Mid-Autumn Festival Faux Pas at Customs

When traveling across borders, there’s always that thought that there might be a bit of miscommunication with the language differences. However, I’m not sure language is the main contributor to these little holiday travel faux pas.

This past week was Mid Autumn festival, a time for moon cakes and lanterns and family time.

Give the recent, new addition to the family, my baby daughter, we decided to venture across the China border to Shenzhen to visit some family over there and introduce them to the bouncing baby girl.

We decided to take the whole gang along: wife, son, baby daughter, father-in-law, and myself. We were expecting an endeavor, that’s for sure. Battling through wall-to-wall holiday travelers, while bringing two kids on a long ride of various transportation methods (bus, to train with a transfer, and then a taxi).

It was a two and a half hour trip, door-to-door, with plenty of room for spontaneous chaos. And sure enough we got it. Son wanted to run around like mad in the chaotic Shenzhen train station. Daughter cried through most of lunch and the entirety of one the bus rides, but was inexplicably a perfect angel between those times. We were happy to see our family again and finally introduce baby daughter to them. It was nice seeing them as always. But it was an endeavor indeed.

Still, it was two moments while going through customs that made us go hmmm, when we looked back at the most exhausting holiday lunch trip in recent memory.

“Wait! Is that child with you too?”

As we were heading towards Shenzhen, we went to the passport check all together. My wife handed all the passports and Hong Kong ID’s to the customs lady. Wife was standing by my son, who was in one stroller, and I was standing behind my daughter’s stroller holding on to the handles the whole time. The Customs Lady checked my wife’s passport, then mine. She stood up to look down at the kids, asked my wife for my son’s name. All seemingly smooth. She then handled the stack of passports and IDs back to my wife and motioned us to move along.

As shuffled our family, carriages, and stuff past the booth and the family behind us started taking their clan into the area in front of the customs check, suddenly the customs lady yells,

“STOP!”

We freeze in our tracks. Did we forget something with her? Then she looks down at my daughter in the carriage in my hands.

“That child, is she with you too?”, the customs lady asks.

I managed a simple “yes” and a look of, “well, yeah, that’s pretty obvious, right?”

The customs lady asked for her paperwork again. She looks through it. As she’s doing this, we’re in the middle of the way, since it’s one path for two customs check booths. We’re blocking people from the other booth. The family behind us are looking at us like “WTF.”

The customs lady asks for my daughter’s name, I tell her. Another customs officer comes over to check what’s the problem. Finally the customs lady lets us continue passing and gives us back our documents.

It didn’t actually take that long. Just a few moments of random awkwardness, but it got me thinking afterward, how could she not have thought my daughter was with us? We gave her my daughter’s passport, I’m standing right behind the carriage holding onto the handles the while time she is checking our documents, and then when we’re going, she asks “is that child with you too?”

You mean the child that is so obviously with us that I’m pushing her around in a stroller right in front of your face the whole time? Are you kidding me?

Did she just not see the stroller or that there was a child in it or did she think that I was just holding onto the child of the family behind us? We’ll probably never know. It’s possible the holiday rush got her frazzled or maybe she needed another cup of coffee at that point. I know I needed a cup of coffee at that point, and a shot of whiskey while you’re at it.

“YOUR WIFE?!”

On the way back to Hong Kong, we figured that we would learn from the previous incident and try something a little different. The customs lady seemed to have gotten confused by the sheer number of people and passports we handed her, so this time I would go with my son and his documents. My wife would go with daughter and her documents. We would go as two groups.

As we approached the customs check, we planned to go one after another. I’m not sure how it happened, but a British couple ended up in between us. We figured, no. Big deal, we’ll be done pretty quickly after each other.

Wife went with daughter to the customs guy and went quick and smooth, no incident. Then the British couple in front of us went for their passport check…. but something was up. The customs guy was scrutinizing over their paperwork longer than usual. Another customs officer walks over and they confer with each other. Meanwhile my wife is waiting, wife daughter, over in the area where it says, “please don’t wait long here, keep going.” I already see another customs officer, some older guy in I uniform, approach her and ask her to keep moving, but I see my wife motioning with hands and arms that they’re still waiting for us to be done, not get separated and all that sort of thing.

