Monday, March 27, 2006

Cheapskates of the World Unite and Takeover! (or how I bought a sofa with a 5 year warranty on a Monday morning in the Songjiang district of Shanghai in China)

I interupt my serial about the speech contest to talk about the fantastic new couch that I bought this morning before class. When I woke up, after showering and putting my bedsheets in the washer to wash, I got dressed - yellow polo golf shirt, random thrift store angora-blend pullover sweater vest, brown Prada slacks, standard black Miu Miu all purpose slip-ons. I walked the width of a football field to my office. Today is a beautiful day. The sun is shining. I think I heard birds singing. I started the day with Imperial Teen's 'Water Boy.'

When I got to the office, I went into see my friend and office manager - Jessie. She asked me about the speech contest. I told her how overwhelmed I was by the end of the contest trying to pronounce names pronouncing 'z's as 'j's and that sort of thing. She laughed.

I then asked her if she would go with me to look at the couch this evening. She told me we could go after my 1:30 class. If we went then, we would have to make it snappy. I was hoping she would want to go after we had supper. I think I confused her.
"Shall we go now?" She asked
"Sure." I said. I was prepared to be daring. I had an hour before class. I am never late. Today, I was willing to be late.

We quickly walked to the gates of the school and hailed a cab. She told me that she would try to get me a better deal than the 1,500 RMB I had been quoted. I told her that would be cool.

We got to the huge mall size home store and when she looked around she told me the store carried really good brands which relaxed me. We walked up the escalator and I started getting excited. Jessie told me to not show my excitement because she wanted to negotiate a good deal for me. I told her I would try to be calm which was difficult. I have never bought a new couch in my life. This was truly an exciting moment for me.

We got to the area where my prospective couch was waiting and Jessie kept her nonchalance in check. I tried to act as cool but I do not think I have a very good poker face. At this point, the saleslady starts talking to us. In Chinese, she told Jessie she remembered me from a few days before. They talked for a bit and I listened for the 4 or 5 familiar words I know but of course I had no idea what they were saying. I trust Jessie so I don't mind not knowing. Jessie at one point told me the couch was on sale for 1,580 and I think that is what the saleslady tried to tell me when I was there a few days ago. I thought she pantomimed 1,500. She agreed to 1,500 but that was rock bottom which was fine with me.

I asked Jessie to ask for the measurements of the couch. I had forgot to measure my crappy loveseat before I left my apartment. They talked a bit more. Jessie told me the saleslady would come and measure the space in my living room. I asked when this would happen. Jessie told me "Now!"
"Now?!" I asked in surprise.

The three of us then left the showroom and I asked Jessie if she could ask the saleslady how much it would cost to have the couch delivered. Here is where I thought there would be a catch. I thought the saleslady might say the couch is 1,500 and the delivery is another 1,500 or some sort of scam like that. The two of them talked a bit and Jessie then told me "Delivery is free."

The two of them chatted as we walked to where the cabs were. The saleslady, this was related to me by Jessie, asked Jessie if I was an English teacher. Jessie told her yes. The saleslady told Jessie who told me her daughter was having problems in English. I really did not want to volunteer to help. I told Jessie I could probably recommend an English computer program for her daughter. This was misunderstood to mean my email address which was forgotten once we moved onto other subjects such as:

The saleslady then told Jessie I looked very young. Jessie laughed about something which I think may have been a question whether Jessie and I were a couple. At this point, I should mention that Jessie is still in University. I think Jessie may be under 21. The sixteen year old that I sometimes have lunch with (who is not one of the main Shanghai 90210 characters) says Jessie is beautiful when Jessie lunches with the two of us. She, in turn, tells us it is nice to have lunch with two handsome men. Insert my nervous laugh here.

The saleslady, Jessie and I hailed a cab. The ladies sat in the back and I sat in the front. I was so excited that I forgot I had a class to teach 30 minutes later. We got back to campus and I handed the cabbie 20 rmb and he gave me back my 12 rmb change. The cab took off and the three of us walked up the flight of stairs to my second story apartment. I warned them that I had my bedsheets in the dryer so my place was a bit messy. (I had no idea I would have a saleslady measuring for a couch in my living room at 10:30 am.)

We walked into my apartment. I usually take off my shoes and put on my slippers but I did not want them to feel awkward so I left my shoes on. After giving my place the once over, like a seasoned professional, the saleslady whipped her measuring tape out of her purse and measured the area where my hideous lovejuice soaked loveseat camps. I was ecstatic with her results. My soon to be new couch was only a centimeter or two longer than my current piece of crapola. Right fricking ON!

