A slight dust kicks up in the hot air, walking in the shadow of China World in Beijing.
It's a city with some of the best salesmanship in the world -- and some of the world.
The Chinese hustle. They work hard and constantly, relentlessly sell.
But sometimes their sales skills need some work.
I'm walking past a booth adverting a gym with swimming pool, tennis, and nice facilities.
Staying in a different district than last time, I need a new gym. I'm very qualified as a buyer and very interested, but also have a lot to do today. I keep walking, but one of the girls at the booth/display sees my interest and starts walking alongside me.
She asks me to put my name and phone number on her sheet of people to call.
I say, "How much?"
She doesn't answer, and asks me to put down my info to get a call.
I say, "Well, how much?"
She says, "I don't speak English well... just put down your info and..."
She seems pretty smart though, and I suspect she speaks English.
"Renminbi? Shenme renminbi?" I ask.
("Money? What money?" in my broken Chinese.)
She won't say, and again presses me to put down my info, and the interaction ends.
Now, maybe it did make sense not to say. Possibly. But, "How much?" is such a common question that she should have a better response for it.
She could have answered that she doesn't know the pricing, but the gym is excellent and it won't be a waste of time to talk to the manager who does know on a personal call.
Even better, she could have said that if I put down my info, I'd be eligible for a free pass to the gym to try it out. If it really was magnificent, that would be a good way to get someone in there to see it.
I don't buy the piece about no English. The forms and displays she had both contained English and Chinese, and this is a very foreigner-heavy neighborhood. Even if it was the case, she could have had a written reply in English to show people.
You need answers to common questions. Ideally helpful and productive answers, but at the very least answers that explain why there's value in doing the action they recommend -- getting on he sales call, in this case.
Don't blame her though -- blame whoever trained her.
In 2006, I quit the vast majority of intoxicants. I don't drink, I don't use recreational drugs, I don't smoke tobacco, I don't drink soda, and I am working on quitting all sweets entirely, and largely succeeding. I am not one for fine dining, and not frequently one for other forms of hedonism.
I usually do not advertise this - I might write about it for people who wish to know what I do, but I do not bring it up in conversation unless it comes up. But occasionally it does come up, and a common reaction is someone saying, half-joking, "Then why bother living?"
I think I understand. Many people do jobs they dislike for causes they feel nothing about. This must wreak havoc on a man's spirit. Most people spend more of their waking time on their work than any other thing - I can only imagine what spending the bulk of my time on something I disliked would feel like. Or worse, not even something I disliked - but something I felt very neutral about.
If a man's occupation becomes a slow crushing of his spirit, then of course he would need high energy, and high impact to free him from it. He needs to fit all of his leisure into his remaining waking time - from 6PM at night to 10PM when he is home from work, on the two days of his weekend, and his vacation time each year. Of course, not even that time is all his own - he still has to commute, run errands, do admin, do necessary little things. The reality of the situation is far worse - most people don't live bad lives, they just move slowly and quietly through things they don't particularly care for.
Of course, if a man only had 5% of his waking time to himself, he would want to maximize this time in the easiest, most surefire way of producing pleasure and relaxation. Who could blame this man? I don't. If I was suffering through a soul-killing occupation and had very little time, I would want to make sure that the time I did have was very enjoyable.
Being a stay at home father I get to do a lot of things with my kids. We visit the playground and library, family and friends. We take day trips and clean our house and we get to go to the grocery store.
Getting to go to the grocery store with small children is like getting to fly on a plane with them or getting to get peed on, it’s not actually that much fun. I've managed to find a middle ground where I mostly ignore my kids and walk just fast enough through the store that if they’re walking they need to pay attention to keep up and if they’re riding in the cart, the scenery changes enough to keep them entertained.
I don’t mind going to the store with just them, because going with their mother isn't much more helpful. Yes, she’s another set of hands and eyes to keep our kids from wandering down the candy aisle (happened once) or getting stuck in a freezer door (partially happened once) or walking out holding something they've begun eating but haven’t paid for (take a guess). Her presence means that our cart magically gets twenty percent more expensive thanks to colored corn products - chips - and whatever snack du jour the aisle endcaps are promoting. She’s also a sucker for suckers, sweets, and candy bars.
Imagine there’s a line in the sand and if you cross that line you make a choice about your life. It’s portrayed literally and metaphorically in movies all the time and on our trips to the store it’s similar. I warm them going in, “if you cross that line, no treats for you.” Then, around the section of eggs and milk I say, “if you can still see that line from where you are, then you can have a treat.” By the time we get to check-out I’ll say in an exhausted voice “If anyone can remember what the line looked like they can pick out one, okay, two pieces of candy.”
One day, after staying near enough to the line, my wife decided to reward our children with candy bars at the checkout line and our five year old daughter selects a Snickers bar and I stupidly ask: