Sometimes life in Beijing is like one of those Japanese game shows where they see how much torture people are willing to endure for surprisingly mediocre prizes. Picture the following and you’ve more or less got it:
“Mr. Ishihara, for a new desktop dumpling fridge you’ve been strapped naked to a hospital gurney in the burning sun for twelve hours. You’re pinking up nicely. Do you wish to continue?”
“Then it’s time to raise the bar! Here comes a team of lingerie models to glue Gabonese fire ants to your testicles!”
“I can take it! Must…have…tiny…fridge!”
“Great! While they prepare the ants, let’s watch this secretly recorded video of you confessing erectile dysfunction at last week’s office drinking party!”
That’s us on the gurney. We’re all in it for the rush and the dubious prize while an oddball assortment of it-could-only-happen-here, Rube Goldberg discomforts repeatedly jabs its three-fingered cartoon glove into our sensitive bits. As long as you can take it, you live in Beijing. When, like Popeye the Sailor Man, you can’t stands no more, you pack up and head for more congenial shores. With a dumpling fridge, if you’re lucky.
This weekend’s finger to my sensitive bits involved the air conditioner in my apartment.
Let me tell you a bit about my apartment. Nominally in a “luxury” development, it’s horrendously expensive and situated in one of Beijing’s most fabulous areas. The amenities are good. There’s even a French bakery in the courtyard. But construction-wise it’s less luxury and more like what would happen if you got a pack of wild monkeys just drunk enough on Snow Beer to almost read a blueprint and fenced them into ten hectares of land with a pile of grade-B residential fittings and free-flow concrete. The caulking wanders off in random directions, the hot and cold indicators on the faucets are reversed, the “hardwood” flooring buckles in weird places, the towel racks droop, and when the wind blows, a majestic assortment of Jurassic aromas billows from the drains. There’s more, but you get the idea.