Thursday, October 20, 2005

This Hotel Done Gone Crazy On Me

The people in this hotel have gone crazy on me. Must be some strange moon cycle or something. Xinlei is still working on his driver’s license, so he’s out of town on the weekends, sometimes stretching it into a three-day weekend. This weekend there were several incidents that, standing alone seem somewhat innocent and not entirely strange, but when piled on top of each other over the course of a couple short days create a nice little package of strange wrapped in a piece of weird (much like a sexual harassment issue).

I’ve been here for nearly six weeks now and am still dealing with this visa debacle. This week featured several more forms and a package of paperwork in Chinese that I had to FedEx to some unknown address. Once again Xinlei was invaluable (ultra-valuable, extra-valuable – whatever word means more than normal valuable) in the process. He got me all squared away over the phone and told the hotel business office staff that I was a retarded child, so they would be unable to communicate with me (or he told them that I didn't speak Chinese, I have no idea what he tells them about me). I went down, dropped them some cash, signed a couple forms and just assumed that everything was taken care of.

Later in the afternoon, I came downstairs to work in the lobby for an hour or two and Liu, the front desk hottie, told me that I had some extra change from the package delivery fees and I could pick it up in the business office. Always a fan of getting money, I bolted to the second floor and demanded my money from them like a rabid dog demanding an ass to bite. Actually it was more like this:

“Hello, my name is Lucas, I delivered a package earlier” I should point out that it was after shift change, which meant new faces (I’ve only been to the business office two or three times, so I’m not really a familiar face in those parts).

“Hello, you want to deliver a package?”

“No, I had a package delivered this morning and they told me I had some change, you know, leftover money?” I tried desperately to create a hand signal that signified ‘change’ or ‘leftover’ which ended up looking like I was explaining how a volcano worked.

“Change? We have packages to deliver for you?”

“No, you already delivered… never mind, can I call Liu at the front desk?”

“Front desk? Here.” She picked up the phone and called the front desk, rattled something off and handed me the phone. I was expecting to hear that beautiful voice of Liu on the phone, who would be my savior and rescue me from the evil business office who holds my money in their clutches, even if they don't know it.

“Liu, hello! I love you, do you want to come to America with me?”

“Hello, this is Tony. America? I know where America is!!”

“Tony? Who the hell are you? You don't sound very sexy.”

“What can I do for you sir?”

“Well, I delivered a package earlier and I was supposed to come to the business office to pick up my change, you know leftover money?” Of course he couldn't see my volcano motion over the phone, but I still made it.

“Ahh, yes, you would like to know the conversion rate for US dollars?” He replied proudly.

“What? No, no, I don't care about that. I have money here and they are supposed to give it to me. Do you know what I’m talking about? Can I talk to Liu?” I should also point out that I mispronounce her name every time I say it (Leo, Luuu, Ryu, Low, Bomb Diggity front desk girl, it’s always something different).

“Um, can you repeat?”

“Ok, hold on a sec, I’ll come down and talk to you. I do a great volcano impression that may help this out.” And hung up the phone. I did the international sign for ‘wait here one minute’ to the staff. They smiled in that ‘I have no idea what this ape is saying’ way that I get so often around here and I headed down to the front desk with diminishing hopes of a Liu-rescue mission knowing that some guy named Tony was awaiting my arrival.

Getting to the front desk, I could tell who Tony was immediately. He was the mid-20’s manager guy waiting for me at the elevator door. I have talked to him before; he is one of the people who knows enough English to make talking to him the most frustrating experience in the universe. He was excited like a kid in a zoo, dancing around me like an idiot trying to help me out. I gave him exactly three seconds before I cut him off and went to find the lovely Liu.

Liu’s English really isn’t much better than Tony, but for obvious reasons, I don't mind that much. Plus, she knew about the money that I was entitled to. I quickly explained to her that the business office crew had no idea what I was talking about and she called them up and got me all straightened away in like ten seconds. “Wait here, they will bring the money down in a minute.”

“Sweet, I’ll just hang here and chat with you while I wait. Any chance of them getting lost on the way? It could buy us an extra minute.”

“I have a present for you!”

“No kidding?! What?” I practically shouted. Liu noticed me! She did! First, the wedding is going to be Star Wars themed. Then we’ll move to Seattle for the weather where I’ll get a job running a small company, which will get bought out, and I’ll be able to retire in five years. We’ll have two kids, little Dangus, who will have a blond Afro and play the piano, and Beatrice Ann, who we’ll call Kitty and will be a scientist. We’ll have two cats and we’ll live in China six months out of the year.

