I’m pretty grateful to Karl Marx for putting things into perspective for me so many years ago. Religion, he declared, was the opiate of the masses. Never having thought of myself as one of the masses, I long ago eschewed religion and concentrated instead on self preservation and accepting responsibility for my own actions rather than blaming it all on an unknown Being, who had a few other billions of souls to look after.
Just as well, as it turns out; for otherwise I would be shuddering by now at the prospect of spending the rest of eternity being consumed by the hellfires of damnation. You see, if the truth be known, I haven’t been a very good boy these last few years.
Not content with being arrested in Jeddah, I was also arrested, charged, finger-printed and thrown in jail in Riyadh, fined ginormous sums in Dubai and now, living the simple life in Beijing, I have run foul of the authorities once again.
I first became aware of my heinous crime a few days ago. Suddenly my internet connection stopped working. OMG, thought I. Perhaps the web police had discovered that I had been downloading Johnny English Reborn via the Pirate Bay. The news has been full of stories that China is tightening its copyright piracy measures, so let’s face it… where better to start than stopping its foreign experts from taking a sneak preview of Mr Bean acting incognito, even if your favourite blogger had been trying to circumvent the restrictions by using some proxy software to make himself ‘anonymous’ online?
(An aside here: it is said that the Chinese military are behind much of the DVD bootlegging, so it’s unlikely that this little sideline will stop any time soon! But shhhh – don’t tell anyone I said that!)
Eventually, after two days of internet silence, I decided to face the music and took a 406 bus to China Unicom to turn myself in.
The truth, it turned out, was much worse than I dared to fear. My account, it appears, was unpaid. Despite sending an sms pointing out that I owed China Unicom the grand total of 6.7 jiao, it appeared I had wilfully ignored them and they had no option but to stop my connection.
Now, for those unaccustomed to high finance, I should maybe explain that the Chinese currency is made up of yuan, jiao and fen. 100 fen = 10 jiao = I yuan. 10 yuan = about £1. So I had wilfully run up the equivalent of around 7 UK pence or 11 US cents and it was obvious to everyone that I was trying to avoid my responsibilities by doing a runner.
Shamefacedly I was led to a queue of other miscreants and was asked to wait in line before eventually being relieved of a one yuan note without even being offered the option of getting any change. But the good news was that my internet connection would be restored, though not for a couple of hours.
I took the 406 bus back home again where my internet remained stubbornly unresponsive. I rebooted Windoze – usually guaranteed to breathe fresh life into the old machine. Nothing. I reloaded the software. Nothing. I even thought about kicking it into life, but my soft feminine side prevented me doing anything untoward to my little Lenovo.
Then I realised I hadn’t waited for the promised two hours… so I held back my natural impatience and planned on all the things I would do once I had my window on the world restored.
Night time came and went and still I was trapped in my own little space bubble. I thought of going to the office and asking someone there to ring China Unicom for me. But in the end I braved the ten minute journey on the 406 yet again and went in to the hallowed portals, there to seek someone who could understand what I wanted.
No one at the information desk spoke a word of the Queen’s vernacular.
But luckily someone in the queue behind me had mastered the equivalent of La plume de ma tante in Chinglish and was able to offer up a running translation for me. I was asked to wait. (I presume I was asked to wait, though in theory I suppose it could have been anything for all I knew.) Eventually a petite girl from the inner office emerged and engaged in rapid conversation with my newly acquired translator.
She looked into her database, tut-tutted a few times (tsk tsk sounds the same in any language) and told my interlocutor that there was absolutely no reason whatsoever why my internet connection shouldn’t work… but I noticed all the same that she clicked on a couple of tick-boxes on my record card which had remained obstinately blank up until that moment. Working on the principle that discretion is the better part of valour, I thanked them both profusely for their time and headed back once again for the 406 and home.
And guess what! As I hit the connect button my internet roared into life once more and no longer did I feel an outcast from the world.
I guess yet again your favourite blogger got his comeuppance and in the future will hopefully lead a better, more upright existence for the benefit of mankind. For if a moral is needed for this sad story it is that he who holds the purse strings has the upper hand. Or to put it another way… never brush with authority cos “they” will win every time.