Consummate dilettantism!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Me, Matt, and Luke Go To White Castle

We went to buy meat skewers (串儿) at a place right outside our university at 10 o’clock. We discovered that the usual people selling them weren’t there, and as stuff was scattered around on the ground, we assumed they left in a hurry. (The street vendors can because their equipment and supplies are all mobile.) We suspected that they were kicked out by the police, who don’t like these people selling food on the street, both because it’s not sanitary and because they want foreigners to have a favorable impression of the city. (As if what attracts us here is something other than ghetto shit like that.)

So we walked around a bit, and about a block away we caught sight of one of the guys who usually sells fruit near the gate. A little more walking, and we came across the woman who sells the 串儿, who told us to wait a bit for her to come back and sell. So we started walking around again, and we bought some pancakes (煎饼) from this one woman who was pushing this cart around. (I think she usually sells at the same spot as the 串儿 people, also.) We kept walking, and in the meanwhile I got a potato from another vendor who sells the goods with a measure that I guess she uses to give the appearance of honesty. We ran into the woman peddling the pancakes a few more times, as we were following the police car that seemed to be trailing her. (The ultimate goal of this whole endeavor was to find 串儿, but it turned into “chat with the Chinese people”.) At last we found her stopped near the police station. We thought she was in trouble or something, and we resolved to start up an actual chat, which we did, and pay any fines that she might have incurred, which we didn’t (she wasn’t fined). We began talking about lamb, which she revealed was mostly pork in Beijing, even at actual restaurants (sometimes it’s duck). Then she told us that the potato we bought should have been 4 Yuan, not 7. Then we started talking about how her goods weren’t overpriced, because there’s no way to fake eggs, but somehow that the street vendors who sold buns often had 200% profit margins, which I didn’t quite understand. She was from the south, and her Mandarin sounded a bit funny, but we managed to catch most of what she said. When she moved onto how they skewered meat and then tripled or quadrupled the price, I lost her.

Well, we finally asked what she was doing in front of the police station, and she said there were no problems, that the police didn’t care, which we somewhat suspicious of, as they seemed to be following her and the others all night. Rightly suspicious, as it turned out; literally 5 seconds later, these two officers came up, and started getting increasingly angry with her; she protested that she wasn’t selling anything, but they kept at it, and shit started to look pretty serious. We got out of there pronto.

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