China, May 8, 2000
Be sure to have a cake-buying backup plan in Beijing
Last night I decided to do something nice for Jingmei. Now it wasn't just
some random act of kindness that I'm known for, this was for a reason; it
was our one-month living together anniversary.
I haven't always been this sappy. When I was living in the States, with all the Hallmark Holiday pressure, I would rebel by purposely skipping the holiday festivities. This Quixotic plan almost cost me a girlfriend one Valentines Day when she presented my with a hand-decorated keepsake-filled box and all I had was a last second slap-together card. I learned my lesson then, as she was colder to me than the Minnesota winter we were spending a week in for her friend's wedding.
That's why, on Wednesday night, I was searching like mad for a cool anniversary gift for Jingmei. Walking through the local supermarket, I saw my answer: a cake! I pointed to the one I wanted, paid for it, and walked out of the cake section with my prize in my hand. Then I though about champagne to go with the cake. I gave the box back to the cake ladies for a minute and went in search of the spirits.
When I returned five minutes later, they handed me a different cake. Looking inside the new box, I noticed this cake wasn't the romantic one I picked out, but a cake from Chinese New Years. Showing them the difference, I motioned for my original choice. This began a whole hand signal & pictogram exchange, since neither of us spoke a common language, till finally, mad as hell, I left with my money and no cake.
I still have no clue why they wanted to switch cakes on me. The boss-lady was the one helping me, so I don't think it was a forgotten reservation. The cake was edible, not one of the Styrofoam display models, and they'd already given it to me once, so it musta been okay. I can only presume they wanted to pass off an older cake on the foreigner, or there was some massive misunderstanding that I totally missed out on.
Anyway, leaving the store with my bottle of champagne clenched in my fist like the China-bashing club I was wishing it were, I headed home in a cloud of curses and confusion. Luckily for me, I cooled down enough to notice another cake store near our apartment. Stepping in, I checked out the selection, and was pleasantly surprised with a model I though would be perfect.
Watching the chief prepare the cake from scratch, I was amazed at the industry the crew presented. With four people moving quick, my cake was taking shape faster than I could understand. Soon, there I was, with my $8 heart-shaped cake pronouncing my love for Jingmei in English and Chinese.
Needless to say, she was happily surprised with my gift, and I didn't trouble her with the painful details of my adventure in finding it, but I did trouble her as she ate a piece of the cake. Well, that is if you could call the massive cake & frosting food fight we subjected three rooms, all our clothes, and most of our bodies to, a trouble. The neighbors probably thought she was being attacked by more than a cake-wielding boyfriend though, by Jingmei's screams and my maniacal laughter! Muuhhahahaha!