On the soap box in the men's room

By Hu Xudong ( China Daily ) Updated: 2007-08-07 14:02:30

Beijing taxi drivers are famous for being talkative. I wonder if they will age to become the world's most articulate group of elderly people. Probably, because my observations have shown that local Beijing elderly people are much more effusive than their counterparts in other areas. They cover various topics, even if no one else is listening.

Yesterday, I went swimming in a sanatorium. As I changed into swimming suit, an old man entered. He sat down and heaved a sigh: "What time is it?" I was the only one present and I almost answered. But I turned around and found he was talking to the wall.

"Oh, it's already 4 o'clock!" he answered himself. But that was the beginning of a long speech.

"How the time flies! It's like a white steed galloping away! A whole afternoon is gone. I've done nothing in the past year. Don't you see? A whole year is gone. What did I do in the past ten years? Nothing! Was I any different ten years ago? Not much. But how come I've become an octogenarian?

"The ancient people certainly knew something. In the Three Kingdoms Period, the generals went to the battlefront and they'd only bother to announce their names and nominal age to each other before engaging in a fierce combat.

"Ah, how quickly a person's life passes away. Even Confucius once said: 'The passage of time is just like the flow of water.' He must have said so as he changed clothes after a swim in the river.

"The water in the swimming pool is not linked with the river. It is water, nevertheless, and it allows people to make remarks on its bank. By the way, how did Confucius swim? Frog stroke, backstroke, or freestyle? Could it be doggy-paddle? Why can't that Professor Yu Dan study this?"

I was awe-struck by this continuous flow of eloquence and forgot to change clothes. I regretted not bringing my mobile phone to record this rare speech. As I turned my brain into a recorder and pondered on what the old man had said, he turned to me. "Young man, how old are you?" Following his style, I replied: "This talentless man has squandered 30 plus 3 years."

"Good. You've got something. What are you doing in the swimming pool at your age? When I was your age, I swam in the Kunming Lake and even further, the Miyun Reservoir.

"I often brought a flock of girl students in Beida and Tsinghua. Do you know what is a myriad of stars surrounding the moon? That says a lot about me.

"At that time, how glamorous I was! Everyone in the Haidian Town knew me. I could single-handedly throw down eight or ten men. But I got myself thrown into the police station"

As I slipped away, two young men entered the room and were instantly caught by the old man's account of his youth.

I have a great idea: We should invite the elderly people of Beijing to lecture in the elderly universities throughout the country and help other elderly people enrich their lives. Better still, we should study their speech and apply for the UNESCO's intangible cultural heritage.

(China Daily 08/07/2007 page20)

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