The "computer store" was basically made up of a group of streets that had these tiny little shops distributed all throughout this area. There really didn't seem to be any specialization amongst them. These people basically just bought what they could find. Some had all sorts of Chinese and Taiwanese imitations of what we have in America, some have American brands. It was kind of hit and miss shopping here. We basically had to walk into every shop to look for a laptop.
Most of the stores just had desktop stuff. And it was all oriented along the "make your own computer" lines. But we found one store that sold a very limited variety of IBM ThinkPad's, and another, across the street, who sold an equally limited variety of Toshiba. I had told Yong that we were limiting our choices to these two. There was no way I was going to let him buy any of these Chinese imitation laptops. The inferior quality was just too obvious to me.
We had started in the IBM "store", but were rather dismayed by the prices. I had figured from what I could remember, (having just bought a new ThinkPad before I left) that the prices here were about seventy to eighty percent higher here in China. As we were not successful playing the "good cop, bad cop" routine with this Chinese merchant, me being the "bad cop" who was looking for the computer, Yong being the "good cop nice guy translator", so we left for the Toshiba place. There we found a rather nice, though pushy merchant, who was a bit afraid of me. That helped. Just the situation I was looking for. If we couldn't use bargaining to get Yong a good price, we were going to use fear and intimidation. I kept my sunglasses on as we stayed in the store. My head was still shaved, and I was about twice the size of the average man here, in width and in weight. Besides, I was on the average a foot taller also. You could find me in a group of a few thousand people in Tiannenmen square. I could spread fear and intimidation with the best of them. And I wasn't leaving without getting a good price for Yong.
It didn't work. The guy wouldn't budge in price. We had found something that would be good for Yong, but we couldn't get him down in price. I set plan B into motion. I told Yong we were leaving. I walked out without saying goodbye to the guy. Fear and intimidation led to disgruntled asshole buyer. We went back to the ThinkPad guy.
He wouldn't budge either. Tough little buggers I thought. I had to think this one out. So I brought Yong with me, and we started looking around the area. I was interested in software. And I wanted to see what they had available to them. And I needed some time to figure out what I was going to do next.
The real computer store. Well, not really. You can buy all sorts of computer related things in here; mostly parts, and pirated software.
We found it. One store that had most everything, except for a variety of complete systems ready to go. What I found really interesting was the variety of software available here. Everything imaginable. Microsoft Office 2000, which had just been released in the US. CorelDraw, version 9. Games. Some that haven't even been released in the US yet. You name it, and they have it here. But nothing is in their original boxes. The CD's have a number written on them, other than that, they are fairly nondescript. And most of them are wrapped in these little plastic baggies, and then placed into these little cardboard sleeves. Printed on the cardboard is a whole bunch of Chinese, with some pictorial description that I could recognize. And a serial number, so that you could get the program to install. I snickered to myself as I thought about fifty thousand Chinese calling Microsoft to register the same serial number. They had just about everything you could want software wise. You just had to find it..
Yong looks for software.
The software is then placed in these bigger cardboard boxes, completely out of any sort of recognizable order. Yong had no idea of what he was looking for, having very little computer experience. He looked for Chinese games and music, which, after I had helped him install them, wasn't too impressed with the Chinese software creation ability. I basically went through all of this, and picked out all the various applications that he might need, and games that he might enjoy. Windows 98, Office 2000, FrontPage 2000, Corel, Photoshop, network software, Autocad, professional level stuff, all expensive, all right here. I asked Yong how much the standard Office 2000 disc was. He inquired of the one sales lady. Six Yuan. About eighty cents.
I told him that there was no way you could get the new Office 2000 for eighty cents. He inquired again, and rather dismayed, the sales lady got a bit frustrated and yelled back at him five Yuan. We had gotten a discount, and I wasn't even looking for one. Seventy cents for Office 2000. Five Yuan a disc. It really didn't matter what it was. It was five Yuan a disc. Needless to say, we spent a few hours in there, going from one sales table to another. I bought everything I could find.
