It’s rained most of this week and the last. And yet Shanghai is still indescribably warm for November, though D and I started turning on the heat in the mornings, because otherwise it’s too hard to get out of bed.
Last Thursday, I lost my phone on the Shanghai streets. And by lost, I mean to say that I was pickpocketed while driving on my scooter on the way home. It was raining really hard that day, the roads were slippery and dark, and I was too concentrated on not skidding in the traffic to notice that the music in my headphones just suddenly stopped. By the time I took off my hood, it was impossible to figure out which of the rain-ponchoed figures may have swiped my phone. It was then that it dawned on me that just three hours before, I got an impromptu WeChat with tickets to go see Taylor Swift live that very night, and without a phone, I would have no way to contact the person I was about to meet for the tickets. That was when the panic set in.
In the end, thanks to the help of D and the 24% battery that his phone had remaining, I got to see T. Swift for two hours, from about 40 feet away, and to take the crappy kind of cell phone photos and videos that people take during concerts that are undoubtably worse than the real thing. I called my friend and upon meeting up, was immediately given a flask of ‘gin and juice’ inside our Uber. Despite losing my phone, things finally seemed okay.
I still don’t have a phone. And I had planned to write this entry a week ago, when the feelings were much rawer and I was actually feeling angry (it’s not a feeling that I like feeling and one I try to emote rarely). I was angry at the person who stole my phone and I had planned to describe the experience in excruciating detail (as a form of catharsis). But you know, in the end, a person who wanted to steal an iPhone, was going to steal an iPhone, no matter whose it would have been. And these are the sorts of things that can make a person give up on a country like China, but maybe they shouldn’t.
It’s hard being part of a culture where just by looking a certain way, or having certain facial features, you are automatically branded as an outsider, as the ‘rich’ westerner, or as the ignorant ‘laowai’. It gets to me some days when I get cut off on the street, or when cab drivers pass me by because they don’t think I’ll be able to tell them the directions. But it’s also easy to get mad at China for these things and to say that these experiences are the same with everyone. But that’s not true, because the country is changing and my getting angry, I am just setting that change back.
I don’t think I’ll get my iPhone back. I’ll still complain to friends and close (and not so close) acquaintances about having to pay for a phone less than a year after I got my old one for a while, but in the end the phone is just a piece of expensive plastic. And in T. Swift’s words, now is the time to ‘shake it off’.
(I tried to get a ‘haters gonna hate’ reference somewhere in this too, but that would have just seemed forced).