Adjusting to Beijing is similar to going grocery shopping in a new store. You know it has all the stuff you need, you’re just not sure where to find everything, and aimlessly circle around the same loops. My existence here is limited to several key locations. I imagine myself a ground squirrel darting to and fro points of safety, those being: my apartment, the office, Carrefore (the grocery store), and occasionally IKEA. This would be my routine if a spy satellite studied me for several weeks, the operators of which completely bored out of their mind. And like the ground squirrel, I’m just looking for necessities on these journeys. In the spirit of the newly kicked off holiday season, below are three new products to consider:
BLACK Q-TIPS (cost: $2.00): After lamenting that Carrefore does not seem to carry Q-tips to the rest of the office, the office manager Ying, returned from an errand to 7-elleven with a small canister that appeared to be filled with charcoal. “Here, I got these for you” she said. “See if they’re okay, otherwise I’ll keep them for myself.”
“But they’re black…” I said. “Why are they black?” The label on the package had a cartoon character marveling at the glowing-yellow end of a completely black Q-tip, stick and all. I wasn’t sure if the black cotton was supposed to amplify the yellow glow or reduce it. “Come on, try one” Mengyi said. “No way, I’ve been out of Q-tips for two weeks.” The thought of having half the office watch me as I attended to my neglected ears with Q-tips that might be designed to enhance the glow of earwax was horrifying. I kept the Q-tips, and after several trials in the privacy of my own bathroom here is what I have to report:
BLACK Q-TIPS do function the same as their white counterpart, however they do not reveal earwax. This must be the intended result, but troubling nonetheless. There are some hygienic functions that everyone does, and we code these with polite numbers, one and two. Ladies, maybe you have three? Regardless, the importance of ‘white’ to these functions is critical. Feedback is key. BLACK Q-TIPSS are not the best invention, which is no surprise because if it were there would be black toilet paper, tissues, etc. on the market, and there aren’t.
GRANNY CART (cost $5.00): As a ground squirrel, speed and precision is critical between safety points. On my return trips from Carrefore, my awkward IKEA sack is filled to an almost unmanageable weight. It makes it nearly impossible to ride my bike, and dangerous too as the taxi drivers and buses are the closest thing to predators I can think of for someone on two wheels in Beijing. So, last week the granny cart that I ordered from Taobao.com (like Chinese ebay) arrived at the office. Ying was skeptical to order this for me at first, “But it’s for girls, I think…” she giggled. “It’s okay I’m comfortable with those sorts of things. Just try to get the red and white one, K-14”, which was the least feminine looking one of them all. Other options include colorful strips, flowers, etc. The GRANNY CART is a small pull behind cart with a metal frame and backpack-like sack to keep your groceries in. It’s has wheels that look like they were stolen from a set of rollerblades, three on each side which are held together by a bracket, which spins 360 degrees. The wheel system is strange, four wheels are on the ground at any given time, and when you hit a curb the whole bracket spins. I guess it’s like an all-terrain wheel system, ready to roll up anything. The cart has an umbrella holder, and a zipper pouch on the underside of the top flap to keep money or coupons in. Some of my co-workers compared the look of the granny cart to a bicycle messenger bag or a Freitag bag. “It looks hip.” Ben told me. And in fact it does. It’s tempting to import these because if I paid only $5 dollars they could easily sell for four or five times as much in the states. The GRANNY CART is very simple to put together, only becoming complex with the lack of instructions (my only complaint).
WATER DISPENSER (cost: free with the purchase of 30 bottles: $100) I don’t trust the dispenser because it is brand new and cost me nothing. The first glass of water I drank tasted like it came out of a new water dispenser. The heating spigot excited me with the thought of boiling hot water for tea any time I wanted, even though I don’t really drink tea. I kept it plugged in until I realized that I was wasting electricity on hot water I’ll never use. I’m hoping the new-dispenser taste will go away soon, so for now I just cook with the water. The delivery service for the large water bottles is very reliable. The guy lugs one up 5 stories to my apartment for nothing within a couple hours of calling. He shows up out of breath and wears these strange knee-pad shin guards things, making it clear that he rides an electric three-wheeler. These knee/shin pads are more closely related to cross-country skiing gators than a real knee-pad or shin-guard. They’re soft looking like the sleeve of a puffy winter jacket, lined on the inside with fake fur, and partially wrap the leg like a pair of chaps. That’s really what they are, Chinese chaps. And that’s really what this new product report is about; the water dispenser delivery guy’s Chinese motorcycle chaps. I’m going to get a pair….but where?