“Yes, it’s not from me, she doesn't want me to tell you who it is really from.” She then presented me with one of those huge all-day suckers. How cute.

“Aww, come on Liu, you little vixen.” I waved my hands at her in flirty disbelief.

“No, I’m serious, it’s not from me.” She replied seriously, very seriously.

“Just dashing, just wonderful. Is she at least hot?” I anguished.

“What is hot?” she questioned me with a confused look.

“Never mind, you sure you wont tell me who it’s from?”

“No, I’m sorry, I cant.” This is when I noticed that all ten girls at the front desk were watching me, all blushing, giggling. This totally distracted me from the fact that I was really here to get money. I’d gladly give up the money to know what the hell just happened.

I think it’s this girl Li. Liu asked me to go to Li’s English class with her last week. I’m sure it’d be a spectacular experience, but at the time I didn't feel much like being an object of show-and-tell, like a geode from Yellowstone. They’d all be poking me, asking me weird questions. At the time, I just wasn't in the mood. I just am not sure which one Li is, odds are that she’s not hot.

Suddenly I realized that one of the girls from the business office was standing behind me like a wraith with a few measly bills in her hand. She handed them over, apologizing hand over hand.

“Really, its no problem at all, please, stop bowing, I’m in the middle of something.” I turned around and Liu was gone. What’s up with these people? They move like ghost rabbits.

I turned back around, head hanging low, ready to sit down and throw my headphones on and get a little work done and nearly ran over Tony. Tony had replaced the business office wraith like some sort of shape shifter.

“Whoa there Danza, sorry man, excuse me.” I stepped around him and started walking to a seat, but I could feel his presence not decreasing with each step. I turned around and he was following me with this idiotic grin on his face. This guy is like the butler from the Adams Family.

“Lu-Ka, I would like to talk to you for a minute. Do you have time?”

“Um…yeah, I guess so. What’s up man?” I said unenthusiastically. I keep expecting to get in trouble for something around here, I’m not sure what, but I can just feel it coming. I expected this to be the one. For the past 30 years, I have gotten in trouble by someone once a month. It’s usually my boss telling me to quit jacking around so much, or the stupid landlord telling me to wear pants in the pool. The worst ones are when I get in trouble when I’m a guest in a hotel or something similar. It’s usually something like ‘quit following the girls around’, or ‘housekeeping has made several comments about strange activities in your room’, or ‘quit bouncing the basketball in the lobby’, blah blah blah. These conversations are so embarrassing I want to crawl into a hole and it usually keeps me from showing my head much for a few days. I really feel like an idiot when I get in trouble, but it still happens regularly. I think I rely on other people to just tell me what’s wrong or stupid rather than just using my own judgment most of the time, kind of takes a lot off my mind and frees me up to be a jackass, thus creating good stories.

“Let’s go somewhere and sit down.” He gestured towards a couch, smiling broadly.

Great, here it comes. He’s sitting me down. I wonder if it was housekeeping, it had to be housekeeping, those bitches, I’m going to trash my room like a Guns N Roses after party tonight. I told Xinlei to apologize to them for moving the television into the bathroom. In my mind, sitting down means it’s either going to be a long talk, or they’re going to execute me. At this point, I’m not sure which I’d prefer.

The contents of the ensuing conversation are a bit blurry to me for a couple reasons. The first is the unfortunate fact of Danza’s English. Tony’s English, like I mentioned before, is kind of like talking to a very old German woman; mumbling, heavy accent, strange eye contact and excessive drooling soaked my shirt with spittle and my head with confusion. The second reason for the blur is the fact that the conversation lasted for a painful hour and fifteen minutes. I wouldn't have known this if Tony hadn’t positioned himself between me and the four-foot clock in the hotel lobby.

The basis of the conversation centered on what I like about China, where America is located, and what kinds of movies I liked (I think, he could have asked me to star in a porn, he really mumbles a lot). After 75 minutes of excruciating conversation, I finally had to tell Tony that I really had to get some work done, at which point he stood up, shook my hand and declared us ‘best friends forever.’

Excuse me? Am I a fifth grade girl (don't answer that question please)? It has all become clear now, Tony Danza is in love with me; Tony Danza forced the beautiful Liu into running a homoerotic errand in the form of an all-day sucker. Danza is my secret admirer!

