Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Concrete Blobs: A rare victory in the war (Part II)

I was riding along last Saturday when I discovered this newly born concrete blob. This is the first time I've found a fresh one. I couldn't help but whip out my camera and document the find.

It was shaped like a huge comet with a long tail. It also looked a bit like Australia. I was snapping away with my camera when, as expected, a small group of gawkers gathered. It never takes long for that to happen in China. They were three guys who worked in a nearby metal shop, welding together aluminum security doors and gates.

I asked them if they had a shovel and said it would be wonderful if someone could clear away the concrete pile before it dried. As soon as I mentioned labor, two of the guys walked away. I guess it's no fun gawking at a foreigner who's suggesting you should do some unpaid work.

The one guy who stayed told me that street cleaners would take care of the blob. But I told him I doubted that because I see millions of the damn things on Guangzhou's streets everyday. Then the guy said I shouldn't worry because he'll call the city and they'll send someone out to take care of it.

Beware: sweeping generalization coming up. Many Chinese are programmed by their Confucian Communist overlords not to get involved in civic matters. They're supposed to take care of their families, do their jobs well and let the government and Communist Party run everything else. Cleaning the street is something the regime must worry about. A citizen doesn't fuss with it unless ordered to by the state.

But I started working on the guy. I trotted out the old slogan, "Serve the people!" Then I invoked the spirit of Lei Feng, the legendary selfless soldier, a Communist Good Samaritan who liked to clean latrines in his spare time. These things work with taxi drivers when I'm trying to convince them that my broken bike will fit in the back of their cab if I take both wheels off. It worked with this guy, too. He went into his shop and came out with a pathetic-looking shovel head with a broken handle.

As he scooped up a bunch of concrete, he said to me, "Now, what do I do with it?" I noted that a section of the curb was crumbling and he could use the concrete to patch it up. That's what he did and it looked great.

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