Tuesday, May 21, 2002

Charlie Chan and the Mushroom Soup

Hi, Jeffus. Whassup?

Armed this morning with lots of paperwork, money and addresses, I headed out to find out where my 20' container of household goods might be located. I caught the # 15 bus down subway station and then to King's Road and the Freight Forwarders. I didn't even know if they would speak to me. The lady from the hospital had called them for directions and when they couldn't tell her if I should turn left or right when I came up from the subway station (this being because they were not certain which exit I would take from the station) she laughed at them for the space of about 4 minutes, asking them if they every found their way to work 2 days in a row.

I found the shipping company and the most amazing elevators I have ever seen. When you want an elevator, rather than pushing an up or down button, you key in the floor that you wish. Then the key pad tells you which elevator (A through H) will take you to the desired floor. The elevator arrives and you get on. There are NO BUTTONS in the elevator at all. It just goes to the floor that you punched in while standing in the lobby. I went to the 25th floor, with no stops what-so-ever. It was my own chartered elevator. They gladly took my money and said that now I could arrange for the unloading of the container outside the apartment building. Edward Li, the agent for the shipping company said that they worked closely with another company that was "downstairs". I had visions of programming the elevator again and asked which floor. No, Edward told me, this company executive was waiting on the street in his car. I could meet him there.

This began to take on the shades of a Charlie Chan movie. We got on the elevator and went to the lobby level. Out the door and "Jackie" was waiting in his dark, expensive car. I was to get in and we would talk business inside. Jackie told me that he would need to look at the parking situation at the hospital and at the elevator going up to the apartment. He was more than willing to give me a ride to the hospital. This took on a very appealing note to me. I had seen (when walking the several blocks between the bus and the subway) a shop that had Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup on sale. It was the American label, I was certain. I had just seen it in the window of a little two-bit shop as I walked past, but saw that written on the cans was the price of HK$8.00. That would be $1.00 in US currency. These were the big cans, 50 oz, and it said right on the label, "Food Service Size". That was cheaper than cans one-fifth that size if purchased at Walmart.

With all this in mind, I demurred riding back to the hospital with Jackie. I told him that I had to make a stop at Queens Road first at a little shop there. Oh, he would be happy to swing by there and let me get what-ever it was that I needed. Yes! I had been wondering how I would survive carrying 3 of those big heavy cans on and off busses in flimsy plastic bags. This was ideal.

Jackie and I drove along. All the way he was telling me how rich Americans were. This seemed strange to me, coming from the man with the luxury car, giving a ride to the man trying to figure out how to buy a cheap can of soup. I just assured Mr.-dressed-in-expensive-black-suit-wearing-big-diamond-ring that not all Americans were rich. We stopped at the shop and my eyes had not failed me. The soup was American and it was that cheap. I bought a full case of 12 cans and a coolie carried it out to the trunk of the poor Chinese man. The trunk flipped up and inside was the leather golf-club bag, black like the suit. And a few other expensive looking items. We got up to the hospital and Jackie looked around. Then he wanted to see my apartment. This, he assumed was proof of my wealth. He walked from room to room, amazed at the space and general niceness. He would call me back with a price for unloading the container.
Just after 2:00 he called and said that the price was $5,500 dollars. That was over $700 US. And that for some laborers to work for 2 hours. When it was all over, I had been asked questions such as, "Do you have a lot of expensive things?" "Does it matter if your things are broken?" Maybe he didn't want to arrange the unloading, or maybe he wanted a new bag for his golf clubs. Anyway, I have my soup safely in the cupboard. And, Allied Van Lines will do the job for $2,500.

No comments: