Monday, May 03, 2010

What to do on your day off

Because it was a holiday on the 1st of May, and because of the continued generosity of my employers, I had today off in lieu of taking Saturday off.  This amazed everyone that I told; the idea of gaining a day in lieu seemed a revolutionary idea.  And given as we're in China, we all know what Communists think about revolutions, don't we?

I've been reading Jonathan Fenby's biography of Chiang Kai Shek, and the first six chapters are fairly horrible; if it's not old men deciding to mutilate women out of sheer jealousy or people dying fairly needlessly, there's a succession of stupidities, thoughtlessnesses and mindful cruelty, culminating in Chiang having a go at his wife for being scared when they were on a boat being bombarded by artillery.  I'd like to think that after this opening section, everyone reforms and starts being nice to one another, but I've got a feeling that a happy ending isn't on the cards.
However, that's not all I've been up to today.  Rising from my bed at 9, feeling like I'd been fed through the grinder (strangely, it's my shoulders and arms that really hurt from yesterday's run, rather than my legs), I spent a fruitless hour trying to configure a wireless router, set up a printer, and filed six months' worth of bank statements, while outside the sun shone from a blue sky.  Yes, I really know how to enjoy myself on a day off, and be productive too.

This burst of industriousness collapsed by 11, and by two p.m. all I'd managed to do in addition was to post a small parcel back to the UK and sit on the sofa, opening and closing my mouth from time to time.  I had a nagging feeling that I wasn't using the day to the best of its potential, so I went back to bed.  Of course, after napping for ten minutes, I felt guilty enough to get up, and took a tram into town to drop some books off at Flow, a secondhand bookshop in Central. 

There's a strange sort of alchemy going on here, that turns twenty books into 120 dollars.  It makes me wish that I bought all my books secondhand, and didn't thus feel like taking books to Flow after I've read them was such a reduction in the worth of my household.  But on the positive side, I have another 120 dollars to spend on guacamole and such.

Since I was in town, I wandered down to California Fitness to sign up.  After my previous negotiations, I thought I'd sign up for a year after all, because from what I'd been told, the second six months would be free.  As it turned out, the second year was free.  This struck me as an even stranger negotiation tactic than the previous one.

"I'd like to buy a cake, please."
"That will be fifty dollars."
"Fine, here's fifty dollars."
"Thank you.  And here's your two cakes."

What I hadn't realised was that this was just a vector to acquire me as a customer of the personal training department.  Having nominally saved eight thousand dollars on gym membership for the second year, I'd obviously be really happy to commit to fifty thousand dollars worth of personal training for a year, when I hadn't even met the personal trainer yet.

Or maybe I had.  Rotbert was still coughing and sniffing as he explained all this to me.  He started off with the year plan, then worked down to six months, then to three months, then to a week, but I kept resisting.  After all, I don't really need somebody to tell me to go on the rowing machine until I'm sick over myself, do I?

On the other hand, there was the threat that the cost of the personal trainer would soon go up, to eighty thousand for the year.  So I'd be saving thirty thousand by signing up now.

I was almost convinced, until I remembered I'd be saving eighty thousand by not signing up at all.  And let's face it, you can buy an awful lot of cake with eighty thousand dollars.

Although if I do eat eighty thousand dollars' worth of cake, maybe I will need some personal training.  It's so very confusing...


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