You know how it is when you kind of get into a routine and the world goes by day after day without you barely even noticing? Everything is pretty much the same? It is impossible to tell one day from the next?
And then one morning you look up and see….
And you know today is going to be a very special day. Actually, this is the only day that I saw blue sky for an entire month, so I was feeling pretty darn groovy.
Why do I never see it coming?
I had finished my mails and was almost ready to head out to the office when the doorbell rang. Now, before we proceed, a little background information. The following photo is the two trashcans in my kitchen. You will note there is one normal can, and one with Chinese writing and pictures on it. But I am not completely ignorant and can figure out the normal one is for general trash, and the other can is for the stinky organic garbage. Simple right?
Since I cannot figure out how to actually describe what happened when I opened the door, I am simply relaying our conversation to the best of my recollection. At least this conversation was in English!
She: Hello. I am Citizens Community Association Leader
Me: Okay. Hi.
She: You have been noticed kitchen trash violations.
She: Why you not repair kitchen trash violations?
Me (glancing into kitchen to make sure that my kitchen trash was not up to no good): Um. Kitchen trash is okay.
(At this point I realized that she had a clipboard with lots of writing on it, but what caught my eye was the notation in bold at the top of the page 5-6B which is my apartment designation. Uh oh.)
She: We write you many times on kitchen trash.
Me: Um. Okay. Um. I did not see writings about kitchen trash.
She (getting a little angry): What wrong with you? We write you. Tell you. Give you bags. No cooperate. Bad to environment. Bad to neighbors. Bad.
Me (now I am confused): Okay. I use bags.
She: Use wrong bags.
(Now the light bulb sort of goes on in my head – but my next thought is – WTF? How can she know what bags I use? Are they SPYING on me? Again? Seriously? Are we really talking about kitchen trash here? And again, why would they know which bags I use? The trash collection cans are on alternate floors and everyone dumps their trash into the cans. How do they know it is ME using the wrong bags.)
Me: Um. One moment.
I go get my trash bags. They are provided by the landlord and so I believe they must be the official trash bags right? I bring them to the door.
She: Wrong bags. Kitchen trash other bag.
She then turns to her associate who I had not yet noticed and grabbed a roll of bags out of his hand and thrust the bag roll into my face.
She: Correct bags.
Me: Okay (taking the roll)
She: Who are you? Give me name.
She: What family name?
She: How to spell?
I spelled it out and she carefully noted this information on her clipboard.
She: What nationality?
This response elicited an eye roll from Ms. Leader. Apparently Canadians are NOT specialists in taking out kitchen trash in China. Again, information noted carefully on the clipboard.
She: You have IE?
She: Yes – IE. Live here?
Me (light bulb goes off again – IE is Aie which is Aunt in Chinese): My IE does not live here.
She: Where IE live?
She (getting very angry now): No IE live in Connecticut.
Me: Yes – I promise my IE lives in Connecticut. Why do you want to know about my IE?
She (now leaning forward trying to see into the apartment): IE. I need talk to your maid.
Me: OOOOOhhhhh. Maid. Yes I have maid. No she does not live here.
She: Where she live? What her name?
Me: I don’t know. I have many maids.
She: No many maids. 1 maid.
Me: No really. I promise. My landlord provides the maids. They are different all the time.
She (apparently extremely frustrated with me and out of patience): You use the correct bag now on. If you do not, must report to Citizens Community Association. You know where is?
Me: Um. Okay. Sure.
She: You cooperate Ms. Smith.
Me: Who? Oh – right – Okay.
In case you are ever in China, here is the official kitchen trash bag for the stinky organic garbage.
The moment I closed the door the remorse set in. Why did I give a phony name? In the US, you can get in big trouble for giving authorities the wrong name. Crap. What have I done. All she has to do is to go to my landlord and she will learn my real name. Damn. Is she really an authority? Is kitchen trash bags a serious violation here in China? I better get out of here.
I collected my stuff and quickly left the apartment. As I turned to take the route to the subway, I realized that I would be more exposed and that I could be more easily followed. I walked around the building to another exit and caught a taxi. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t followed.
So much for feeling groovy. Perhaps it is time to go back to the US for a while. The good news is that I leave on Wednesday to fly back. The bad news is that United still has not given me my upgrade. I got a short, lame email of congratulations on hitting the million miles. But no upgrade. Yet.
But hey – I am an eternal optimist – keeping the faith. As long as I can get out of the country without producing a Canadian passport in the name of Sandi Smith.