bike at home. He wanted to know if I was staying for his class and I answered that I had already done an hour and so was tapped. I asked what days the class was held, because while the board said Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I’d been in there the other night at the offered time and there had been no class. He told me it was offered every day, including the weekend. “Even Wednesday?” I asked, and he said “Yes.” I told him I had been in on Wednesday and that there had been no class. He said, “At 5PM?” and I said “5:30.” He insisted there was a class and I said, “I didn’t see anyone here.” He smiled and “That’s true, there was no class.” Before leaving, I asked him where the towels were kept and he told me that you buy them downstairs. You show your locker key and they sell you one for “Like 3 or 5 RMB, and you get to keep it and take it home.” That my friends, is China.

I went down to the locker room and was treated to the sight of the guy with the locker next to mine standing there, dialing a call on his cell with his pants down around his knees. I mean, really, you’re so busy making that call that you can’t pull your pants up? I ended up walking down the stairs with this guy and his girlfriend wondering how much she knows about this half naked phone thing he has going on.

It was time for me to do a little shopping so I went back to the hotel, got cleaned up and went back out to the mall. I stopped in Starbucks and grabbed a cup to go. I wandered around inside the mall hoping to see if that scarf place was there, still trying to rock that Keffiyeh look but they were gone. I bumped into a western woman looking at the bread display in the little bakery kiosk. She was wearing headphones listening to her iPod and wearing sweat pants. She had the sourest look on her face, something I find common to every single westerner I see here. I don’t know what it is, but I never see these people smiling. Last week I passed a young woman walking down the sidewalk with her son – nasty look. Tonight I saw a guy walking his Schnauzer – nasty look. For whatever reason, expats are an unhappy bunch.

I took my coffee and went outside and stood there in the cold watching the Chinese commercials on the Jumbotron on the front of the mall. When the repeats started I headed down in the tunnel and under the street to the grocery store. I passed a guy with a dog who had a small Bassett Hound in a wire tray on top of a dog crate with 6 tiny white puppies. You see so many sad animals every day here that it really begins to wear on you. The poor dog turned her head and looked at me as I walked by. I can’t even begin imagine the story behind that poor pooch.

As usual I worked up a complete body sweat in the grocery store. I have to remember to wear a t-shirt next time I go there. I found pretty much most of what I went there for including that Holy Grail of Chinese grocery shopping – Australian Tangerines, but no Canadian bacon so I decided to stop in Mykal knowing that they had it in the gourmet shop. Sure enough I was able to find a couple packages and I added them to my haul. On the way out, I found a big table of scarves and sure enough, there was the Keffiyeh with the bigger checks. The girls working the counter loved the fact that I was stopping by to shop. I ran off a bit of Chinese which of course sent them into a rapid fire response of which I was able to grasp about no percent. The girl behind the counter pulled out three with checks varying from small to large. I liked the large check version and the girl preferred the smaller one. I asked another girl which one she liked and she picked the middle one, which everyone found really funny. I wandered off to pay the cashier, came back, collected my scarf and bid adieu to the girls.

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