Eventually, the British couple gets asked to go to “The Booth”.

I don’t know if that’s what it was actually called, but it was a elevated booth, above the rest of the other customs checkpoints, with two more officers up there. As they are being escorted up there, I can hear the young, British lady saying “I don’t know what the problem is.” Well, hopefully they managed to describe to them the problem before they pulled out the rubber glove and told them to relax.

As the customs guy gets back to the booth to finally check our documents, I hope I won’t have to suffer the same fate, especially since it would mean carrying my son in stroller up the steps to The Booth, which by this point, I had not the energy to do.

The customs guy looks over the paperwork and asks me to say my son’s name. I say it. He asks if my son has a Chinese name. I say he does. He asks me to say it. I try my best to say it with the right tones. I assume I failed, though.

The customs guy asks me if I could write my son’s name. The spontaneous sound that came from me, I could only describe as half scoff, half “are you kidding me?” laugh, and half trying to hold it all back and failing. I know that’s a lot of halves, but this was a big reaction to his question. And all while saying “no no no no no no no.” As I was saying it, it occurred to me that I probably should give it the old college try to learn how to write the characters of my son’s Chinese name, but I had bigger worries at hand.

The customs guy’s facial expression when from immediate surprise to confusion to “hmmm, sounds like someone needs to go to THE BOOTH.”

I immediately recover composure and point out my wife. “My wife knows how to write it.”

“YOUR WIFE?!” he says. I don’t know why he put so much emphasis in saying that. It’s like the combination of confusion western guy, child with Chinese name, Western guy who doesn’t know how to write child’s Chinese name, and shock that a female may have procreated with Western guy to create this enigma child had all come together into a perfect storm of emotion response.

“Yes, she’s right over there,” I said as I pointed our my wife, still waiting over there by the exit to the customs area, wonder what’s the hold up.

“HER?! YOU’RE SAYING, SHE’S YOU’RE WIFE?!”, he responds. It was like whatever emotional outburst had formed from the initial “You’re wife” had picked up steam and multiplied exponentially. As I looked over to see what could be so shocking about me pointing out my wife standing with baby carriage, I got a possible clue as to why the customs guy’s response had been so fervent. The customs officer that stood guard, telling people to keep moving and not wait there had changed shifts. The officer that was standing there now, was not the older guy from before, but this tall, beautiful, modelesque woman in uniform. She kind of looked like Angie Ng.

Immediately, I realize he thinks I’m pointing at supermodel customs officer and calling her my wife. I imagine one of two possibilities: he’s either upset at me for trying to pull his leg or he’s jealous because he’s been eyeing supermodel customs officer for years now, constantly trying to figure out the best way to voice his feelings towards his secret crush, and I’ve just become to asshole who wants step right in his way. The Booth seems more and more a definite possibility.

My wife notices me empathically waving her over. “Yes, yes, that’s my wife coming over,” I say.

He turns, sees that I do in fact have a wife approaching, and says “I see” with a combination of ‘sigh of relief’ and ‘how silly of me’.

I explain to my wife what’s happening, the customs guy wants me to write my son’s name. She talks to him in Chinese, writes in the air with her finger the characters, and confirms everything to the customs guy. With a stamp of the passport, he sends us on our way, and we happily walked along, at long last heading home and without a visit to…. THE BOOTH.

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Misunderstood Lyrics: Waka Flocka Flame “Hard in Da Paint”

Ever listen to a song, think you know the lyrics to it, something in particular makes you wonder about what the artist really meant by it… and then you find out that you just heard it wrong? Yeah that recently happened to me.

Waka Flocka Flame’s track “Hard in Da Paint” came out in 2010, but it’s only recently that I first heard it.

For those not yet in the know, this is Waka Flocka Flame.

