Once a Rook, Always a Rook

You know what I hate? Making rookie mistakes, especially after being in China for 8 years. This time around I forsook one of the cardinal rules for peaceful living out here: assume nothing. Just because someone gives you directions doesn’t mean they have any idea where something is. Just because you got a killer bowl of beef stew in a Xinjiang restaurant one day doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same beef stew the next time you go, after hyping it up to your friends. Just because it’s an actual Armani store doesn’t mean you’re going to walk out with a tux. If you don’t pay attention you’ll walk out with a pair of Zubaz track shorts. And on and on. NOTHING is given here. You have to be on your game at all times. I wasn’t, and I paid the price.


A few weeks ago a friend of mine was going to get some jeans tailor-made at a fabric market not too far from here. I was incredibly busy that day, and asked if he’d take my order for me. The way this works is you give the tailor a pair of jeans you particularly like, then just ask him to make a copy. Or copies. Easy enough. But here’s where I screwed up: I didn’t go to the tailor myself, pick out the material myself, and specify EXACTLY what I wanted. I just trusted to the inherent wisdom of the vendor. You can probably imagine the result. I was in desperate need of jeans, so I was pretty excited to pick up some nice new ones. That feeling lasted right up until I reached the vendor’s stall and he pulled down the jeans from an overhead rack. My jaw didn’t drop, but that’s only because I have a finely-tuned sense of propriety and didn’t want to offend the tailor.


I can think of only two scenarios when the jeans I picked up would be de rigeur: one, if I were playing bass for Creedence Clearwater Revival circa 1968; two, if I had just been cast for a part in Urban Cowboys. They were jeans, but only in the most technical sense of the word. They had two legs, pockets, and belt loops, but as my friend Tim put it, they look like something made in a 9th grade Home Economics class. The material was leisure-suit-fabulous, and practically sparkled in the lamplight. The cut was so broad that my cuffs alone could have probably sheltered a family of mice during a rain storm. I took them from the tailor, stuck them in my bag, and have not yet decided what to do with them. I could give them to the poor, but even the poor have a line they won’t cross.


I didn’t ask for my money back, either, because I have a firm principle out here: if I’m the idiot in a scenario, I’m not allowed to complain. If something goes horribly wrong, but it’s because I wrote the wrong character on the order form, or just didn’t pay attention, then that’s just the way it is. Deal with it, move on, and use the resulting catastrophe for good, if possible. I don’t know, maybe my new jeans will come in handy as field-dressing if disaster strikes Tianjin and I’m in a triage situation. Barring that, and barring the possibility of someone creating a time machine and allowing me to go back to the 1960’s, the jeans will sit in my closet as a reminder that even after 8 years I’m still liable to make dumb mistakes.


1 Responses to Once a Rook, Always a Rook

  1. kim says:

    okay. send us your size. patrick’s jeans shopping the sale racks for himself anyway. won’t get them ’till december, tho.

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