The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Good #3 and #4

3. Mandarin Orange Season

Better than Christmas. No lie. Although that’s become a more fluid statement than it used to be, what with Christmas creeping farther and farther back into the calendar like a jaguar on the hunt. Give it a few more years and we’ll be celebrating the scant not-Christmas days in our calendar like the Mad Hatter’s un-birthday. Anyway, give me mandarin orange season over any holiday you care to name. It’s the only fruit I can think of that I’d rather have than chocolate. I know, I know: that sounds like blasphemy. But if you’ve never had mandarin oranges you’re not in a position to judge. Every winter I suspend any pretense towards self-control and consume oranges like a one-man fruit-crazed locust swarm. I don’t worry about it too much because there are far worse things to lose your self-control over. Chocolate, for one. Eat a kilo of mandarin oranges and the worst you’ll get will be some digestive distress. Eat a kilo of chocolate and you’ll have to make sure you have a seat-belt extension the next time you get on a plane. I’m excited. As this may be my last go-round with this particular fruit, I’m not holding back.

4. Sort of getting it

I say “sort of” because no matter where you are on a continuum of understanding or not understanding things in China, it probably still won’t have any bearing on your tendency to get pissed off. It’s a bit like knowing exactly why someone’s kicking you in the crotch, and the reason for that being the kicker comes from a culture where kicking people in the crotch is a sign of respect. Respect it may be, but you’re still getting kicked in the crotch. Still, for someone like me, who spends a whole lot of time in his head, a nice epiphany once in a while does take the edge off my usual cynical curmudgeonry. On the way back from Shanghai on the train a few weeks ago, our train car had several people who were watching movies on their laptops or playing games on their iPhones without earphones. They just jacked the sound up over the light hum of the speeding train, without bothering to ask if anyone else wanted to spend two hours listening to machine guns or whatever bloopy sci-fi effects crop up in an action-oriented game. This happened on the way down to Shanghai and I asked one guy to turn the sound down. On the way back? I’d had it with everyone and everything in China, and at one of our stops I was walking the platform when I realized something very basic, but yet not so basic: I don’t have to interact. I can choose whether or not to be pissed off. As a person who grew up in a culture where intervention and involvement are second-nature, and who will one day be returning to that, the idea of just tuning out annoyances strikes me as weak. If you’re Chinese, on the other hand, and there’s no escape, and roughly 100 things per day have made you angry since the age of 2, where do you draw the line? Do you confront everyone? Only some people? Who makes the cut? Or do you, like most people, just get used to blocking everything out because getting angry at petty annoyances will give you a stroke? I calmed down a little when I thought of that. And then I decided to be Chinese. I put my earphones in, turned my music up, and pretended the rest of the train didn’t exist.


3 Responses to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: The Good #3 and #4

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  2. Joel says:

    Ha. I was waiting for this one!

  3. chuck says:

    Crack oranges. So many crack oranges, by the kilo. At all hours. And a significant motivating factor for going back to visit China in the winter. My god, why can’t America do the same kind of oranges?

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