Yong asked what we were going to do with the fifty or so programs I had bought. I told him that I couldn't believe that these would work, so I had bought multiple copies, in the hopes that one of them might actually work the way it was supposed to. The Chinese who were shopping there had gotten quite a kick out of the amount of stuff we were carrying. I told Yong that even if none of them had worked, the twenty bucks or so I had spent was worth it. I had enjoyed looking through all of this stuff, and to me, looking at software was worth the twenty bucks. That's one of the things, other than my dogs, that I really miss. Computer games. And even if none of the damn discs worked, we could have a lot of fun climbing the mountain up to Damo's cave, and flinging them down upon the people below. I told him we get some use out of them. He was yet again, flabbergasted. The weather master had lost his mind.
Well, I hadn't lost my mind, but I did make a mistake. When we went back to the IBM store, it did appear obvious that we needed a computer. We had a pile of software with us. When I had realized my mistake, I had thought of having Yong translate the story of flinging the discs from the top of the mountain down upon the peoples below. But I just wasn't sure how that was going to come across. Fear and intimidation turns into asshole turns into idiocy. I was losing this purchase battle. I had an MD degree, and this IBM clerk barely finished the third grade. And he was kicking my ass. No bargain.
Just then, the little guy from the Toshiba store brazenly walked into the IBM store, and told us not to buy from this guy. Right in front of him. He told us he would give us a better deal. Now here was a sales tactic that I hadn't considered. Put them both together and make them fight it out. Absolutely classic. Why didn't I think of that? I just kind of stood back and watched the fireworks. And I put my sunglasses back on. A little fear and intimidation amidst a bidding war couldn't help. Thoughts of taking some of the software discs out and flinging them at the fighting salesmen entered my mind.
The IBM guy lost. Tough luck. I was starting to admire the balls this Toshiba guy had anyway. He had what we call over here "gong fu". He might not have known how to do a tornado kick, or a "scorpion sweeps his tail", but he had "gong fu". We went over to the Toshiba store. It was done. I kept my sunglasses on while we were there. I wanted to let this little bugger know that I had "gong fu" too.
I got him down in price, got him to add a few things, and Yong's life was forever changed. No more dropping off to sleep for him at 9PM. Now he was in for long nights staring at a little computer screen, trying to kill monsters or watching video CD's (VCD's). How he was ever going to be able to get up at 0500 to run when he returned to his school was beyond me.
The whole idea of climbing the mountain to Damo's cave and flinging the computer discs down at the peoples below never materialized. Actually, I was quite disappointed. The software worked; at least most of it did. I was really surprised. Some of it was exact copies of the real thing. The programs installed exactly as they should have. Some of the discs were Chinese manufactured things, where they took programs from discs, shrunk them down into zip files, and put them on CD's. You had to play with those to make them work. Some of them were copies, at least to the best of their ability, of the real thing, but they wouldn't work because a file was missing or misplaced. I was able to "play" with the software in some cases to make it work; in others, it was just a frustrating experience. Some of the stuff just didn't load at all. Thoughts of climbing the mountain started to come back into my mind......
But then started the real training. Teaching Yong how to use a computer. Windows is not really a difficult thing to master. But try to teach it to someone. Using Windows when you understand it is fairly easy. Teaching a complete computer neophyte how to use Windows is kind of hard, but not to bad. Try teaching it when it is completely in Chinese. Now, that, is an accomplishment.
The days were spent training and resting, and searching out new restaurants to eat at . The nights were spent praying for water and teaching computer. There were benefits to having Yong with me. Trips to the restaurant were not longer the "here it is, guess what it is" experience. Yong ordered most of the time. After a while, I would order using some of the limited Chinese I could remember. The girls got a kick out of that. They also got a kick out of watching me try to read the menu, all completely in Chinese. Of course, I hadn't the slightest idea of what I was looking at, but I wasn't going to "lose face" and let them know that. If they can't "lose face", why should I? It got even better when they would point at something to suggest it. Of course, I would look at it, and shake my head. How dare they suggest that, I thought. I have no f------ idea what it is.