Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Card of My Own

You would think that, seeing as I’m taking to the keyboard on Mother’s Day that the card in question is a Mother’s Day card. Not so… although I have received plenty of accolades.

Happy Mother’s Day to you, if you qualify. Happy Mother’s Day to single fathers. Happy Mother’s Day to your Mother, your Grandmother and to all the mothers that walk the earth. Happy Mother’s Day to Mother Earth, for that matter. 

That should cover the topic.

This card that I’m writing about has to do with a recent discovery of mine: the second Metro store in Wuhan (see Tidbits entry, posted March of this year). Entering and shopping this Metro is more rigorous than at the other store, the one more frequented by foreigners. Because this is a ‘membership’ business, much like Costco or Sam’s Club in the States, both stores require a shopping pass. At the one most foreigners are familiar with and frequent, such a pass is issued to anyone, no questions asked. Chinese patrons must fill out the information: name, address, business, phone number. Foreigners simply hand the blank pass over, the entry checkpoint clerk enters the pass number into the system and the cashier, upon checkout, scans that same barcode. Not sure why this formality, unless it is to track the number of guest shoppers.

For this newly discovered store, I am required to at least write my name and phone number on a blank pass. I don’t mind. It is only a formality. I’ve never been turned away. But… wait!

This checkpoint clerk asked for my passport. That’s going a bit far, just for a bit of shopping. Wouldn’t you think so? The sad thing is, I don’t usually go about with passport in hand. That’ s too valuable a document to run around town with. For ID purposes, my Foreign Expert’s Certificate, resembling a passport, is plenty. I handed it over, hoping for the best. And then I mused.

I woke up with the feeling that the day could go either way: good or bad. So ambivalent was I that, instead of bounding out of bed, determined to go out I hesitated, even though I did need a few things that are sold exclusively at Metro. Such as whole grain linseed bread. Nothing like whole grain texture to stay regular. The nutty flavor of linseed bread is satisfying whether as a sandwich or with just a patina of butter. I make it a point of having two slices a day. Can’t do that if I have none, can I?      

And there were a few other things I needed that could not be found last time I made my monthly Metro pilgrimage. I had gone to the more popular store, where finding goods can sometimes be a hit and miss proposition. It being the more frequented establishment, that kind of stands to reason.

For today’s excursion I opted to take my backpack rather than my shopping cart. I wasn’t out for a whole ‘stock up’ shopping trip. I figured at best that the little I needed would fill my pack about halfway. I took my sweet time transferring from my purse to my pack the few things I would need to shop with: wallet, ID, bus pass, umbrella – rain was predicted for the day. Dragging my feet. Not really feeling it, I set out.

So now, the clerk has my ID and is doing something with it. Entering data in her computer. What is going on? That has never happened. All I want is some linseed bread and some stuff to make food for the student group coming by that Friday night. Don’t see why the big deal.

I wait and wait. My earlier ambivalence turns into certainty of a bad day, what with Murphy’s Law and all. Now watch: I’ll get back to the bakery section and there will be no linseed bread, like at the other store. Or worse: I’ll be denied entry altogether. Such were my thoughts: storm clouds in my head while outside, the day got more and more gloomy.

Par for the course.

Until the clerk came back with my ID… and my very own Metro card!!! With my name on it, and everything! After two years of loyal patronage, I finally have a membership card, and it didn’t cost me anything! I couldn’t believe it!

Instantly I felt my mood reversing. Maybe today is not such a bad day after all.

More strange looks as I ran the aisles. I’m still on the idea that not many foreigners know about this outlet, judging by the looks I get and the fact that there are no other foreigners. Believe me: I’m not going to tell them! Let them have their hit and miss, sometimes poorly stocked, more crowded store. The store that I frequented for 2 years that never saw fit to extend me membership to. I’m keeping this one a secret.

Not that I generally consort with foreigners, anyway.

Now at the bakery section I’m overjoyed to find 8 packages (9 slices each) of linseed bread. I buy 6 of them. There is also butter. 3 packs ought to do it. Now for the stuff I needed to prepare Mexican food for the study group I had coming over tomorrow night. Yep: everything I need is right there. The whole time I’m relishing the idea of brandishing my new card at the checkout.

I head there directly, conscious of the fact that whatever I buy I must tote. Ceremoniously I present my card for scanning. The cashier aims her laser gun at the barcode as though it were no big deal. I’m guessing for her, it wasn’t. The computer beeps approvingly. I will be allowed to buy stuff as a full fledged member of the Metro shopping group, not just as a visitor.  

Now I’m in the lobby, packing my things. The backpack is a bit heavy and bulky, but manageable. More so than a shopping bag would be. I help an old woman secure her two industrial sized jars of honey for the transport home. Metro has shopping bags for sale. Unless you bring bags, you are stuck either buying one or toting your purchases as best you can. Maybe she didn’t know that.

Now I shoulder my pack. It will take me about an hour to get home. I should make it back to campus in time for the night class I teach. During the bus ride, in my head I formulate this entry.

NOTE: it was on this bus trip that I saw those outrageous orange and leopard print moccasins of the last entry. My brain must have been in writing mode!

Getting off the bus well in time to make it to class, I walk through the OTW community. Mindful of the possible rainshowers predicted for today that never came, I had put on my hiking boots. It sure felt good to have a full pack nestled against my back and boots on my feet. It woke up my inner vagabond, made me miss good, old fashioned hiking. I vowed to get a long hike in, someday soon.

Once home I put my stuff away, prepared for class and then pulled out my Metro card and stared at it, smiling. I don’t know why this small gain was so monumental to me. I can only ascribe it to membership being a wonderful thing.

How did I get a whole entry out of a piece of plastic the size of a credit card?               

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