BCD

"Bad China Day" is a common expression here for a day when you're really fed up with living in China.

Dev and I are working on a Bad China Week.

On Tuesday, I got a call from a man speaking rapid and angry Chinese. Apparently while Ayi was out walking Shackleton, the dog nipped this man's pants' leg. The man was uninjured, but his pants were torn. I asked Apple to tell him I apologized and of course, I offered to pay for a new pair of pants.

He insisted on going to the doctor and threatened to call the police.

I told him, fine, go to the doctor and I will pay for your appointment (not realizing, at this stage, that the dog never even contacted his leg and he was totally uninjured). This negotiation stretched over five or six phone calls.

I was otherwise detained at an interminable banquet luncheon in a smoke-filled hall, gallantly ignoring the roaches running up the wall behind me so as not to embarass our hosts, who meanwhile regaled me with "10 Reasons You'll Never Really Understand Chinese Cooking" - a speech so often recited, it must be required memorization in grade school.

The man didn't believe me when I said I would reimburse him for the doctor and asked me to accompany him to the hospital. I offered to have Ayi escort him instead. Many more phone calls ensued. At last, it was arranged, Ayi took the man to the hospital and we agreed to meet him in the evening to discuss his pants.

I headed off to my hair appointment, got totally lost in a maze of trash-filled alleyways in the blazing heat, and a gang of loafers threw a cigarette butt at me for being laowai.

Well, as you should have guessed by now - though I naively did not - this man figured he hit the jackpot the moment a foreigner's dog bit him, and now he was trying to shake us down. His leg, and I must stress this again, was completely unblemished, though he did brandish his torn pants. He demanded 3000 yuan ($375) for his pants, taxis, missed days at work, and the four follow-up visits he claimed he had to make to the hospital. (For perspective, my consultation and two asthma prescriptions cost about 100 yuan.)

Eventually we settled with him for an undisclosed amount on the condition he sign a document ensuring we are not liable for any further complications or consquences from this non-existent injury.

The evening was capped by my first attack of stomach illness, the result of accidentally drinking tap water at the afore-mentioned banquet.

And then, this morning I was invited to a party in San Francisco with the editors of Salon (!), but instead I think I'll just go back to my job, eight hours a day trying to think up synonyms for "spicy."