Thursday, September 4, 2014

August 2014: Taking Tony to Work Day, Robin Williams, Simon Leys, Wuxi Metro Disenchantment

[I wrote most of this in August and so it isn't very timely. Be that as it may, I am publishing it since I took the time to write it.

I have written an addendum because my carping about a shuttle bus was answered.]

AKIC blogger took August 2014 off. He had some vague ideas about recharging his batteries and spending some time seriously rethinking how to change how he had been doing his blog.

He instead withered the month away and couldn't come up with any ideas for how to write his blog except to use headlines in his entries and talk about himself in the third person. [Which he will stop doing now. Now. I am now writing about myself in the first person!]

Restaurant Fight

I got to take Tony to work with me one day in August. I fancied that there would be great father son bonding moments and that I would be able to show off my son to all the women at work who would all be impressed by his cuteness and charm. (I couldn't give a damn what the men, all foreign, thought) However, all Tony did was play computer games on my Ipad; and he was shy to all those who wanted to meet him and to all those to whom I tried to introduce him.

When one particularly attractive girl from the school tried to talk to him, Tony ran away fast. Maybe, he was shy or was displaying a preternatural ability to detect trouble – that is women – but I hated to see him do that.

While teaching a class, I had female co-workers mind him. When I came back after my class, 55 minutes later exactly, I came back to see Tony staring at the Ipad, being ignored by the girls, and looking very disconsolate. When I asked him what was troubling him, he said he was losing at his computer game. He had proudly gotten through the first five levels of an Ultraman game but was stymied by the sixth level. (His being consumed by the computer game must have quickly bored the women who had been minding him.)

For Lunch, I took him to a nearby noodle restaurant. My spoken Chinese is awful so, using my mobile phone, I had Jenny tell the staff what to order for Tony.

While we ate, there were two incidents.

First, Tony caused a huge puddle to appear on the table top and floor by knocking over his bottle of ice tea. We had to get staff to clean up the mess with rags and a dirty tablecloth. Oh! How Tony always does the clumsy thing!

Second, we sat at a table near the entrance to the kitchen and staff rest area. As we were finishing our meals, we heard two male voices turn very loud and combative. We then saw and felt the thump of two bodies striking the partition wall that was just behind where Tony was sitting. Itching to leave the restaurant anyway, the chaos made me leave the place even more quickly that I planned as I reasoned that I didn't want Tony to see the fight and that we were too close to the fight for his safety.

As a result of this take-my-son-to-work day, Jenny doesn't want Tony to accompany me to work ever again. Not because of the violence he witnessed but because he will do nothing but play computer games.

Robin Williams and Simon Leys

The death of Robin Williams was of interest to me till I read an Theodore Dalrymple article about it. Dalrymple said he had no idea who Robin Williams was and so felt out of place with those of whom he knew who knew of Williams.

Thinking about it, I realized that Dalrymple was a fortunate man. Having just listened to some recordings of Williams doing very crude comedy routines and hearing of his personal lifestyle troubles, I didn't think Williams death was a big deal, sad though it was. I was envious of Dalrymple being able to inhabit a cultural milieu where he never encountered mention of Williams. Dalrymple doesn't watch television, proudly boasts of never having owned a television, and probably doesn't waste his time watching too many or any Hollywood movies. His books are very enjoyable and addictive. He has lived a very rich life, and observed many things with an incredible observational ability and profound wisdom.

Later in the article, Dalrymple mentioned that a famous Belgian Sinologist and Essayist Simon Leys had died on the same day on Williams. This bit of news lead to my finding and devouring quickly an epub copy of a collection of essays by Leys. Leys liked Chesterton, Waugh, Orwell, and had lots to say of interest about China. Leys's writing is as engrossing as that of Dalrymple whose books I eagerly devour too. And so I quickly lost interest in this Williams character.

Wuxi Metro Disenchantment

X-ray security machines have come to the Wuxi Metro stations and I am not happy. Instead of being able to go quickly to the turnstiles and onto the platform as I have become accustomed, I have my short path to the turnstiles blocked by barriers and have to walk an extra distance so I can have one of the many security guards at the station look at an image of the contents of my bag. It is all so stupidly pointless.

Telling the students about this, I was told that the security had been put in place on account of some World Youth Games being held in Nanjing! The students insist on calling the games the Youth Olympics.

Since I have one carp, I might as well mention another I have about the Wuxi Metro. In my area there is no shuttle bus which takes one directly to the Subway Station. My choices are to walk to the station, which takes twenty minutes; to take the 617 bus which drops me about three hundred meters from the subway station; to take the 602 bus to the Xi Bei station, the second station on the line, where the bus just happens to stop the station; or to just take the bus downtown.

[Addendum: In early September, the security checks are still in place and still annoying. At the Nanchang station for instance, turnstiles that were easy to access have been barriered off so that I have to walk an extra 50 meters to get to them.

But there are now all-day shuttle buses that can take me from a stop very near my apartment to the nearby Yanqiao Metro station. However, they aren't quite as convenient as I had hoped and imagined.

When I catch the shuttle bus in the evening after coming back from work, I wait seven minutes for a bus that goes on a route that takes me in a direction away from my apartment before it finally gets me to it, and so I don't save any time. I can walk home and arrive home at the same time as the Shuttle bus gets me there.

When I take the shuttle bus in the morning I have three complaints.

First, the stop where I catch the shuttle is the simple kind that just has a sign posted into the sidewalk without the accompanying shelter; and so when I stand and wait for the shuttle, I feel rather forlorn especially as people walking past me stare me as I wait for the bus. Why not have the shuttle bus go to the stop, with shelter, that is already in place?

Second, the shuttle bus route first takes you very close to the subway station without stopping and then makes an aggravating loop around a block that takes about three minutes before you are taken to the actual shuttle bus stop where you can finally get off the bus and try to catch the subway. The reason for the loop is that the shuttle bus station can only be accessed from one direction. But why don't the Einsteins who designed the route allow the bus to stop on the first pass by the subway?

(Also this morning [September 5], the shuttle driver was deliberately driving the bus slowly as he got close to the subway station. If I knew more Chinese, I would have said something. As it was, I wished my Tiger Mom wife Jenny had been with me. She would have said something and that driver's ears would have been ringing!)

My third complaint was about the Wuxi Bus App on my Ipad. Testing it out early in the morning, it worked fine. I saw the bus I was tracking drive past my apartment window just as the App indicated it would. But then the App seemed to stop working when I wanted to catch that bus. Was the shuttle driver being lazy and not pressing some buttons to relay information. Was internet traffic high? The App not working meant I couldn't minimize my wait time for the bus which was why Apps like that were created in the first place!]

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