scanners, taxks and trees

Publié le par chrislzh

In order to apply for jobs I needed to scan my passport and degree. One British organization with a school in Beijing had asked for these documents and so it suddenly became imperative to get electronic versions of those two documents. But bloody hell, what a mission it was.


See, I don’t have my own scanner and I couldn’t be arsed with all the hassle that would inevitably result from trying to track down and use a school scanner. A friend of mine in Beijing had recently gotten his documents scanned at a Kodak place, and so I thought, well, there’s a Kodak shop right across the road from school. I’ll try there.


Well, they could scan my passport alright and burn it onto a CD, but they wouldn’t scan my degree. Why? “It’s too big,” they said. That’s a pathetic excuse. Anyway, that was Monday afternoon and I still had a class to teach, so I didn’t have time to go traipsing around looking for a place that would scan my degree.


So Tuesday morning I left a bit earlier than usual and went looking for a place with either a big-enough scanner or a competent-enough operator. First stop, the Kodak place on the corner of Pingshan Dao and Qixiangtai Lu- not 200 metres from the first Kodak shop. “No!” they said. I didn’t bother asking why, I already knew the answer. I colleague had mumbled something vague about some shop on Tong’an Dao that would do it. So off I went. That was probably only the fourth or fifth time I have walked down that section of Tong’an Dao without stopping off at Ali Baba’s. I found two hole-in-the-wall photocopying shops, but neither had a scanner. Alright, no scanner is a better excuse than “It’s too big”.


I was getting a bit hungry and I was thinking of giving up for the day and getting some lunch. I was planning to send off the documents I did have in electronic form with a promise to send a copy of my degree as soon as I could get one. Then as I was walking down Qixiangtai Lu I spotted another little hole-in-the-wall photocopying place. I thought, no harm in trying. They did have a scanner. So I whipped out my degree and asked if they could scan it. No problem. The scanner was the exact same size as the ones in the two Kodak shops, and so the guy did the intelligent thing: He scanned my degree in two halves and then pasted the two pictures together. Then he converted it to jpg format and saved it to my USB memory thingy, then opened it up to show me it was all working and perfect and stuff. I was so grateful to finally find somebody with the magic combination of equipment, intelligence and competence that I handed over the 20 kuai he asked for (I know, I know…) and went on my happy way.


Well, then I had class. And that was followed with a brief interlude in the comfort of Ali Baba’s. And then this morning I cranked up the computer and prepared to send off all the documents this English organization wanted. Problem: The copy of my passport which the Kodak guy had burned on to the CD is all of a sudden completely inaccessible. Why? I don’t know.


Moral of the story: Those small, dirty, hole-in-the-wall places are often far better, more intelligent, more competent, more efficient and generally, well, better than the big companies and chainstores.


Anyway, I sent off all the documents I had with an explanation for the delay and the missing passport and a promise to sort out the passport soon. What else could I do? I mean, job hunting has been frustrating enough. There seems to be sweet fuck all going in Beijing, and I keep getting emails from idiots who can’t seem to understand that “looking for a job in Beijing” means I don’t want to go to Shaanxi or Fujian. Looks like I’ll just have to buy myself an F visa and rent a cheap apartment somewhere on the edge of Hebei and take on all the part-time and casual stuff I can find.


And on a completely unrelated note: I hate taxi drivers. Especially Tianjin’s taxi drivers. And that’s not just because they’re completely incapable of driving past a foreigner without screeching to a halt, blocking all the traffic and nearly causing a fatal accident in the hope that said foreigner will get in their cab, because everybody knows no foreigner is capable of walking more than 5 metres without climbing into some kind of motor vehicle.


Sunday evening I got off the train I did my usual sprint through the gate and out to the road. There were a lot more taxis than usual sitting around waiting. Half of the cars were facing the wrong way. When the drivers woke up, dragged themselves away from their card games and saw me, I had the usual horde of people descending on me calling out “Taxi!”, “Da che ma?” and similar such things, making almost obscene-seeming gestures in the direction of their vehicles. Everybody whose car was facing the wrong way or impossibly stuck in the middle of the pack I ignored. (I mean really, people, how do you expect to take me anywhere when you can’t even get your car onto the road?). Finally some guy appeared gesturing towards a car that could easily get out of the scrum of rundown Xialis and onto the road. He very politely opened the door for me then made sure it was shut properly before getting in himself and asking where I wanted to go. “Tiyuanbei,” says I. Then he asked some weird question about going the inside way or the outside way. Not knowing what he was on about and not wanting to seem like some stupid and easily cheatable tourist, I said, “Take Youyi Lu”. He didn’t seem very pleased with this, and with each new traffic light, cyclist or pedestrian wandering aimlessly in the middle of the road, slow or incompetent driver or other everyday minor irritation of Tianjin traffic, he made his displeasure known.


Honestly, this guy was the most theatrical taxi driver I’ve ever come across. Every time he changed gear, he flung the gear stick around as dramatically as he could. With each new red light he sighed with ever louder, more melodramatic expulsions of breath. With each new slower-moving vehicle blocking the way came an ever more irritated grunt and an ever more aggressive attempt to squeeze his car through ever more impossible gaps in the traffic. And for the record: No, it is not possible to pass a Xiali taxi through the eye of a needle. Even after I had told him to stop opposite the McDonald’s only 20 metres ahead, he still tried to pass the bus in front of him, as if whizzing past the bus and ducking suicidally in front of it would actually get me to my destination quicker. At that point, I’d had enough, and said, “No! Just stop here!” Then I handed him a 20 and got out. He topped off his performance with a long and intense examination of the note’s texture just to make sure I hadn’t slipped him a fake. Yeah, dude, I’m really going to respect you after all of that.


So much for the rain that was forecast for these two days. I looked outside this morning to see if it had finally gotten around to raining or not. Nope. But I wasn’t disappointed: Instead of rain I was greeted with the sight of two trees in full, resplendent, flamboyant flower like two giant balls of Pink stuck on sticks. Certainly made a contrast with the dusty grey-brown attempt at a sports field that lies beyond them.

Publié dans chrislzh

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