Interestingly enough, I first heard the song as part of this video parodying the Windows 95 launch.

Windows 95 Launch was LIT!!!

After watching that, the song was in my head the rest of the day, so I had to have it on my playlist. I bought that track on the iTunes Store and then I was rocking that song in my headphones. I must have listened to it like 10 times in a row as I was pimp walking through town, running errands… like paying for my son’s ice skating lessons and picking up some groceries, that kind of stuff.

Each time I listed to the track, there was something I kept hearing though that got me wondering…

For those that never heard the song, here’s the music video

Waka Flocka “Hard in Da Paint” (Official Video)

A number of times in the song, Waka Flocka or his hype man in the background would yell out something that sounded to me like “BRIDGEPORT!”

Wait, Bridgeport?… as in Bridgeport, Connecticut?

BridgeportSouvenir2
BRIDGEPORT!!

Now, calling out the name of a city and referencing it a number of times in a rap song is not unusual in itself. It’s basically a way of announcing to all the hood you represent and the people you grew with back in the day.

Mobb Deep represented Queensbridge projects and would give a shout out to Queensbridge in their songs.

Wu Tang would shout out to Shaolin, referencing Staten Island.

Listening to the lyrics and looking at the music video, he looks like from the streets, so I was originally thinking he must come from some really hardcore neighborhood. Maybe Compton (the MV took place in Los Angeles), but his style definitely sounded more from down south, Atlanta more likely in my mind.  I didn’t Wikipedia him yet, so I just was building up these assumptions in my head as I was jamming to the track, hanging on a strap in the crowed MTR train.

But that shoutout in the song, was tearing through these assumptions I had.  OK, I figure, so he’s from Bridgeport, Connecticut then.  That’s OK right.  Wait a minute, that can’t be right, right?

I have to admit, the reason this seemed strange to me is because I tend to associate Connecticut with probably all the worst stereotypes of preppy, upper class life.  I had this picture in my head of Bridgeport, CT looking like a J. Crew catalogue, filled with preppy, uptight, country club membering, beemer driving, Arnold Palmer drinking, pastel wearing, “Caddyshack” movie villains.

preppy guys with a dog
“I’m gonna die for this shit or what the fuck I say”

I figured it would be the kind of place where guys wear brompers.

Brompers
“In the trap with some killers and some hood (people)”

I start wondering, did Waka Flocka Flame really come from “the streets?”  Or did he go to douchebag prep school or something?  By hard in the paint, did he mean the polo grounds or worse… the croquet court?

croquet
“Leave you stinking (guy)?  What the fuck you thinking (guy)?”

Please say it ain’t so!

I figured, I must have a warped idea of Bridgeport, Connecticut… Bridgeport must be one of those towns with the rich douchebags on one side of the tracks and all the street cred and coolness on the other side of the tracks.  Kind of like that movie Airborne with Jack Black and Seth Green.

Airborne jack black
“Eses and amigos freestyle off the dome”

For those that have never seen Airborne, it’s like Gleaming the Cube, but with rollerblades instead of skateboards, and no one dies, and it’s funnier, and I think there’s no romance in Gleaming the Cube…. OK, on second thought, it’s nothing like Gleaming the Cube.  Check out the trailer though.

So now I’m thinking to myself, maybe Waka Flocka grew up being part of the cool, roughneck kids of this town, maybe even joined in on their hockey matches for bragging rights against the rich douchebag crew.  It’s possible he even was one of the guys in on the big race at the end to stick it to the man once and for all.

OK, so at this point, I figure I’m letting my imagination run too wild.  I decide to find out for myself what’s the deal with Bridgeport.

I look up on Wikipedia and it seems that I did indeed have a warped idea of Bridgeport.  This doesn’t seem like some bastion of upper class, coked out, yuppies. Bridgeport actually seems like a chill, little, seaside working class town with a Planetarium and museum dedicated to circuses.

So feasibly, he may have gotten his street cred in the industrial parks of this sleepy seaside community… with the help of a surfer dude that just moved into the neighborhood and a Jack Black looking guy.

