Logistically, my wife was in Shanghai on a business trip. Because I am self-employed and a writer, I had the opportunity to go with her. A ‘plus one’ situation, as it is sometimes referred to. I mention this so that you might have the context to see why I wasn’t concerned about my sleeping patterns or how I came to have so much time to wander and ponder. From Monday to Friday of the week we were there, my wife went off at 8:30am and returned around 6:30pm. I could nap as my body required.
One day I took a stroll through a public park. I was in an area that may have been considered ‘downtown’ and yet, there were at least ten other clusters of skyscrapers that could lay claim to that title within my field of view. I didn’t know that I was walking through a park when I started out. I thought I was walking the most direct route towards a building that, at its top, looked remarkably like the “Eye of Sauron” from the Lord of the Rings. Before long, I discovered that I was meandering. It wasn’t quite New York City’s central park, but it was fairly close. It had a small amusement park (rides and all), several concession areas with bathroom facilities, permanent game board tables for chess, checkers and mahjong (all completely filled with players and ringed by spectators), a pond with ducks and carp (Koi fish?), people doing yoga, playing badminton without a net, dancing without music, and having startlingly loud one-sided conversations on their cell phones. Lots of normal human stuff for a park.
Here’s some of what I did not see:
- I did not see anyone sitting in the sun on the grass. People were sitting all over the place but always on the benches and tables provided. (I did see one man on his moped…leaned back, perfectly balanced and fast asleep.)
- I did not see one couple making out (kissing). In fact, I did not see any public display of affection between anyone.
- I did not see any young people that were in a pack or up to no good.
- I did not see any graffiti nor any carvings or markings on the wooden benches.
- I did not see nor did I meet anyone who asked me for money.
- I did not see a single piece of litter.
None of this was normal to me, an American.
I still have no idea what to make of these observations or what they mean.
I never will.