Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thing One and Thing Two

Unlike the usual modest and hesitant Chinese tap, the knock at my apartment door Saturday night was firm and forceful. It's either an unexpected expat or the Public Security Bureau, I thought as I eased the door open to find...

Two small Chinese women bearing plastic bottles of what looked like spray cleaning fluid. They didn't speak English, or I Chinese so I just stared at them as they tried to make themselves understood.

The next minute they were in the room like the Cat in the Hat's Thing One and Thing Two headed straight for the kitchen where they began furiously spraying my stove fan vent, rubbing it with a rag and babbling as I babbled back, “What the hell are you doing? The cleaning lady was already here. Who are you? Why are you cleaning my stove? Leave, please! Go home!”

Finally, I phoned a native speaker, coworker J, and described the situation.
“Two women. They look like migrant workers and are furiously spraying cleaning stuff all over the stove. I have no idea who they are or why they're here. The stove was already clean!”

I handed the phone to Thing One who spoke at length to J while Thing Two went to a wall light switch and began to spray and scrub grime from around the panel, all the while grinning and gesturing to me to notice how white and bright it was becoming.

Thing One handed the phone back to me and J explained that they were “authorized by the apartment management office” to demonstrate and sell the amazing multi-use spray cleaner.

(Note: This is the same apartment management office that can't provide reliable hot water service on a regular basis. Yet they can authorize strangers to invade your living space to randomly spray cleaning fluid.)

“How much?” I asked. “I just want them to leave. I will pay them to leave!”
We settled on two bottles for 50-yuan ($7.50) but emboldened by their unexpected success Thing One and Thing Two were ecstatic and trying to push more products at me until I more or less gently body blocked them out the door.

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