There's been a bit of international tension in my neighborhood recently, and I am ashamed to report that my own behavior has contributed substantially to the situation. You see, time management and organization have never been particular strong points of mine, and my temper is not always what it ought to be, either. As it happens, a couple of weeks ago, there I was again, sweating like Carlton Heston, late for a class, and trying to load a tape recorder and a large bag of books onto my scooter. Every time I thought I had it all set, the electric cord on the recorder would pop out from the little pocket in the bag where I'd secured it and trail along the ground. This is how it came about that I was to be found cursing profusely with balled fists - I swear I was cursing the cord, and quite clearly addressing myself to it and entirely oblivious to passersby. A very old man was passing by on his bike at that moment, of the sort known to have animated discussions with themselves, and hearing me cursing, started cursing me right back. Now, I know it was the wrong call, and I'm not a bit proud of myself, but I was, in fact, a bit deranged at that moment myself. So I turned and replied with a volley of the most imaginative and colorful invective I could think of. Well, he may have been eighty-five, but there was no quit in this old coot. He didn't exactly stop his bike to curse me back, but since he was going about two miles an hour, he had plenty of time to give me holy bloody hell as he was going by. I think we both felt better at the end of the exchange.
Problem is, I hadn't recognized him as a neighborhood regular (all the old people love me - they do!), but I am now aware that he comes down this street on a rather regular basis. I am now resigned to my fate - every couple of days, he sees me , and I get dressed down thoroughly. I've quite regained my composure, and I just smile and nod to him, but he is not to be appeased. I'm not even sure exactly what language I'm being cursed in, to tell the truth. It may be that he is a mainlander calling me to account for historical injustices perpetrated by my people. (反對八國聯軍殖民主義!) "Resist Eight Nation Alliance Colonialism! Up yours, tape recorder boy!)
I would just like to say publicly to this venerable and terribly misunderstood old gentleman, if he should happen to be a reader of this blog, that I acknowledge my error, and that I have acted in a gravely insulting and inappropriate fashion. As to the unpleasantness regarding the burning and sacking of the Imperial Summer Palace some one hundred and fifty years ago, which I have no doubt you witnessed personally, I can only say on behalf of my nation that what we did was wrong, and it was bad - bad, bad, very bad. How would we like it if you came along and burned down Camp David? We'd be angry, right? Probably cussin' and fightin' angry, right into our spry and vinegary golden years. Let me therefore say, on behalf of the entire abjectly apologetic North American continent, that we will never do it again, and we ask, and will ask forever after, for your forgiveness.