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Travel Story by Andrew Hearn

  Phlegmatically shoeshocked
Xi'an , China

You know by now how Chinese city dwellers think nothing of ejecting their soot coagulated spittle onto the pavements - well East meets West happened here, or it could be West approaching East:

En route to a Bank of China to exchange some travellers' cheques to replace all the yuan that has dripped away, I (Andy), from the corner of my eye, noticed an immaculately dressed woman lower her anti traffic-exhaust mask (them white face covers), before we could blink, an impressive ball of glistening regurgitated throat juice arced from her painted lips to land squarely (splashed would be a more descriptive word, but..) on my right shoe.

I think it took me a second to register what just had happened- several glances between the woman, replacing her mask, hurrying away and my shiny toe.

My wheeling around saw Jo slightly confused, watching me catch up with the launcher, by then, her hurrying away was then obvious - she knew the state of my shoe.

It didn't take me long to catch up with her in so many strides. In my most politest facial expression, I pardonned myself and gestured most diplomatically towards my glossed plastic toecap. She smiled, and was about to break into a laugh - that they do when they find themselves in a situation they want out of fast - when she spun around, glancing wildly about her, desperately seeking solace in the huddle which would have formed if there was a interaction involving any monetary transaction, when there was none, only curious onlookers from behind counters remaining uncharacteristically steadfast.

She ended up fishing out an one yuan note and thrust it in my direction, while holding her smiling face expression, gesturing that it should take care of the 'inconvenience'.

Many cultural behaviours, many of them subtle clashed then: the confrontation however reasoned, face saving linked with immediate apologies or lack of, the wanting to have a huddle to hide away in / others to mind their own business, Western disgust at free-for-all flow of spittle from 5' high onto slabstones - but they consider returning an used hankie back to a pocket is reflectively nauseating.

By the way, the shoe was easily returned back to its matt form.

Date Submitted: 27 Aug 2006

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