Rage against the… minty freshness

When it comes to hypothetical situations, I’m starting to think that zombies aren’t the real concern here. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. Especially not in the traditional Chinese sense. (Hopping? Really guys?) Nope. If things are going to take a turn for the horror movie worst in Beijing, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a rage virus.

There are many things I love about this city, but I can’t stand the propensity for situations to go from this:

To this:

…in about 10 seconds flat.

Last Friday, I was on a packed bus (surprise, surprise) when it became clear that something was going on behind me. It seemed that one woman had bumped into another woman, causing a ruckus to ensue. I’m pretty impressed that she even had the space necessary to actually jostle someone. I didn’t even have the space to turn my head to check out the situation. Not that I needed to see it to know what was going on, since the volume of their shrieking match was only outmatched by the octave of their shrieking match.

Their argument escalated way beyond the rational point when they started insulting each other’s mothers, but on some level I can kind of understand where anger like this comes from. What I can’t understand is what I witnessed today at the grocery store, especially considering I’ve seen my fair share of fights in Beijing.

For once, I actually remembered all the things I needed to buy while I was still at the store (I credit this afternoon’s massive coffee). I had my shampoo in the basket and was humming a congratulatory tune to myself as I made my way towards the toothbrushes, when I realized that not everyone was having quite as jolly a trip to the supermarket.

Down the other end of the aisle, a man was screaming and shaking an accusatory finger at the girl stocking the toothpaste on the shelf. He was convulsing with rage as he alternated back and forth between smacking an empty hole on the shelf and slamming precisely three boxes of toothpaste down in the hole. The combination of his anger and local accent meant that the noises tumbling off his tongue were like a mashup of Charlie Brown’s teacher and the Incredible Hulk something slightly more creative than this, because apparently I’ve used this exact turn of phrase once before.

I normally try to sidle away from conflicts, lest I be noticed and then involved, but there was a problem: I really needed to buy toothpaste. So, like a ninja, I ducked into the next aisle and pretended to look at bottles of deodorant while I assessed the situation. Also, I was honestly kind of curious as to what sort of toothpaste scenario could result in so much anger. Did it fall from the shelf and injure his child? Did the sharp corner of the box jut out and poke him in the eye? Nope.

The toothpaste was on the wrong shelf. The shelf of a toothpaste that was ¥0.90 less expensive than the boxes he had picked up. So he made it all the way to the register with this toothpaste before he found out he had been duped. All the way to the register! (he screamed over and over and over). Nine mao! (he howled like a werewolf).

Yeah. I’ll buy my toothpaste tomorrow.

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