, late July: the movers came, saw, and boxed. All of my clothing was tossed in a fast-arriving shipment, packed into two metal crates and sealed with padlocks. Don't lose the keys. We're giving you six for each box, so you have ample copies. They're not replaceable if you lose them. The ball is in your court. Pakistan
Pakistan, Mid-August: Last day at the Embassy, headless-chicken-esque in my sprinting to accomplish everything, the packing, the cleaning, the recommendation letters for my domestic help, the passing off of things to other people, and at 4:10 in the morning after an all-night organizational romp, the phone ringing and the embassy driver asking where I am, we need to go to the airport. I sprint to the main gate where he's waiting, leaving my key ring in the office.
Six of the twelve keys are on the key ring, but no fear! I've got six more, three for each box, keys-a-plenty!
, three weeks ago: arrived to mid-50s weather, made colder by the soul-sucking grey of the seemingly ever-present pollution. I have forgotten what winter is; I am freezing. Beijing
, today: the Embassy informs me that -- Halleluiah! -- my fast shipment arrives today! I, still freezing and overjoyed at the prospect of a sweater, sprint home after class. I run to my predesignated hiding spot and grab my six keys and sprint to the boxes to see what's inside. Three months after packing, the contents have become like Christmas, and I have no idea what's inside. Beijing
Beijing, today, exactly 49 seconds after arriving home: I realize that each box has not one but two padlocks, that the keys were divided into two groups of three not to make separating them easier, but rather because they were for two different locks. This means that I'm able to open exactly fifty percent of the locks on each box. The keys to my sweaters (and thus, my happiness) are sequestered in
, possibly the most inaccessible place in the world. Pakistan
I weigh my options. I move towards writing an email to
-- help! You've got the key to my happiness! -- but decide that there's got to be, if not an easier way, at least a faster way. Hacksaw! I decide to find a hardware store. Pakistan
This presents some questions: How do you say "hacksaw" in Chinese? Why is it universally known that hacksaws can be used to cut through metal? Where exactly does one go to buy hardware in this country? Why, dear god, am I such an idiot?
I trek to a nearby fertilizer store to ask if they know where I can find a hacksaw. We have the following conversation: "I have this thing [I show him a padlock]. I need one of these things [arm furiously saws in the air] to cut… cut it. Do you know… where is this thing?" He tells me: A hacksaw? Yeah, I've got one right here. And he hands me a hacksaw. Just like that!
I ask the logical follow up: How much do you want for this? He tells me: I can't sell you that. I don't know how much it costs. But I'm willing to pay as much as you… I told you, I don't know how much, so I can't sell it. How about a hundred kuai? I don't know.
You can maybe see how this would be frustrating.
I switch tactics: Can you call someone? He: Oh. Yeah. And he does. Suddenly my pro-offered 100 kuai is waved away. Hacksaws, apparently, cost only 10 kuai, a buck twenty five even.
Let me tell you a little something about hacksaws: it's not as easy as they make it look in the cartoons. Hacksaws, you see, are collapsible. This is to allow the user to attach whatever size blade he wants, making it longer or shorter as need be. This also means that when you're really getting your saw on well, with a sort of lumberjack-esque (and very satisfying) VRRRR-err VRRRR-errr sound coming out, the saw will suddenly fold in on itself, sending the blade flying toward your hands or face, and generally frustrating the hell out of you.
I attempt to re-install the blade myself and meet with little success. I return to the fertilizer store and explain the problem: your stupid hacksaw keeps collapsing on me. I've been gone from the store only about twenty minutes but there's a new guy manning the booth, and he doesn't understand at all what I'm trying to say. Vocabulary words I'm lacking: Hacksaw. Blade. Collapse. Padlock.
I: There is a problem with this thing. He: You should take it back to where you bought it.
I try a different tactic. Can I buy a new blade for this here? Yes, of course, he tells me. Can you install it for me? Yes, of course I can. Back in business.
I return to my apartment. I work up a good sweat, sawing (VRRR-err, VRRR-errr) with great intensity. I make it through one half of the padlock, and am very excited.
I realize that I have been sawing on the side of the lock that isn't clamped down; had I sawed through the other side, the lock would've sprung open once I got through. I have in essence just wasted 30 minutes of time sawing like a madman to have exactly zero effect.
I am less than pleased.
I switch boxes so I can switch locks; I can't face the one I've just wasted time on. And for some reason, this one goes easier. I am making great progress, despite the sweat pouring down my face. I saw through, the lock snaps open, and it is the single greatest moment of triumph of my entire life.
I return to the other lock. The blade is visibly dulled, with teeth missing, but I am determined to break through. Three minutes later, the blade snaps.
I return to the hardware store, silently lay the broken blade pieces next to the saw, and hand the man ten kuai. He doesn't speak while he attaches the new blade. We silently nod our thanks to each other, and I return to the task at hand.
Suffice it to say: I have never enjoyed a sweater as much as the one I'm currently wearing.
Posted by Dakota on 9:56 AM link |