Wednesday, May 19, 2010


On the way to class today, I stop by the corner store to buy a few things.  A couple of snacks and a Gatorade, to get me through the afternoon classes and a handful of dry erasers markers, that I go through all too quickly, add up to almost 20 RMB.  As the petite cashier rings up my purchases, I immediately throw the items in the wonderfully large teacher's bag that I carry. I then pull out my plastic blue bank card and run it through when the cashier suddenly starts hurriedly speaking to me. I can't make out anything she's saying, but I gather there's some sort of problem with my card.  This doesn't make any sense to me because I know there's more than enough in my account, and I use my card at this little store all the time.

I try to decipher what the problem is, with my broken Mandarin, but don't get very far.  All I gather is that they are asking for cash.  I almost always have cash, being that all of the local places we eat at don't accept cards, but, of course, I don't today; Nor do I have time to run to the ATM.  I rummage for a little cash, hoping there's some I overlooked, but come up empty handed, and sigh as I realize I'm just going to have to put everything back... Oh well.

Looking forward to making a hasty exit, I rummage through my annoyingly gargantuan bag that seems to have swallowed up all of the markers, when a young woman steps up to the counter and offers the cashier the money for my purchase.  "No, no, no!" I say pushing her outstretched hand away.  (Anytime I'm stressed out I forget to speak in Chinese.)  She starts putting the things back in my bag.  I pull the things back out of my bag. She puts them back in again, and I continue looking for those stupid markers.

This goes on for several more seconds. 

"No, no, no.." I catch myself, and switch to "Bu yao, bu yao!"  I tell her I don't want them.  "Mei guan xi, mei guan xi, mei guan xi," she insists that it's no problem.

This goes on for a few more seconds.

Worn out, and realizing that this woman is wanting so desperately to allow me to save face, or avoid humiliation, I finally give in, and relinquish my search for the phantom markers.  Thanking her as humbly as I've ever thanked anyone, I exit glimpsing her mouth "没关系" or "No problem" one last time.

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