The China syndrome

So I was rushing down the mountain when a guy starts weaving back and forth on his skis. I patiently wait behind him to find his rhythm, and when I think I’ve got it, I start passing him to the right. That’s when he suddenly decides to stop dead in the middle of the run, and not catching himself right he slowly moves back towards the edge.

I had no chance to avoid him, so I sliced over his skis and fell badly into the snow. I called him an idiot, and he gave me a lecture on "keeping your distance behind fellow skiers." I didn’t call him any more names, but wondered why he behaved the way he did.

Stopping dead in the middle of a run is a bad idea, no matter what. It’s particularly bad if the run is narrow, if you are slow, and if you are weaving back and forth. He had all of the above and then some, and yet he felt in the right criticizing me for not keeping my distance. I was about to shout out that the mountain was not his alone, and that he had to be a little more respectful of other people and their needs.

Then I remembered the NPR show where a Chinese lady, recently moved back from North America, was telling the listeners that she made her private calling the explanation that Chinese have to be more civic-minded. She claimed that her fellow citizens were too used to spit on the street and otherwise behave in a foul manner, and needed someone to wake them up to the reality that life on the rest of the planet didn’t quite work that way.

That, again, triggered a memory of two Chinese swimmers that would jump into the fast lap lane in the swimming pool in Cologne, despite their absolute lack of ability to swim at the others’ speed. All of us would swim in circles, right side back, left side for, and would wait at the end of a lane to make faster ones pass. These two would just jump in on top of anyone else, then proceed to a strange ballet of limbs wildly flailing in the air, and prevent anyone else from going back or fro.

We’d have to wait for 30 minutes, until the duo had had enough, and then we could continue with our laps.

That’s what this guy reminded me of. I haven’t seen his face, I can’t say whether he was Chinese, but that’s what his behavior reminded me of.

What’s up with that? Note that I have met a lot of Chinese people that are absolutely civic-minded and fit in perfectly in the Western world. But some people, you really wonder: what culture brought them up in such an absent-minded way?

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