Monday, May 3, 2010

Guangzhou News Flash

If you were to ask me what my favorite mode of communication is (come on! Do it! This will be a fun game, I promise!), I would say that it’s a tie between passive-aggressive Facebook wall posts and love letters, straight from my heart. You know what a love letter is? It’s a bullet from a fucking gun, fucker. You receive a love letter from me, and you’re fucked forever.

(Theory #23 for why I’m still single: all my love letters either contain extended quotations from Blue Velvet, or they are bullets from fucking guns.)

I apologize for the repeated use of the “f words” (fucking, fucker, fucked forever). I’ve been away from the blog for a while and I’m still getting into the swing of things.

If you were to ask a Chinese person what their favorite mode of communication is (unlikely to be a fun game, unless you a) speak Chinese and b) really want to hear about how China invented both movable type and woodblock printing), they would most likely say the text message. Email is still not all that popular here, so if you are, say, my boss, and you want to let me know that I have a week-long vacation starting in three days (as he did two weeks ago), you don’t send me an email, and you also don’t send me a text message, you send Gus a text message saying that we have a vacation, starting in three days, please let Jon know as well.

So I get text messages all the time from all sorts of people, like airline companies, my mobile service provider, and Gristle. Usually I ignore them because, duh, they’re in Chinese. Living in China is hard enough — if you expect me to read a Chinese text message about your latest offer on direct flights to Nairobi, Kenya Airways, then you are fooling yourself in so many ways.

A few weeks ago, I started getting text messages from China Mobile 4-8 times a day. They come in a few forms: some of them are labeled “手机报” (cell phone newspapers) and some are “生活播报” (Lifestyle Broadcasts — this one is full of human interest stories, stock quotes, and contests, and needless to say does not really fit into or complement my lifestyle). I also get “营养百科” (Nutrition Encyclopedia) texts about once a day.

They come every morning starting at about 8 AM. They don’t let up until past dinner. I cannot be sure about when they started, because I can hardly remember a time when I wasn’t interrupted every single hour of my day, in class, at lunch, on the toilet, by Nutrition Encyclopedia texts like:

Mixing No-nos

Have you ever drunk milk tea made from milk mixed with brewed hot tea? Drinking that sort of milk tea can easily harm your digestion! That’s because the protein in milk mixed with the tannins in tea leaves turns into a substance that’s hard to digest. Actually, drinking milk or tea alone is much better for your health!

Magical Upgrade

If you let used tea leaves dry in the sun and then light them on fire during the summer, they have the miraculous ability to repel mosquitoes!

As I was typing this, just this minute, I got another Nutrition Encyclopedia text telling me that if you get too drunk you can sober up by drinking soup made out of chicken skin.

I don’t want to get these text messages anymore. They’re like email spam, except that when these messages say “Magical Upgrade,” they’re not talking about gaining inches on my penis to satisfy my woman, they’re talking about getting me to put piles of dried leaves around my house and setting them on fire. I want to go back to a world where getting a text message is fun and exciting, or, if it’s from Gristle, confusing and possibly offensive — but the one thing I do not want is a text message which offers Magical Upgrades and cannot even deliver Vioxx straight to my door. I want to unsubscribe more than anything. But I can’t. You receive a Nutrition Encyclopedia text from China Mobile, and you’re fucked forever.

Step one was to type the phrase 取消手机报 (unsubscribe from cell phone newspaper) into Google and see what happens. I followed the directions, and I got a text message back which said, “Respected customer: sorry, the text message service office system is momentarily busy, please wait a moment and try again.”

So I tried again. And again. On various days. At various times of day. Sometimes I tried to sneak up on the system by sending it several text messages in a row after waiting for 36 hours without sending a single thing. I tried in the morning, after class, in the middle of the night. I tried sending the messages from Hong Kong. Nothing. The response was always the same. I guess I was happy that they still respected me, but things were getting a little hard to take.

Last Friday I went to the China Mobile office near our house. I told the people there, in no uncertain terms (who am I kidding? It was in Chinese, I was uncertain about all the terms), that I want to cancel the 手机报. The guy asked if I tried the way that they said to do it on the internet. I told him that I had. He then took my phone, made a call, and told the person on the other end to cancel the 手机报. Then he listened for a few moments, said thank you, and hung up.

“You can’t cancel it.”


“Your phone was automatically signed up through July. There’s no way to cancel it until after July.”

“But I don’t want it anymore!”

“Sorry,” the man said. “You’ve just got to wait it out. These things take time.”

To recap: the official response is that there is no way that I can unsubscribe from the newspaper. It will come to my phone every day, 4-8 times a day, until at least July. At which time I can call and cancel.

Of course, I’m going to be in the United States for July and August, so when I come back in September and turn on my phone again, I may well have 300+ text messages waiting for me, full of magical upgrades that don't make a lick of sense. And, with my luck, it may have automatically renewed itself by that time, and I’ll be signed up for another few months. Or another few years. I don't know. (OH MY GOD, I JUST GOT ANOTHER ONE, RIGHT NOW AS I'M TYPING.) I am considering destroying my phone and changing numbers so that the nightmare will end. I cannot tell anymore whether the messages are real or imagined. Perhaps my best years are gone, when there was a chance of happiness. I can’t go on. Slowly, slowly, they are killing me.

Hey, by the way, I lost my tennis racket of death, and now the mosquitoes are back. Not sure what to do about them. If anyone has any suggestions for how to keep them away, PLEASE let me know via email or text.