Overseeing my paper’s Weird China (China Mosaic) page is giving me a very skewed look at Chinese life and journalism, I fear.
People routinely fall, jump or are pushed from high apartment windows or balconies only to miraculously survive.
Most street cleaners and trash collectors who find ATM cards with passwords for accounts holding hundreds of thousands or even millions of yuan routinely return the cards and are grateful for a $50 reward or simply a heartfelt thanks.
Many rich single women want a husband who will only be faithful and hardworking, and will pay for one if necessary.
Criminals are unbelievably stupid. They typically flee the scene to the nearest police station believing it is a public restroom or bar. Or they argue loudly and publicly over their ill-gotten gains and how to split up the proceeds – usually outside a police station. Or they ask a cop to settle the dispute.
Corpses are commonly mixed up in funeral homes, resulting in outraged mourners who discover that “grandfather” who died peacefully at home at age 103 has morphed into 22-year-old woman who flamed out in a motorcycle accident.
It’s a typical collection of tidbits gathered from Chinese newspapers and websites that due to my inability to read Chinese are chosen by reporters who translate the candidates for me and await my verdict.
A typical session goes like this: (all dialogue guaranteed more or less verbatim)
Me: Okay, what’ve we got today?
Reporter: This is a story about a 3-year-old baby who fell…
Me: Stop! Let me guess. Fell 9 stories out of an apartment window but lived because a policeman who was chasing a stupid criminal stopped to catch it, right? Then he grabbed the stupid criminal because he hid in the police car?
Reporter: No. It was 17 stories. The baby hit a soft tree.
Me: No more falling people stories. I’m putting an embargo on them until further notice. Next?
Reporter: A man has lived on mothballs and baiju (traditional high octane Chinese liquor) for 18 years.
Me: I like it. A lot. Next?
Reporter: The government has established standards for the perfect panda.
Me: Like what?
Reporter pauses, reads carefully: “The perfect panda must have round lips, a mild temper, have a clear division of black and white fur, be outgoing, capable of entertaining people …”
Me: Does he have to be a Party member?
Reporter (puzzled): No. Animals cannot be Party members. Except in Animal Farm. But why?
Me: Never mind. Just a joke. Ok, we’ll use it. With a picture of a perfect panda. Next?
Reporter: A criminal robbed an old woman and then ran into …
Me: No!! Wait. Don’t tell me. A jail cell, right?
Reporter: No. Another old woman’s home who was the mother of the village police official and …
Me: No. Next…
Reporter: A man has been hunting 18 years in the mountains for a large monkey man monster in …
Me (excited) : Bigfoot! A Chinese Bigfoot! YES!
Reporter, puzzled again: The man does not have big feet, he is …