Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lil' cheese on my croissant

A former violin teacher instructed me, "Rules exist for us to challenge." He was referring to a particular passage of Saint-Saëns, but I'm pretty sure Chinese drivers overheard him: I was convinced that I would make the obituary section of a local newspaper while crossing the street last week to pick up my dry cleaning last week. Being a pedestrian is Beijing is like playing a real-life game of Frogger with a "let's hit the foreigners!" modification. Traffic lane lines and street signs seem to exist solely for decoration, and I'm pretty sure it would be safer if Beijing drivers were required to chug baijiu before starting their engines. Or imagine Westheimer except with as many pedestrians and bicycles as cars and a government decree that brakes absolutely never be used. Thankfully, my newly clean shorts and I made it back unharmed, albeit emotionally scarred.

On a completely unrelated note:This book lists the phone numbers available for sale at the shop I visited to purchase a temporary phone and SIM card for my stay in Beijing. I’m guessing Chinese phone numbers are longer because there are many more Chinese than Americans. Much more interesting than the extra digit is that there are different prices for different numbers. (All the numbers on these first two pages cost the same, but the following pages list numbers with different prices.) The shopkeeper was trying to explain to me, or rather, I was trying to understand, that the prices reflect superstitions about different numbers. For example, the number 4 sounds very similar to the word "death" in Mandarin, so phone numbers containing 4s are cheaper. On the other hand, 8 is considered lucky; numbers with 8s are pricier. (I’m not sure how the prices are calculated for phone numbers with 4s and 8s- maybe those mean you’ll die soon but in a fortunate manner?) And then prices can also go up depending on patterns/ease of memorization/etc. Anyway, my temporary Beijing number is 1366-139-1201. No 4s- yay!