No!  I needed to get to the bottom of this mystery.  I needed to, once and for all, determine what was Waka Flocka shouting out to in his song.

I head over to genius.com where they have lyrics to like every song ever made… and finally get my answer.

“BRICK SQUAD”

1017BrickSquadd

1017 Brick Squad. It’s the name of his record company. Founded by Gucci Mane and also the label of Young Thug. It’s his record label that he’s doing shoutouts too.  Thank you Wikipedia!

OK, so I felt like a fool. Shows how’s out of the loop I was, I never heard of Brick Squad. I’ve heard of Gucci Mane and Young Thug, but still this is a generation of hip hop artists that I’m only slowly getting acquainted with as my playlists as still jam packed with 80s and 90s rap.

I also, looked up Waka Flocka’s true origins… born in South Jamaica, Queens, New York (just a quick ride from where I was born), and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. Ah hah, so I was right. Yeah, he’s not from no boring Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Fuhgedaboudit.

In either case, it was all just a misunderstanding.  Sorry Waka Flocka.

waka flocka.jpg

And on that note, time to check out some more of Waka Flocka Flame’s tracks.

Waka Flocka Flame on Spotify

Cactus in a Tea Cup: A Love/Hate Story

It was a rainy day in Hong Kong as I tried to take my parents around town while they visited from out of town.  We dodged the rain by ducking into a ceramics shop in Sheung Wan.  The shop carried all kinds of ceramics: bowls, plates, tea sets, pots for plants, etc.   In a section towards the front, they even had these little plants for sale.  Little bits of greenery meant to cheer up a very small corner of a very cramped apartment.

As I was lurking in the corner, waiting for my parents to finish picking up little ceramic knickknacks for souvenirs,  I observed this western guy standing near a shelf of tea cups.  The guy was, one-by-one, picking up and examining every single tea cup there.  Each time, he held up a tea cup he would then drop a little cactus inside, examine it, realize it was an awkward fit and then move on.  From what I could tell, this guy was intent on searching for the perfect tea cup to be a pot for his little cactus.  Each time he came up a bit short in his endeavor.  I can only assume that he had no interest in any of the selection of actual pots for little plants that were stocked in a shelf nearby.


I felt for the guy.  He was on a mission to find a new home for his new spindly friend and he was not going to be deterred in his search.  He would try a blue cup with stereotypical Chinese porcelain design.  Nope, too wide.  Then he’d try a red cup with a more avant garde interpretation of stereotypical Chinese porcelain design.  Nope too deep. Then a green one, etc. etc. etc.  I watched this scene for five minutes and I gotta admit,  I was kind of routing for the guy to finally find a cheap $5-10HKD tea cup for his stupid, little $5HKD cactus. 

What I found most entertaining about this was not so much the western guy’s plight for the perfect tea cup-cactus combo.  It was the middle-aged Chinese lady standing right next to him.  It seemed she too was shopping for tea cups, but I imagine she had strictly more traditional uses in mind.  The entire time, while the westerner was dropping his cactus in each and every single tea cup, she was standing right next to him, unnoticed and giving him this dirty look.  It was the kind of dirty look that was the perfect combination of horrors and bewildered.   

I could tell in her face that she really really, really wanted to tell this guy that these were not flower pots.  There were a couple of moments I could tell she was building up the courage to say something, but she never seems to build up the nerve to blurt it out.   So, she’d go back to giving him the look.  If you’re wondering what that look looked like, it was something along the lines this picture of Teresa Mo.

Damn gwai lo better not get his thorns in my tea cups.

So with her unwilling to speak up and the guy unreletantly focused on his quest, I stood back and watched this comedy of errors for a few minutes, until finally, at long last, the western guy found a cup to his liking near the bottom of the shelf.  

The guy went off with his cactus in a tea cup.  The lady picked up her own tea cups.   And both went their separate ways, never to meet again. A brief and mundane chance encounter that probably ruined each other’s day a little bit.  

