Warnings in November 2005

I was irate. The taxi driver had just pulled into the left-hand lane ahead of an ambulance, and I tore into him about how it simply wasn’t right. He told me that there was probably no one in the back and that the drivers were only hungry or something. Oh really, but what if? Drive as you like, but when there is an ambulance behind you, get out of the way. He didn’t answer. I then realized that I was being totally out of line. It was just a damn personal issue of mine. Not a few years back, I was belly-down in the back of an ambulance with a friend who read the Economist to me as if it were my last rights. Thankfully, the traffic wasn’t that bad, and the article was interesting enough to keep my attention. Attention, I have to keep paying closer attention. Wasn’t there that taxi driver the other day who was so spectacular that I gave him a five kuai tip? What about the one who brought my bag of many years back to me unsolicited? How was the road hog supposed to know that I’d had a quick glimpse of the grim reaper while in the back of a tin van with blue lights on top? What was I doing in a taxi anyway? The weather was great, and Wulin road was full of great-looking people. This month I warn you all to walk a little more.

You see, there are really only two seasons here: T-shirt soaking hot and marrow freezing cold. In between them we have two tiny breaks where it’s a little easier to appreciate life. During these oases of weather, I used to walk all the time. The only people that did it more than me were the street sweeper, and that guy with white hair from New Zealand who used to be a ski instructor in Western Samoa. Thanks to the walks, I never had to think about getting a bigger belt, the cigarettes seemed a little less unhealthy and the shakes would disappear by midday. I would stroll down Beishan road, meander on Yan’an road and cruise across Huancheng North road. My shoes would wear quickly, and my assistant could hear me squeak towards the office door, but those snippets of life not seen through a window made it all much more real. I was walking once when I saw three dudes coming towards me. It was pitiful. One was blind, one had no legs and the other had one leg. I walked slowly and soon noticed that they were laughing hysterically. The dude with no legs was on the back of the blind guy, and the blind guy was being led by the dude with one leg. Perspective hit me like a sledgehammer off a bamboo scaffold. Buy yourself a piece of mind and go by foot. A shoe shine only costs two kuai.

By Tim Hoerle