Monday, May 21, 2007

On Unpleasant Shirtlessness and Swimming Patterns

So Alison went the other day and got us a membership at a local hotel's health club, which includes a pool. So I went swimming for my first time in China. The pool is about 15 metres square, I would venture, so it's hard to know how far I was going. But it was nice to be in the water nonetheless, though a couple of elements kept it from being the ideal aquatic experience: Firstly they forced me to wear a cap. Well first I just refused, saying "wo bu yao" ("I no want") to the guy who offered the cap to me, and getting in the water. Then he sent in a colleague the next time I was stopped at the wall, and she was more insistent, clarifying (after a fashion) that it wasn't a courtesy offer for my comfort. I don't know what they were worried about, what ill effect my hair was expected to have on their pristine (have I noted how much Chinese people like to spit yet? No? Well it's quite a lot) water. Anyway, no matter. Of more annoyance were the fellow pool users who thought it more pleasant to swim around the perimeter of the pool rather than back and forth in a lane. Oh well, I could just use the gogglelessness-induced blindness as an excuse if I ever ran into one of them. Sadly I didn't (me having about twice their speed and twice their weight I'd have had eight times the energy going into such a collision).

This brings me to courtesy in fitness facilities in general. We had previously been attending (and I still will be, when I don't want to use the pool) another, cheaper (about $1 a visit, rather than $3) gym which enlightened me to the differing standards involved in the exercise experience one might encounter from country to country. Here are some elements of etiquette people might be used to in a weight room in the West:
- Wearing a shirt (especially amongst those with no visible muscles and possibly some extra padding) is generally expected.
- Weights should typically be returned to their rack in some semblance of order. Even if not, it is reasonable to expect a given pair of dumbbells to be found in the approximate vicinity of each other.
- One typically doesn't snack on a loaf of bread whilst sitting on the equipment.
- When you're done your workout, you usually go home, as opposed to sitting on benches (which may be in demand) and chatting with your friends (who are also probably not exercising) indefinitely.

While I'm on a rant, I'll throw out some questions that have come to me in this first month, regarding this country:
- Is it crazy to expect to find toilet paper in any stall, even in nice restaurant?
- What's up with plumbing that doesn't allow you to flush said paper, necessitating a garbage can next to any and every toilet?
- Is the concept of a separate shower stall in an apartment bathroom so difficult to grasp? Or do people like having their whole toilet area soaked in such away that requires shoes in that room all the time?
- What do people think to gain from ogling and shouting "hello" at any foreigner they see in the street?
- Is it too much to as for a waiter to leave give you time to peruse the menu after giving it to you, without standing over you awaiting your order right away?

Okay, that's enough complaining, methinks.

Tune in next time, when I promise to positate the negatory.

Oh, and I've had one request so far to receive these postings by e-mail, so if anyone else wants to get on that list, saving the hassle of checking back here for updates (or learning how to use some newfangled RSS or Atom technology hoo-hah), lemme know.


Anonymous said...

Hi Owen,

Nice to "meet" you here. There is only one answer to your questions. That's because China has a large population. We don't have enough rescourse, such toilet paper, to support such a large population.


Alison said...

I don't think it has anything to do with a lack of toilet paper. Toilet paper is everywhere and so is tissue... and it's used excessively...

I think that if there were big rolls in the washrooms people would just steal them. I've never been to a restaurant where they wouldn't give you tissue upon request though. As for public toilets, if the washroom is free there is no paper... if it costs money they will usually provide paper.

As for why the paper can't be flushed... that's just poor plumbing. Most toilets will back up if you put paper in them... so it's easier just to avoid that problem altogether and use a bin. The bin is gross but an overflowing toilet.... much more gross.

Jaymang said...

I found that in South America where they have the same sort of facilities (but foreigners merely elicit blank, awestruck stares, not "Hello's"), the cans were rather decent provided they were well maintained. Folding over TP so that the business is inside is a courtesy some may not exercise towards fellow users. Imagine now that 1.3 billion craps were flushed daily with a generously small estimate of about four squares of paper each. When that paper hit the (insufficient or more likely non-existent) water treatment plant, backup is nearly a guarantee. There just isn't a plunger strong enough to deal with that mess.

Glad you're established and experiencing new wonders daily. keep us posted, bossman!

Frank Z said...

When I went to the gym in China there was this guy in sandals walking on the treadmill at 3 km/h. Nothing wrong with that but he was clapping his hands all the time.

We had this cap rule in many European countries when I was younger, now luckily you hardly ever find it.

Oh, and the toilet paper bins, there was the same thing in Greece.
The most annoying public toilet I went to in China was in Yangshuo. The walls between the stalls were only 1 m high, basically there was only a trench in the floor, and all the Chinese people where looking ... oh ... and not to mention the public toilet at the south gate in Xi'an. First they wanted to screw me and wanted 5 RMB. 2nd: the water for washing the hands came from a small plastic container. 3rd: all the doorlocks were broken and in the standing toilets was too much left from the persons before, impossible to flush it away. Ok, enough of this toilet rant ;-)

Jayman-oh-man said...

I once used a urinal in Bolivia that seemed okay until I heard the water splashing on the ground at my feet. It seems that the pipe had been disconnected and the stream of refuse travelled between my legs and out the door of the bathroom - into the restaurant. Probably a good sign that I shouldn't eat there!

Owen said...

Well thanks for the toilet stories, everyone. Makes me feel much better off!

I'd feel better off still if the taps worked right now...