The saleslady then pulled out her cell phone and made a call. I thought it was to tell her boss where she was. Jessie told me that she was calling the warehouse to have my couch delivered 'immediately.' I was stunned. I pulled a wad of kuai out of my wallet and started counting. I had fifteen minutes until my class started. I asked if either of them wanted a cup of tea. They both declined. I gave the money to the saleslady and asked Jessie if she minded waiting for the couch to be delivered with the saleslady; I had to head to class. I then peeled 8 more kuai out of my wallet for the cab fare back to the showroom for the saleslady and handed it to her. She tried to decline taking it but I told Jessie to tell her that I insisted she take it. She took it and I split for class.

The class was conversation and listening with the Shanghai 90210 kids whom I love dearly - Max, Allen, Tess, and Miko (who I found out from Allen that Miko sometimes tells people she is Japanese for the heck of it. She doesn't necessarily want to be Japanese she just tells people she is.) Allen had her hair cut over the weekend which I told her was a really cute cut. I then told them about the whole hair obsession in the USA and other parts of the world which probably has infiltrated China but I have not really come across it as of yet. I told them in the US there could be a place called MAX Salon named after Max and the girls loved this. Max started talking under his breath in Chinese. He more than likely was saying "OH Brother, these people are driving me nuts."

I then asked them to guess what I just bought. Since I was doing a sort of soft shoe when I told them, Miko guessed shoes. Tess guessed guitar strings for the cheapass rusty stringed guitar of Allen's with which I serenaded the class. I finally could not keep it to myself any longer and I told them I bought a couch and I ran to the window of our sixth floor classroom to see if a truck was parked in front of my apartment which would mean a new couch had arrived. There was no truck there. Bummer. All of them ran to the window and looked with me.

We then talked about the new set of frames that Tess got over the weekend and I asked if they were designer. I then explained the term designer and I wrote Prada and Miu Miu on the board. She told me they were made by Zero X but they were not designer. I think when I explained designer, they mistook it to mean that someone had perhaps designed something in their living room and then sold it. I lifted the soles of my feet to reveal the Miu Miu name but this seemed to confuse them even more.

I ran to the window again. No truck. Tess ran down the hall to the office to see if Jessie had come back meaning that the couch had arrived before I looked out the window the first time. No, Jessie was not in the office which meant that she was still at my apartment. All sorts of horrific thoughts flooded my brain. I thought perhaps I was part of a couch flim flam. Maybe Jessie was in with the couch lady and they had taken off with my 1500 kuai (less than $200 American). Maybe the delivery driver had a heart attack and drove off into the canal with my couch in tow only to be smashed into by a barge carrying sand. My mind was going absolutely crazy with all of the sordid end-of-my-new-couch-before-it-arrives details.

The Shanghai 90210 gang and I then talked about our upcoming trip this weekend to Wuxi to see Budha which was as settling as my friend - Valium. Part of the reason I call these kids Shanghai 90210 is because they come from wealthy families. Wuxi is where Allen's dad lives. She has an aunt there who has an American restaurant where there will be a party for us Saturday night which includes a steak dinner. Saturday during the day we will eat seafood on another one of her relative's boats. Another relative of hers has the 4 star hotel where we will be staying. This momentarily took my mind off the couch.

I wandered back to the window. Lo and behold, a truck was parked in front of my apartment. The truck looked more like a vehicle meant to transport weapons than sofas but who cares, right?

I asked the students if they would like to take a field trip and they asked me when. I told them now. Would they like to take a field trip to go see my new couch? Yes, they were quite excited. Miko told me I was the best teacher ever. I replied "I know."

As we walked the width of the football field to my apartment, I told them they had to come up with three comments in English about my sofa. Max told me my sofa was lovely. I counted that as a psychic friends network type comment and accepted it. By the time we got to the apartment and saw my sofa, I forgot to ask them for more comments. Oh well, everyone gets an 'A' for attitude.

We walked into my apartment and all five of us crowded onto my new sofa that is really probably meant for three (two comfortably). We folded it up and down to make it into a bed and then back into a sofa and then a sofa in the middle with the two ends folded down to resemble something from some swanky Manhattan show room and then one end folded down to look like a piece from the house on top of Mt. Rushmore in "North by Northwest." I blasted some music on my new loud Hyandai computer speakers and we sat.

We then decided to sneak off campus and buy some new guitar strings (for Allen's crappy acoustic) in downtown Songjiang.


Blogger Megan said...

have you tried explaining filene's basement to them??? omg. that is too funny on the prada/miu miu conversation. i hope no one is looking at your lesson plans!

4:52 AM  
Blogger Louis said...

love the imperial teens....

1:12 PM  

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