After retreating to my room to recover for a couple hours from the stunning news that I am the new gay icon for the Langfang International Hotel, I realized amidst all of all this excitement, I had been ignoring my poor stomach’s cries for food. Because I still cannot order food anywhere but within the hotel, I decided to venture to one of the hotel restaurants.

It was about 2:00 pm, which virtually guaranteed me an empty restaurant, perfect for reading my book in semi-peace (except for the smiles, waves and chatter of the waitresses who gather around any place I eat). Walking back through the lobby, I heard quite a ruckus coming from the some unknown source. As I approached the restaurant, the shouts steadily got louder and louder. The entire marble hotel lobby has impressive acoustics, the sounds seemed to echo from all directions, but the only had one source, the restaurant (the restaurant is called Seafood Sunshine, but has very little of either ironically).

“Ohh! Please tell me Tony’s ok, I just hate it when he fights!” I shrieked running across the lobby towards the commotion.

By this time, quite a crowd of my roommates (hotel staff) had gathered around the entrance and as I approached, they all parted like the Moses parting the Red Sea for me. Inside the restaurant was a lone table of about eight people. It appeared to be a family, grandmother, grandfather, mom, dad, a couple children and they all sounded totally wasted (especially the children, damn kids, keep it under control). I had no idea what they were yelling at, but as soon as the drunken father spotted me, I knew my query was soon to be answered.

Our eyes locked and he was drawn to me like a vampire to blood. Carrying a plate of my favorite food at arms length (these ribs that are cooked in some sort of syrup which kind of makes them Dessert Ribs), this guy came rambling towards me shouting “Hello, Hello, Hello!”

Ok man, damn, I see you. “Hello” I replied in a questioning way. He came up to me and shoved the dessert ribs in my face pointing to something on the plate, shouting and tugging at my shirt. That’s when I saw it, a fly on the plate. All this noise over a damn fly? You’ve got to be kidding me. You dumbasses eat locusts off the ground after rain, you eat duck feet and blood soup, don't even get in my face about a stupid-ass fly.

He just kept in my face shouting, what I assumed to be derogatory remarks about the restaurant and the people that work there. He grabbed my arm and started to pull me away, all of the staff was standing by in some sort of strange awe that I was just standing there laughing. Then he grabbed my hat. That’s not very wise sir. Ohhs and ahhs from the crowd as I grabbed it back. By this time, the rest of the family was standing around me, shouting and pointing at people, grabbing my arms like homeless people in India. He just kept shoving that plate of delicious ribs in my face and shouting.

With possible options dwindling as the crowd grew in size, I realized that I had to do something. Someone from the hotel was trying to pull me away from him, but he just kept coming, shouting, screaming, the noise, the noise! So I did what any self-respecting person would do in situation. I got rid of the situation. If the fly is such a big deal, if the fly is evidence, if the fly represents a tarnish on the hotel, my home, if the fly is soaking in delicious rib syrup, it must be gotten rid of. Hotel/home honor must be preserved at all costs.

Over the course of an average person’s life, an individual will swallow around three pounds of insects. I guarantee, none of them have been carefully prepared in an outstanding syrup sauce, slow roasted over an open flame and prepared on a beautiful plate of garnishes, except one.

You could say I did it for any number of reasons, a laugh, to shut up the drunken Chinese family, attention, to have a good ate-a-fly-on-purpose story. I ate this to defend the honor and reputation of my roommates. Plus it was delicious.

This pretty much shut everyone up for a second. It was my chance to exit stage left. As I walked away, the stunned silent crowd just watched me, much more intense and shocked stares than usual; I caught the eye of one of the hostesses, Mu Duo, and winked at her as I walked away. She blushed and giggled in embarrassment.

Tony (remember Tony?) quickly caught up with me, just spilling apologies and helping me to my seat in the other restaurant. “In my heart, I hope you still eat in our restaurants.”

“Listen Danza, I’ve eaten much worse shit in my life than a fly, I’ve eaten worse shit than that since breakfast. The fact is, where the hell else can I go in this city that has English menus? Don't worry about it man, I really don't mind.” I told myself that if he sat down to eat with me I would be forced bust him in his chops and that I’d be much more likely not to eat here if he kept bugging me (no pun intended).

What is happening to the people around here? Once again, I was forced to retreat to my room for some much needed reflection time. About twenty seconds after locking myself into my room, there was a knock on my door. I assumed it was Tony coming up to kiss me good afternoon or to bring me a flower or just to tell me he was thinking about me. It was, in fact, another guy. Maintenance stopped by to fix a light in my room.