Still, I couldn’t help, but think that through it all, a tiny connection was formed between these two wayward souls.  One that will stay with them without even knowing.  In either case, I was amused.  It’s not every day that you get to watch an accidental, live action, theatre of the absurd performance art piece in a Hong Kong ceramic shop.  It was like a Samuel Beckett play… if that Samuel Beckett play was silent… and starring Teresa Mo.

Covfefe Was Once the Remedy of Choice Until it Ended Another President’s Career

Donald Trump wasn’t the first Republican President who had a bad reaction to Covfefe while in office.  Please use as directed.

Warning: Side effects of too much Covfefe include inability to walk down stairs and failure to secure a second term in office.  Ask your doctor if Covfefe is right for you.

Warning- Too much Covfefe

 

 

Eegad!  Monocles actually became a thing again?

While poking fun at an online buddy about trading in her glasses for a monocle, I found this New York Times article from a couple of years ago.


Apparently monocles became a thing again.

I’ll be honest, since a young age, I was always attracted to the idea of wearing a monocle. But it was more as a part of those fun filled and imaginative “pretend you’re a Baron or Duke” schoolyard games from childhood.  Ah the memories.

There was always something stopping me from trying to wear a monocle for real, in public.  Usually it was my parents, of course.

Now grown up, it seemed like a fashion trend best relegated to Bugs Bunny cartoons and 1960s TV shows about times way before the 1960s.

According to that New York Times article, however, it seems that the trend took hold, at least briefly, as part of hipster culture.  As of yet , I have not yet seen the trend hit Hong Kong.  But it has got me wondering if maybe it’s about time for me to go full monocle.

joe monocle

In the meantime, while I contemplate that look, let’s take a look back at some famous monocle wearers through time.

  1. Joseph Chamberlain, British politician and statesman
    Joseph_Chamberlain_in_colour
  2. The Penguin, “Gentleman of Crime”, supervillain and nemesis of Batman.

    The Penguin
    Played by Burgess Meredith
  3. Colonel Wilhelm Klink, Commandant of the POW camp from Hogan’s Heroes.

    Colonel Wilhelm Klink
    Played by Werner Klemperer
  4. Charlie McCarthy, part of famed Ventroliquist team Charlie and Bergen

    Bergenmccarthy
    Pictured here with Edgar Bergen
  5. Veronica Sawyer from the movie Heathers… ah, I bet you forgot about that one.  I must have scene that movie 200 times and I nearly forgot.

    Heathers Winonna Ryder
    Played by Winona Ryder

Did I miss any monocle wearers you remember?  Are you a monocle wearer?  Let me know in the comments section.

A “Quick” Kebab Before the Ferry

Was heading home from Tsim Sha Tsui.  It was 10pm and I was exhausted.  Just wanted to crash.  Figured if I caught the next ferry from TST to central, that would give me just enough time to catch a second ferry from Central to home.  

10:05, the ferry wasn’t at the pier yet, next one was at 10:10.  I had skipped dinner earlier and was starving.  Needed a quick bite and I saw a kebob shop near the ferry entrance.  It seemed like my best bet.  Then the following transpired.

AT THE KEBOB SHOP….

ME:  Hi, do you have anything really quick, I have 5 minutes before I have to catch this next ferry.

SHOP LADY: Yes sir, the chicken kebab wrap is quick.

ME: OK, are you sure?  I only have 5 minutes.
SHOP LADY: Yes sir, chicken wrap is very quick.

ME: Great!  I’ll take that one.
FOUR MINUTES AND TEN SECONDS LATER

ME: Is that kebob done yet?  The ferry is here and about to leave.

SHOP LADY: 11:30 sir.

ME: what?!

SHOP LADY: The ferry runs till 11:30, there’s plenty of time.  No rush.

ME: No!  I have to catch this ferry to take another ferry.  That’s why I said I only had 5 minutes.  I’m not waiting till 11:30 for a kebob!

