Two Incidents

Just read an article (in Chinese), which recorded a little incident that had infuriated a female freshman (fresh-woman? 🙂 ) in Beijing’s top University. For the benefit of English readers, I’m going to do a rough translation here.

An Incident That Infuriated a Fresh-woman
by Pian Nuo

Note: Pian Nuo just received her Ph.D. from the University and currently teaches there.

Twice a week, I have two consecutive classes during the day. The morning class is in the East campus, and the afternoon one is in the West campus. Often, I would do some reading in a study room at East campus after lunch, and would leave for the West Campus at 1:30pm.

The other day, I went to my usual self-study room, there were already about a dozen students studying hard. The final was fast approaching, so there were more students there than usual. Suddenly a girl came in the classroom, together with her loud laughters. She made much noise while settling down opposite to a boy, threw down her backpack and started yapping to him. Her topics wandered from exams, to their mutual classmates funny deeds. Her voice was loud and so was her laugh. One could hear her echoes in the room. I looked up and saw her in her red ski jacket, short but curly hair had been dyed yellow. In between her happy babbling, she constantly nudged at the tall boy sat next to her using her elbow. The boy later took down his headphone and started acknowledging in a soft voice.

Later she started talking about wanting to go shopping, and wanting the boy to accompany her. The boy said he must study for his exam. The girl replied what was the big deal, it was just ¡°College Student¡¯s Ethinc¡±!
I guessed they were freshmen, since the two classes I was teaching were going to take that exam next, too.
The girl then started suggesting a movie in the evening, ¡°Let¡¯s go, let’s go.¡± She started pushing the boy. I couldn¡¯t see the boy¡¯s face, but I assumed he must be good looking. From the beginning till now, the girl talked and talked, oblivious of everyone else in the room.
Someone was knocking on chairs to protest. When it was proved not affective, a few students shut their books and left.

I suddenly got a temper and looked up, directed my voice at the girl, ¡°Could you be a little quieter?¡±
Apparently she wasn¡¯t expecting anyone to interrupt her ¡°conversation¡± with her boy. She was astonished, staring at me.
I continued reading. Suddenly she started yelling as if in a fight: ¡°We are going to use this room for a meeting!¡± She ran up to the front of the room, chalked on the board: ¡°Meeting scheduled at 12:40, please leave!!¡± That was ridiculous! It was already 12:35, and I didn¡¯t see anyone else come in looking for her.

Returning to her seat, she continued with her loud yapping. But the boy kept quiet and urged her to go talk outside. She refused.
After about ten more minutes, more students left. Some new comers came in, saw the meeting announcement on the board, then left.
The room was quiet for a few minutes. She walked up to me and stood in front of my desk.

¡°Which department do you belong to?¡±
I ignored her. She asked again. I looked up and saw she was red-faced, furious, and apparently with a bruised ego.
She said didn¡¯t you ever take ¡°College Student Ethic¡±?
Not waiting for my answer, she continued rapidly ¡°If you are a student you should have taken it.¡± Her voice started shaking, ¡°Didn¡¯t you know any better? Didn¡¯t your teacher teach you?¡± Her friend came over wanted to pull her away, ¡°Alright, alright, that¡¯s enough. Sorry she is too excited.¡±

I started putting on my gloves, my coat, put away my books. Expressionless.
She ignored her friend, continued lecturing me, ¡°I¡¯m telling you! Don¡¯t think too highly of yourself just because you are a few years more senior. You should learn to be polite, learn to use, please thank you and I¡¯m sorry!¡±
Her finger pointing gesture angered me.
¡°How old are you?¡± I feigned indifference as I continue getting ready to leave. I must admit that I managed to hold back my temper, didn¡¯t want to argue with a manner-less student.
¡°It is none of your business!¡± She barked.
I threw my shoulder bag on, looked at my watch and said to her, ¡°It is now 1:10, what meeting have you scheduled?¡± She was speechless.
¡°Well, continue, then.¡±
As I walked out of the room, I heard the thunderous shutting of the door, which muffled her loud rebuttal.
When I almost reached the lobby, I saw a few more students came out of that classroom. One student past me and gave me a smile.

