A few other people that China could helpfully quarantine

Imagethief has been watching with some interest the resolution of the drama concerning the quarantining of Mexican passport holders, some of whom hadn’t even been to Mexico in recent months. Given that my own country, the United States, was only recently contemplating the building of a border wall specifically designed to keep Mexicans out even before the flu, it seems small of me to criticize China for this policy. Especially now that news has surfaced that four Americans and a bunch of Canadian students have joined the Mexicans already enjoying government-sponsored stays in luxurious, one-star accommodations.

Fortunately, I am a small man. Charitably, the jury is still out on the epidemiological efficacy of quarantining the Mexicans. Uncharitably, it was a scattershot, poorly-thought-out bit of knee-jerk policy that did for Chinese-Mexican relations what the notorious P3 incident off of Hainan did for Chinese-US relations in 2002.

There is something rather 19th century about the whole idea of “quarantine”, conjuring as it does visions of smallpox and death ships. Not that there aren’t situations in which quarantine is a perfectly reasonably option. Infectious diseases are simply the most obvious application. But if the Chinese authorities are going to get all quaranteeny, Imagethief is happy to suggest a few other groups of people that the government should consider holding in isolation, for the benefit of society at large:

  • Taxi drivers who piss and moan under their breath about the traffic. It’s Beijing. You’re a taxi driver. What were you expecting?
  • Sanlitun bar touts.
  • Those girls with blue-frosted eyelids at Oriental plaza who try to waylay me for the tea-house scam when all I want is a coffee from Starbucks.
  • People who walk slower than me and follow an unpredictable path that makes it hard for me to get around them, or who stand two abreast on escalators.
  • People who cram huge trolley bags onto the subway at rush hour.
  • Drivers at the back of a line of thirty cars who honk the instant the light turns green. In fact, all drivers.
  • People who tell me my son needs to wear more clothes. Or less clothes. Or offer any kind of unsolicited parental advice based on folk wisdom.
  • People who put smiley-face emoticons in otherwise unpleasant e-mails: “You’re being audited. :)
  • Anyone who sends me an SMS that begins, “本公司…”
  • The Bank of China.
  • Snarky foreign bloggers.

All of them would benefit from a spell in isolation, if only as a precautionary measure.


  • People who smoke in elevators or office-tower bathrooms
  • People who instant-message you from ten feet away.
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