Monday, October 14, 2013

Doke Doke Doke!

If there's one thing I really miss about America, it's personal space.  Well, that and Chipotle.

At the cafeteria where I have lunch most days, you buy a ticket at the front for your meal, then give it to a guy by the kitchen, who in turn gives you what you ordered.  Food comes out in batches every few minutes.  Theoretically customers are supposed to line up at the food window, and they do, after a fashion, but the moment the dumpling trays come out it's every man for himself.  It gets ugly.  Suddenly, the nice old lady who just complimented me on my Chinese cuts ahead of me, steps on my feet, and shoves me behind her.  After she gets her food, she almost knocks me and three other people over while she fights her way over to the tables.  If I'm lucky enough to get my food through the melee, I'll sit down and be about to pour some nice vinegar out for my dumplings when--holy shit--another old lady snatched the vinegar out from under my nose, and is now halfway across the room.

And it's not just at lunch.  Getting on the bus, checking out at the grocery store, trying to fit in the elevator.  There's an ad at the grocery store near my apartment: "At People's Glorious Liberated Grocery Depot #82, you don't need to wait in long lines." How true that is, I think as, for the sixth time this week, I get elbowed ruthlessly in the gut by a septugenarian.

I am, however, onto their game.  I came to the realization that I am by no means a small dude, especially in China.  I'm 6'1", which means I tower over most people here, especially grandmas.  I'm also reasonably fit, inasmuch as I walk a lot and do pushups every day.  I'm no Stallone, but I once made a psychopathic Belorussian fencing master back off by standing up straight and scowling at him.  So what's so intimidating about Chinese grandmas?  This in mind, I plunged into the fray, and I am happy to say that I can use my (comparative) bulk to my advantage.  There was a time when, out of pity, the lunch dude came to the back of the crowd personally and just gave me my food, since he knew I couldn't handle the gladiatorial free-for-all that is lunchtime in China.  Now, however, I get my dumplings every time, and it ain't because I was there first.

In my last year of college, my roommate and I began to walk everywhere with a conceited tough-guy swagger.  We called this the "doke doke doke", after the brilliant opening sequence to Cromartie High School:

The idea is that you get some momentum going and blow through whatever gets in your way, all the while looking as cool as possible, almost to the point of self-parody.  For those in your path, the choice is to get out of the way--"doke" in Japanese--or bounce fruitlessly off of the oncoming wall of Badass.  It can be done on your own, but is best accomplished by having a crew of your bros fanning out behind you in a V-formation.

Mastering the art of the Doke takes some practice, but as you might imagine it's become an invaluable skill in dealing with crowds in China.

So anyway, the other evening I was loitering around the night market.  The night market is this series of alleyways where people put up aisles of stalls and sell fake designer goods and Apple products.  For the most part it's a shitshoot, but there are some decent food stands too, and cold beer.  The problem is that you can't get to it without fighting through a crowd first.  This would've been a problem two months ago, but not anymore, now that I'm a seasoned crowd warrior.  Let me stress once again, however, that you cannot get around crowded places in China (which corresponds, more or less, to the whole country) without pushing and shoving.  It is expected of you, as should you expect it of others.  It's not rude, it's just getting where you need to go.

As I was blasting (doke'ing?) my way through the crowd, I noticed that there were more laowai standing around than usual.  They all seemed to be youngish white people speaking English--and only English--with, like, a California accent, y'know?  There were quite a few of them so they must've been some sort of tour group.  I say this because not one of them could have survived a day on his own here.  They seemed to be decidedly of the "DO--YOU--SPEAK--ENGLISH" school.  Puke.

Let it not be said  that I despise tourists or people who don't speak the local language.  If I did it would make me a hypocrite, as I myself am both a perpetual tourist and terrible at Chinese.  In fact, what I really can't abide are the types who call themselves "travellers, not tourists" and refuse to shut up about how they're supposedly getting a "more authentic" experience than anyone else.  Everyone who's traveled abroad has met someone like this--the sort of people who think that staying in a hostel and eating overpriced local food make them Gandhi or something.  These are as a rule boring yuppies with no understanding of their own culture, much less anyone else's, and therefore they get so upset when they see other Westerners abroad that they dismiss them as plebians.  If I ever turn into one of these people, I hereby submit a request to be shot. 

So it truly doesn't matter to me whether or not you speak Chinese or are in an organized tour or whatever, but when you're faced by the locals, for the love of Captain Picard at least try.  Buy a damn phrasebook.  Hell, just print some words off the internet.  But don't walk up to people and expect them to linguistically accommodate you just because you're too lazy to figure out "how much for this" in Mandarin.  It's accommodating enough of them to use Mandarin instead of Hangzhouhua.
Not only were these guys making a general nuisance of themselves by Englishing it up and talking to people like children, but they had decided to stop in the middle of the aisle, exactly where everyone needed to get through.  It was as if someone had erected a giant, obnoxious, spray-on-tanned roadblock in the middle of traffic.

Given that they were fellow Americans, I looked for a way around them.  I really did.  But there wasn't.  There were just too many of them, and I had some important beers to drink on the other side.
You know what you must do, I thought to myself.  So I revved up my doke, stepped up my strut, and slammed into those bastards with the force of ten thousand Chinese grandmas.

The poor suckers didn't know what hit them.  I parted their group as Moses did the sea, and they recoiled backward as one.  It was beautiful.  In my wake flooded in a crowd of people who had themselves been trying to pass through, effectively stranding the two halves of the group on either side of the aisle, an impenetrable torrent of humanity between.  All they could do was mutter out a feeble "h-hey, bro..." as I shouldered them aside, and wait for the tides to calm.

Now, I am not a violent man by any means, but shoving through these guys was the most satisfying thing I'd done all week.  Suddenly I understood why old ladies like doing this so much.

If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

1 comment:

  1. EH-hehhehhehehheheh.
    Please come back & teach me some of these skills.