[They’ve Got Your Number]They've got

发布时间:2020-03-26 来源: 人生感悟 点击:

     AIRBORNE: Know your instructions before flying through the air in China   I expected a lovely Chinese vacation spot, where a happy family rents a boat or basks on a sandy beach. The guidebook didn’t mention stepping off a cliff with absolutely nothing below.
  It didn’t matter that at Yanxihu Lake, no one we met spoke any English. We quickly learned the magic word: piao, meaning ticket.
  I’m feeling pretty good about knowing this. Each time we step up to a ride, I proudly say piao and hand in my ticket.
  I buy a piao for slipping down to the lake. A steel cable is strung from the top of a cliff to the bottom at about a 35-degree angle. As a skier, I’d estimate it’s at least a 100-foot vertical drop. The slider (that would be me) dons a mountain climbing harness, clips on to the cable and free slides to the bottom.
  The attendant helps me step into the harness. I say piao; he hands me a paper with four numbered paragraphs written in Chinese. He wants something. It seems important. I point to my ticket in his hand, and say piao! I have given him my piao. What else could he want?
  He insists. I shake my head and point to my mouth, the universal gesture for “I don’t speak your language.” He points to the stairs I will ascend and to the piece of paper. He doesn’t want me to go up without understanding these four things. Could they be safety instructions?
  If they are, he is the only person in the park, no, the only person in all of China, who is concerned with safety.
  I give the man what he wants. I pretend to read, moving my finger from No.1 through No.4. I smile and nod, the universal gesture for “I know exactly what I’m doing.”
  I ascend the spiral steps to the concrete landing, where the cable stretches over the pine tree-covered cliff. Two harnessed people, a boy and his mother, are ahead of me. I’ll watch them and figure it out. How hard can it be?
  The attendant clips a hook to the boy’s harness.
  Instruction No.1: “Let the attendant clip your harness.” Got it.
  At the bottom an attendant raises a red flag, signaling the way is clear. The teenager slides away. Instruction No. 2: “Wait for the red flag before stepping off the platform.” Got it.
  It’s the woman’s turn. The attendant shows her how to hold the front of the harness. Got it. She slides noiselessly away.
  I step up. I obediently (1) allow attendant to hook the harness, (2) wait for the red flag and (3) hold the straps.
  My bones turn to water. Step off this platform? What was I thinking? There’s nothing below me but a cliff full of pine trees! The attendant gives me a shove. Aha! No. 4: “If you don’t step off the platform, the attendant will push you.”
  I let out a slight yelp. OK it’s a scream!
  My husband and children have climbed down the path and are waving to me. I wave back vigorously and find out I was wrong about No. 4. It was, “Do not wave to your family or bad things will happen.” At great velocity, even a minor lateral movement has me swinging from side to side and I can’t stop. I’m fly-falling and I’m fall-flying.
  I’m over the lake now, and the water is rushing toward me way too fast.
  Suddenly, with that blinding clarity that comes when your life is about to end, I understand safety instruction No. 4. It’s about stopping.
  There are no brakes, no stopping mechanism, and the angle of the cable doesn’t allow for gradual slowing.
  The ground rushes up. Here comes that concrete platform with a blue wall at the end. Aha! The wall is actually a mat. They have created a ride where you smash into a mat at terminal velocity. Terminal. As in, “the end of everything.”
  People before me have done this, and they did not smash into the blue mat. They survived. They could read Chinese.
  As the concrete appears under my feet, instinct takes over. I pull my knees to my chest and stick my legs straight out, and I crash into the mat, my knees absorbing the shock. When the attendant comes to unhook my harness, his bored look tells me I have done it right.
  Safety instruction No. 4: “Kick the mat to stop at the bottom.”
  I am exhilarated. I have conquered Nos. 1-4.
  I run back to the piao booth, ready to go again, but then I stop. It couldn’t be as great the second time. That’s the reality of living in China. Not knowing what’s going to happen to you is half the fun.
  
  EXPATS, WE NEED YOUR STORIES!
  
  If you"re an expat living in China and have a story or opinion about any aspect of life here, we are interested to read it. We pay for published stories. Submissions may be edited.省略

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