The Cook behind her scrambles to wrap up the kebob.  He hands it to her.  The Shop Lady is taking her sweet time bagging it. The Cook urges her to hurry up.  She holds out the bag and starts saying…
SHOP LADY: Thank you sir, have…

I don’t let her finish, I grab the bag and am running immediately.  I hear her be like “Oh!”  Surprised that I’m in such a hurry. I’m running for the ferry gate, the whole time I’m yelling…

ME: Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!  Fuuuuck!  Hold the ferry!  Hold the gate FUCK!!!
The gate closes, but has just enough give for me to open it, let myself through and run into the ferry gang plank.  I’m on the ferry and coasting along on time.  If I missed that ferry, I would have been waiting another hour for the next ferry at Central to home.

I know I didn’t fully explain to the Shop Lady all the details of my travel plans, but what part “I only have 5 minutes” did she not understand?  Even without all the details of my travel needs, why is it that she assumes I have all the time in world?  I ask her if it’s done like she promised and her response is “11:30.  The ferry runs till 11:30.”  Matter of factly.  

People like that are everything that is wrong with the world. If you agree, let me know in the comments.  If you don’t agree, let me know too and then feel free to wait and hour and a half for your next quick meal.

That Time Congress Must Have Gotten the Staff of Funny or Die to Name Their New Healthcare Bill

There’s been a lot of talk back and forth over what will the Republican lead congress do in finally fulfilling their 6 year crusade to get rid of Obamacare.  

What will their replacement plan look like? Will they even have a replacement plan?

I’m sure a lot of people thought the replacement plan would resemble the one depicted in this cartoon from The New Yorker.

But just when it seemed people were panting and howling with anticipation at knowing the future of healthcare in America, suddenly Republican Congressman Pete Sessions of Texas dropped this on us like Metallica/Lou Reed crossover album.

BEHOLD!  The possible replacement to Obamacare.

Yup, you read right.  He literally called it “World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017”.  Now if that title doesn’t scream practical joke, I don’t know what does. 

I had to doublecheck the url to make sure I didn’t accidentally land on a page of The Onion.  Nope it’s legit.

You gotta wonder what was going on in Pete Sessions’ mind when he came up with it.  Was he looking to troll the political process?  Did he lose a bet?  Was he drunk?

World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan of 2017.  That sounds like the kind of name for something that a guy comes up with and then immediately jacks off to the thoughts of his own awesomeness.  

Some might say it’s the political equivalent of a someone busting out a pompous, 10 minute, hair metal style, guitar solo in the middle of a hardcore punk band show.

Or some might say it’s the political equivalent of a first time filmmaker squeezing like 30 separate homages to Quentin Tarantino in his first feature film script and thinking he’s a unique genius for doing it.

I have an alternate idea… 

I suspect that Pete Sessions didn’t actually come up with the name.  I bet he was struggling to come up with something.  He didn’t want to call it something dry and monotonous.  So he called a friend, who emailed a friend, who whatsapped a friend that he heard was “good with coming up with stuff.”  That friend, just happened to  be a staff writer for Funny or Die and he was like “I got the perfect name for this bill.”

What makes me go with that theory?  Simple.  Its resemblance to the recurring bit on Funny or Die that always wins the internet, The Best Gifs of All Time of the Week.

In an year where the President’s inauguration speech is equal parts rip off of Avatar monologue and The Bee Movie monologue, this can’t be a mere coincidence.  There has to be Funny or Die connection.

Now some of you might say, “what if he didn’t get a writer from Funny or Die? It’s possible that he might have been a fan of that recurring bit as well.”

Yeah, that’s a possibility.  But let’s be honest, look at this guy…

This guy isn’t going to Funnyordie.com.  He looks like the kind of guy whose only connection with the internet is yelling at his Secretary “hey Martha, go on that Google thing on the computer and order my wife up a nice something for my anniversary.”

Do you agree?  Do you think I’m way off?  Let me know in the comments section and follow True Anecdotal for more stories, observations, and anecdotes.

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Stories I was going to tell the future grandkids.

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