It was apparent that her crazy reaction was caused by my protest. I didn¡¯t expect such violent expression. Maybe it was good enough a reason to make a self-important modern girl go crazy when she lost face in front of a boy that she wanted to impress. For the generation that was born in 84, and 85, maybe the illogical fury was common phenomenon. As a teacher, I should have some kind of tolerance for it. But what surprised me and also angered me was she thought up a lie about a non-existent meeting, and wrote it down on the board for all to see. I found that distasteful.

What is a ¡°meeting¡±? Does having a meeting grant her some kind of power? Allowing her to force all students to leave the room, allowing her to stand in front of me and boldly question my department and lecturing me of being polite? Thinking of her using a ¡°meeting¡± as an excuse, thinking of her righteous expression as if the truth was with her, I felt only incomprehension.

The author blamed the girl’s behavior on her generation being the only child generation and growing up in a more affluent time, so probably spoiled by her parents and likely her grandparents. They were self-centered and didn’t have much concern for others.

It reminded me of a similar incident happened a few years ago, when Titanic won the Oscar. My sister and I went to a movie theatre to watch it. Being a popular movie the theater was full when we arrived and we were forced to sit in the second row. The seats were bad but we didn’t have much choice. Then came in two teenager girls and a teenager boy. They sat right in front of us, in the first row. The previews started right after they sat down. The boy was obviously trying to impress the girls and he talked loudly throughout all the previews and didn’t lower his voice as the main feature started showing. His female companions remained quiet. I heard people murmuring protest quietly behind me, a couple behind me was arguing quietly among themselves on how to stop him.

I got more and more irritated myself and since he was right in front of me, I tapped his shoulder lightly, and put my finger on my lips and made a ¡°shhhhh¡± sound. He immediately got angry, ¡°Who the f**k do you think you are?! Shhhhing me?!¡± He raised his voice and shot back at me more curses. Before I could react. Immediately other people started yelling at him angrily ¡°SHUT-UP!¡± ¡°Shut the F**k up!¡± The boy now stood up and tried to identify who just insulted him, ¡°You shut up!¡±. At the same time someone from the back already ran around the chairs to the front and launched a punch at the boy, ¡°I¡¯m telling YOU to Shut-up!¡± Before I knew it someone else from behind me dived at the boy across my row of chair. My sister and I quickly got out of the line of fire and stood on the side watching dumbfounded at the fast spreading fist fight.

More people started approaching the front row, some were cheering, some were joining the fight, and some were just trying to get a better look. We looked around and realized lots of good seats further up the steps had been abandoned by either fighters or someone left to get the theatre people. So we quietly moved up the stairs and secured two good seats. As we sat down in our new seats, we heard a few different conversations around us. An old woman in his 60¡¯s was saying, ¡°Wow! How exciting!¡± An old man was complaining to his companion that was why he seldom went to movies nowadays cuz people had no manners.

The settings were different. One was a university classroom of China, one was a movie theatre of American suburb. But the causes were identical. The boy in the theatre and the girl in the classroom were all trying to achieve one thing, to impress a mate(or mates). Somehow, for both of them, the right thing to do was to show that they were in control under all circumstances. It was never about right or wrong, it was about who was the boss, who had the power to stare down all ¡°insults¡±, all enemies. If the ones they tried to impress were not present, I doubt they would behave in those tough manners, since they won¡¯t have had an audience. In a way, they put on a show for the benefit of their mate. Didn¡¯t they? Under comparasion, the Chinese girl was more imaginative and quickly came up with an excuse, attempting to legitimize her action. The American boy, on the other hand, didn’t even bother to come up with an excuse.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this. But unlike the author in the Chinese Univercity. I didn’t try to think of a reason to explain that incident in the theatre. I just found it amusing. Now when i put these two items side by side, I guess some derivation could be drawn, such as politics, or cultural in-difference? It didn’t seem nationality had anything to do with it. I doubt it is a generation phenomenon either. There will always be people like that, in the past, present, and future. Let’s just hope they remain as isolated incidents. Amen.