Author Archives: Beaker

Beaker’s World: How to Get Robbed in China

Growing up I never traveled. I barely made it out of my state. The only reason I traveled to a neighboring state was because my grandparents lived there, and my parents had to visit them at least once a year. So I am not a smart, well traveled man who knows all the ins and outs of other cultures.

Growing up as naive as I have, it is no surprise that when I was taken to a market in China that I was not to be trusted to not overspend. But in my defense there is more to this  ignorance then just haggling for a good price. I am also not a knowledgeable shopper in general. I don’t know how much a cashmere sweater is supposed to cost. I don’t even know how much a wallet or a belt is supposed to cost.

Spending any amount is really where I went wrong.

Here is my perspective on learning how to shop in China…

Aloysa and I decided to go shopping at the Pearl Market in Beijing. My wife made many mistakes in this shopping trip. One, leaving all the cash with me. Two, leaving me alone and going to the restroom. Huge mistakes… that she has told me she will never do again. The restroom she will do of course, but the money will always stay with her from now on.

At first I was just going to patiently stand outside the restroom waiting for her to come out. But for some unknown reason I decided to look around at some of the shops to see what was for sale.

There was anything you want in this huge market. From dresses to suits. Shoes to hats. Pearls to watches. It was an amazing place, and I felt as out of place as a bald man at a barber shop. Most of the store workers were young people, and these kids saw me coming from a mile away.

First, I bought a belt that I didn’t need.Cost: $100. That was after being left alone for about 10 minutes. You would think that after buying the belt that I would be clever enough and go try and find Aloysa. Oh no, that would have been the smart thing to do. Of course, hind sight was twenty-twenty, but at the time I had really not done anything wrong and besides, I was just looking around.

These young kids were amazing because I heard them speaking many different languages to their foreign customers. I heard Spanish, French, Italian, Russian among others. They would try and get my attention by speaking English and, when I didn’t answer them, they would go into what sounded to me to be Dutch, maybe? But what was impressive wasthe ease at which they switched from one language to another without any hesitation that I could hear.

Before I could get my bearings, I had bought a cashmere sweater for $300 and a wallet for another $100, and thank goodness my cash had run out. I left their shop broke and saying to myself, “Aloysa is going to kill me.”

When I did finally find her buying pearls, I was right. She kept reminding me that I didn’t want to buy anything to begin with, and kept asking me how this happened that I spent $500 within thirty minutes. She also said that the belt and the wallet didn’t look like leather at all. Cashmere… till this day Aloysa has her doubts.

I am a person who doesn’t like to say no to people, and that is where I went wrong. This was the lesson that I learned in that Pearl market in China. I learned that I don’t know how to haggle the price of goods at all. I am not a person who can put a price on things because I don’t know what a decent price is.

My eyes have been opened for me and I know that I will not do this again. Mostly, because Aloysa is not going to let me carry all the cash. Ever.

“If You Don’t Know, You Can Feel It Somehow”

I am starting a series called “Beaker’s World.” Guess who is Beaker? My husband! He agreed to share with my readers some of his stories, thoughts and opinions. Believe me, he has plenty! Remember how I mentioned once that when Beaker and I met, both of us were really poor? Well, I have omitted the fact that six months before we met, Beaker was unemployed and starving. This is his story…

It was a bad year. My girlfriend of three years dumped me. I lost my job and because I could not handle life at the time, I quit school. When I look back I don’t regret a thing except quitting school. But that is a topic for another day. I wanted to talk about being out of work for eight months with no savings, not a single way to pay bills and absolutely no money to pay for food.

My friends and my family kept me alive and kept me trying in the darkest time in my life. It was hard to get out of bed some days, and to be honest, some days I didn’t. What was the point? I could not afford gas to go and look for a job. I didn’t even have money for the bus. I would try and set up a ride to go get applications at restaurants because waiting tables was what I did for the last ten years.

I could not stand being a server anymore. I had too many bad experiences serving food to people who are mean, cheap, and bitter. I believe a few of them treated me like scum because their parents were taken captive, tortured, and killed by a waiter from a Denny’s or an IHOP. My heart was just not into it anymore, and the managers at the restaurants could see right through my fake enthusiasm and wouldn’t hire me.

The times got worse and worse, and I had to go a couple of days without food. I would drink a lot of water, and I actually tightened my belt as far as it would go. That helped. I thought it was an old wives’ tale, a horror story your parents told you about when they were growing up in the depression, but it really did lessen the hunger pains.

I needed a job and I needed to step up my efforts. I knew I couldn’t work at a restaurant anymore, so I went to a Job Staffing business.  They were able to get me on some catering jobs. Some caterers only need a few extra people for a couple of large jobs. They use these staffing businesses to get additional people to help them with bigger events that they have booked.

At one of these events there was music being played, and a song inspired me. It was U2’s “Beautiful Day.” Near the end of the song the lead singer Bono says: “If you don’t have it, you don’t need it now. If you don’t know, you can feel it somehow.” It struck me really hard. Everything that I thought had meaning in my life was gone. At that point I had nothing but my meager belongings.  Bono was right! I didn’t need all I used to have because there was more out there for me.

I was living a life that I didn’t want to live, and I was on the verge of starting from scratch. I could do anything I wanted, and this was my chance. I didn’t know how I was going to achieve this miraculous rebirth, but I felt that it was right. That night, after the catering job, I just knew that everything was going to be alright. A week later I found a job at a warehouse, and started earning a steady paycheck.

I know what you are saying, “This is a stupid story! Bono from U2 did nothing to change your life.” And you would be right. I didn’t find a job the next week because I heard a song on the radio. That would be a ridiculous story, and I wouldn’t waste your time with that. What changed my life was that at that moment I realized that I wasn’t the only one out there who didn’t know what the hell they were doing in their life. There were other people who were as naive and scared as I was. I was not alone, and it was alright to make mistakes.

I believed I was a failure at love, at a career, at school. And at that point I was, but I knew that I would figure it out eventually, and I shouldn’t give up and feel ashamed.

You are right, Bono did not change my life. But he let me know, and now, I am going to let you know. You are not alone. There are 5 billion people out here, doing just exactly what you are doing. No one has this figured out, and there is absolutely no reason to feel ashamed, scared, or like a failure. Just keep going because you know something better coming. You can feel it.