Welcome back honey. Long time no talk. Argh. This weather has me moving slow like a turtle under the drizzle from the air conditioners above the sidewalk. Honestly, the heat has me kinda irritated too. Sometimes I feel like Shanghai would be way chiller if everyone didn’t live quite so close together. Tight living conditions make relationships difficult, especially when you’re dealing with folks like these. Welcome to my neighborhood.
1. The Bǎo’ān
During my ten years in Shanghai, I’ve met every kind of bao’an. Friendly bao’an that always smile and try to introduce me to their nephews for a date. Mean bao’an who still give me that judgy look even after seeing me for three years. Distinguished bao’an in freshly dry-cleaned uniforms who speak proper Meow and Woof. Bao’an in street clothes with giant scars on their heads like they just had a lobotomy. Bao’ans who look like they do 200 push-ups every day, and Bao’an whose teeth are so bad it looks like they chewed on a black marker until it exploded in their mouth.
My bao’an these days is a lady, which is rare. She looks tough, like she could be a hidden character in Street Fighter, but I’m still trying to figure out if she can actually fight.
2. Crazy Neighbor
I’ve never actually seen my crazy neighbor, but I hear him every night. He leaves the TV on at full volume 24/7, so when I come home from the club, the whole staircase sounds like a Japanese war drama. I hear bullets, screams, and also the singing from the dozens of crickets he keeps in his apartment. Crazy Neighbor has started several small fires in the hallway. For a while, he kept a pile of trash taller than me just outside his door. The trash attracted a family of rats, so one day I threw away some of the boxes. The next morning, crazy neighbor wrote me a poem and taped it on the wall. It read, “TO THE THIEF – I KNOW WHAT YOU DID, WHORE. YOUR FAMILY IS DYING. YOUR LIFE IS FUCKED.”
When I told Bao’an about the poem, she just laughed nervously. That’s when I realized that bao’an can only control the folks who don’t live in the building.
3. Lost Waìmaì Guy & Kuaìdì Brother Who Never Gets Lost
For whatever reason, Lost Waimai Guy does not have the ability to ask bao’an how to get to your apartment. He prefers to call you seven times and yell on the phone in his dialect. No matter how many times you tell him exactly where your apartment is, you will still have to meet him in the hall or even downstairs to get your bag of food. You thought you were the one who should be mad, but somehow he’s even more pissed.
Lost Wai Mai Guy should learn from Kuai Di Brother Who Never Gets Lost. He is a rider of the wind.
4. The Renovator
The street outside your window has been under repair for two years. Even the birds moved out. Now your neighbors are renovating their apartment so they can raise the rent, and it sounds like a Skrillex concert every morning at 8am. It’s sad to see them bringing all this tacky “European” style décor into a beautiful old art deco building, but it’s even more depressing to watch the construction workers take naps in clouds of poison construction dust every afternoon.
5. The Ayi Who Always Leaves Her Door Open
I get it, you need to keep the qì
6. Water Bill Uncle
So you’re chilling at home and suddenly the doorbell rings. But you’re not expecting anyone, so you figure it’s bad news and you just sit there in silence and wait for them to go away. But then they ring again. And again. And they’re shouting the number of your apartment, like, “èr líng wǔ! èr líng wǔ!” And you’re thinking, “fuck, what if it’s the police coming to take me away?” So you turn off your phone and just sit there in silence, sweating.
Relax. It’s probably just the uncle from the water company coming to collect your bill that you haven’t paid in five months. His favorite time to come is around 9am on Saturday morning after you went to bed at 7am.
True, my neighbors are annoying sometimes, but I probably wouldn’t do any better if I was in their shoes. The waimai dude has to work so hard in this heat just to make a few kuai so he can feed his baby back home. And who knows what crazy neighbor has been through in his lifetime. But more importantly, all these characters are what makes city life so colorful. Boredom is never an issue in my neighborhood, honey. If I had to live somewhere dull like the American suburbs, I’d probably just kill myself.
– Relationship Counselor Rabbit
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