…from the quill of Antisthenes the Younger
Many things look better from a distance; even polar bears appear cuddly to the intellectually challenged, and the less contact people have with other people, the more idyllic and friendly the other people appear.
A few weeks ago I was looking in one of those ubiquitous Chinese owned and operated go-downs for some disposable kitchen utensils. Everything there is disposable and cheap, and with the China’s economy approaching a dramatic “restructuring”, more and more disposable. I noticed an alarm clock of the style I like, very similar in appearance to the one on the right, and it occurred to me that this could be a nice, tongue-in-cheek gift for my friend, who is far too frequently late. I knew she would take it in a proper spirit. She is not a Labor voter – she has a sense of humour.
I know, I know. After writing Melamine anyone?, Chromium anyone? , Coke in chlorine and Blinds leading blind – (ops, probably next week) I still buy anything Chinese? Sorry. I must be young and naïve.
The Chinese shop assistant was exceedingly friendly and as helpful as her lack of English and illegal status allowed. The thing cost less than $10 and there were the last two boxes. First one contained a disintegrated alarm clock, but in the second one the China Made clock seemed intact. It disintegrated at home when I, foolishly, attempted to wound it. A week later I took it back.
The friendliness of that Chinese attendant disappeared in a flash. She tried to convince me that the clock works, even as the pieces of it were falling out of her hands on the counter. Most reluctantly I was forced to raise my voice and potential shoppers listened. So another Chinese attendant was called, who, after yet another attempt to convince me that there is nothing wrong with the item, grudgingly and insultingly returned me my money. The Communist economy maxim that a customer is always wrong is coming to a store near you. “Merchantable quality”, “fit for the purpose for which it was bought” and other such gweilo nonsense stands in the way of profit-making. As I was leaving, I saw both of them reassembling the pieces. After all, not many people would bother to go back for so small amount.
The lesson, if any is needed, is that friendliness is often feigned in order to exploit. As polar bears, pandas are cuddly only on a TV screen.
The following song has nothing to do with Chinese economy or Australia’s dependence on it: