Tuesday, May 13, 2008

After queuing for an hour at Huizhou train station on Monday, the only available seats in the waiting area were next to a chain-smoker or a screaming child, so I sat down two seats away from a woman in her early forties who looked lower-middle class. The seat was falling apart so she lifted her bag and let me sit next to her.

She saw me glancing at a flier that was lying on the seat and asked me if I could read Chinese. We proceeded to talk for another 45 minutes about the usual subjects: cultural differences, exchange rates and how the Chinese are perceived abroad. Other questions were conspicuous by their absence: how much money do you earn in a month? Do you have a girlfriend? How much do you weigh?

When we got up to walk to the platform I noticed a logo on her bag. It was for a well-known company whose name begins with Am and ends in Way.
After asking a kid to stand up so that we could sit together on the train, we chatted for another couple of hours. And then she asked me about money, and invited me back to Huizhou to look at her office, and offered to introduce me to her daughter.

She was definitely the sort of person I would like to keep contact with, but there's always a limit to how much of a rapport one can form with somebody when the desire (or the need) to sell them something, stands in the way.

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