Ok, come on in guys. Wait a minute… is that a mullet? Awesome. Wait another minute…are those breasts? Holy crap, you’re not a man, you’re a manly lady! Ok Barb, just don't beat my ass or leave a flannel shirt on my bed. What can I do for you?

Barb the cleaning lesbian was followed closely by three other people (possibly handlers). She headed for the bedroom with tool-belt in tow with one of the other people. I followed them for no real reason, and as soon as I saw the duct taped wiring behind the television that they started ripping out, I decided that I had no desire to gain a better understanding of the local electrical practices. I now understood that if I were to die here, it would most likely be from a 220-power surge through my shoes to the remote control. I’m already pretty sure that the light wasn't broken in the first place, I should know, they turn on every light in the whole room every night while I’m at dinner (there are 13 lights in my one bedroom hotel room). So I’m already kind of leery of their real intentions.

I apparently interrupted something in the other room because when I returned, one of the other hotel staff was guarding the front door while two others were rummaging through my bathroom. I caught these guys red-handed. They both turned around to see me smiling down at them and practically ran out of the room. Shortly after that, Mr. Barb finished in the room with my light and ambled out.

You bet your ass that as soon as they left I scoured my pad for hidden cameras and recording devices. This is the kind of stuff that freaks me out, I really don't have anything to hide, but these people are in my room several times a day and I have no idea what is so interesting. I’d understand if they had a hummingbird feeder on my balcony that required refilling every day, but that is not the case (unfortunately, hummingbirds are so beautiful).

That very same evening, I was reading my book at dinner and noticed there was an unusually large number of hotel staff in the restaurant and, of course, they were all watching me. Lest we forget, I had, not 6 hours ago dined on a honey-dipped fly in front of nearly the entire hotel staff. I assumed that my heroics were the talk of the nation and that I would have to start kissing babies and shaking hands in my free time.

I was using an unknown business card as a bookmark in my book, which was lying open on the table. One of the hostesses came over and picked up the card. This girl is drop dead cute. Her name is Mu Duo (the one I winked at earlier) and speaks absolutely no English. This is the kind of girl that makes my face warm just watching walk through the hotel. We always smile and say hello to each other (which I do with everyone in China out of kindness and she does to everyone in China because it’s her job). She picked up my card and asked if it was me (ok, she speaks a very little English, but very very little).

“No, I’m not sure who the person on that card is. Here, let me give you one of my cards.” I’m very proud of my business cards, for one, they’re in Chinese on one side, English on the other side (and because they mistakenly put the wrong job title on the cards which makes me look like a playa).

She took the card and smiled like no one I’ve ever seen. “Thank you, thank you!”

“Sure, thank you for coming over and talking to me.” I managed to get out.

She walked off, studying the card intensely. I know this because I was studying her intensely.

That was pretty cool. I’m grinning from ear to ear now, my stomach feels like it was put in upside down, I can’t think about eating or drinking or anything. I’m on cloud nine. My business card made a hottie happy.

On my way out, I walked past her and smiled as big as I could manage. She walked up to me and handed me a note and smiled even bigger than me. A note! Sweet! I said thank you like a freed refugee thanks the soldiers and sprinted up to my room to read the note.

Her note was a ‘thank you’ note for me giving her my card. It said that the note took her like half hour to write and she is very happy to meet me and had her phone number at the bottom. Holy crap! Did I really get a phone number? I immediately text messaged her a thank you message and hoped that we could talk more sometime. Of course, I knew she wouldn't see the message until she got off work in several hours, but that was no reason for me to send her 20 more in the next five minutes asking her why she hasn't responded to me yet.

Here we go again. I am presented with a brief period of giddiness that will no doubt be followed by a realization of truth, but if we don't live for hope, what’s the point of living at all? My life has been reduced to being happy talking to women that come from a different world than me until I meet the next one that comes from a different world. This has been a great way to fill time and a great way to cloud my thoughts during a boring day of work.

There it is, the weekend that the hotel staff went crazy on me, of course some of it rubbed off on me (I did eat a fly, remember?) When life gets boring, you must find your own ways to entertain yourself, I don't usually have much of a problem with that, but around here, there is always something entertaining for me to watch. If that changes, or I get used to it, I must leave, the change and strange are the only reasons I’m here.

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